CHESTERFIELD, Mo. – A man with intellectual and developmental disabilities was physically removed from a car and taken to the ground by a Missouri police officer, but a law enforcement expert says it may not be considered excessive force.
Israel Jones, or Izzy, had a traumatic brain injury when he was 3-years-old. His life changed forever. His aunt, and legal guardian, Donna Jackson calls him a free spirit who loves video games, his family and church.
“Israel has gone through so much in his life,” Jackson said.
She’s in disbelief over what happened to Izzy on March 2. Bodycam footage, shared through the family’s attorney, captured what happened when officers arrived.
“I see police brutality,” Jackson said.
Chesterfield Police were called to Chesterfield Mall about a woman being punched in the face. 911 callers reported Izzy as a possible suspect and directed the officer to the car he was in.
“Step out of the vehicle for me,” the officer said.
The officer, who FOX 2 is not identifying, asked Izzy if he had anything on him. The officer reports Izzy tensed up, but Izzy’s aunt said his right foot jammed because of the size of the splint in the bottom of his shoe.
“[He was] complying with what the officer asked of him, the best way that he could, while the officer was pulling on him,” Jackson said.
The officer grabbed Izzy’s left arm, removed Izzy from the backseat, and put him face-down on the concrete. The officer is heard telling Izzy to relax while trying to put handcuffs on him. Izzy can be heard asking for help.
Izzy’s caretakers, who were inside Chesterfield Mall, during the first 90 seconds then stepped in. They told the police Izzy did nothing wrong and may have been the victim of an assault.
The group had been visiting the mall as part of a day program that helps people with disabilities. The two caretakers told the Izzy he had a disability and to get off him.
Backup officers were asked to expedite, meaning lights and sirens. A second officer arrived seconds later, and Izzy would be helped up soon after.
“If it would’ve been the other way around, if Israel had been caucasian, he wouldn’t have been treated that way,” Jackson said.
Timothy Maher is a professor and Undergraduate Director and the Outreach Program Coordinator for the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department at the University of Missouri St. Louis.
“I’m very critical of the police,” Maher said.
Maher is also a former police officer and has spent decades researching police-related issues.
“I don’t believe the force used by the officer was excessive,” Maher said.
Maher believes, based off what officers knew at the time, no lines were crossed. Of the two emergency calls made, the second caller repeatedly told 911 that Izzy has a disability but that does not appear to be relayed to officers.
911 Caller: “The guy is getting ready to get in the car. I think he’s handicapped, but he punched another handicapped girl in the face.”
911 Operator: “Ok. I’m going to start putting that in.”
911 Caller: “He’s getting in his car, he’s getting in his car.”
911 Operator: “Give me a description.”
911 Caller: “He’s black, he’s black, he’s short, and he’s handicapped.”911 calls
The caller then described the car and the operator asked for a clothing description of Izzy. If those details were shared to responding, Maher said the police may have approached Izzy differently, but Maher stated people with disabilities can still pose a danger.
“Knowing that the person was presumed to be disabled, the officer would’ve been looking more for signs– perhaps of physical disability, or mental disability, and perhaps would’ve proceeded differently,” Maher said.
Jackson, Izzy’s aunt, believes the information should have been shared.
“He would’ve been more aware of his physical ability to get up, move on demand,” Jackson said.
Izzy’s family wants Chesterfield Police to review how officers interact with people with disabilities.
“Israel has a plate in his right hand and his right hand had suffered a contusion from that officer handling him so brutally,” Jackson said.
They want changes to how and what information is relayed to officers, so this never happens again.
“He used to look positively on policemen, that they help people, but when they hurt him, it changed his way of thinking,” Jackson said.
St. Louis County Police handle 911 calls and dispatching for Chesterfield. A spokeswoman said the dispatcher followed policy and the information that was necessary was given to responding officers.
In the bodycam footage, police supervisors can be heard saying the officer’s actions would be reviewed but it’s unclear where that review process stands.
Izzy’s family has retained attorney Brandy Barth of Newton & Barth.
Chesterfield Police did not return FOX 2’s request for an interview or statement.