A Davenport woman admits to being agitated during an arrest for shoplifting in February, but says she didn't do anything that warranted getting punched in the head multiple times by a Davenport police officer.
An attorney for Brandie Redell, 34, sent a letter to the city dated July 24 stating he was representing her in an action against the city. Redell, in an interview Tuesday, said a lawsuit is pending.
The incident was first reported by Chicago-area media Monday night and Tuesday, including by the Better Government Association and NBC5 News. The television station also broadcast a video of the incident and posted the video on its website.
In the video, a Davenport police officer can be seen using his fists to strike a woman as they scuffled on the floor.
Redell admitted in an interview Tuesday with the Quad-City Times that she was guilty of the shoplifting and another theft in April for which she will be sentenced later this month. Redell, who said she struggles with mental health issues, also has had other similar brushes with the law and says the Feb. 18 incident that left her with a swollen right eye is the only time police used aggressive tactics.
She says she has 30 percent vision in her right eye, and she is troubled by mental images that remain from the incident. Her 1-year-old daughter was with her during the arrest and wasn't harmed.
"I'm grateful; she is too young to let this stick," she said.
She filed a complaint against Officer Scott Crow regarding the Feb. 18 incident at the Von Maur store at NorthPark Mall. An internal investigation by the police showed the officer violated department policy, and he was disciplined. A police report of the incident stated the officer struck her three times, but Redell said she and her defense attorney reviewed the video and counted four strikes to her.
Police Chief Frank Donchez declined to comment, saying that as an internal affairs matter, it was a personnel issue. He also declined to say what the specific violation was or what disciplinary action was taken.
A Von Maur store manager declined to comment about the incident, which occurred in the store's security area, referring comment to Davenport police.
According to the police report, Redell was belligerent, aggressive and profane. The officer went to subdue her, using a pressure point behind her ears. A finger was close to the woman's mouth, and she bit him. At that time, he wrote, he punched her twice in the side of the head to free his finger. He added another punch to allow another officer to handcuff the woman.
Redell was charged with stealing $338 worth of merchandise in the incident, although she said she took only one item, a dress. In the April incident at the Walmart on Elmore Avenue in Davenport, she is accused of stealing 36 items valued at $254, according to court documents. Redell understands that she could go to prison when she is sentenced on Aug. 23.
Redell said she was "dumbfounded" by the police description of the incident but admitted she was emotional at the time and did bite Crow. She had no idea the incident was being recorded.
"We weren't jiving," she said of her and the officer. "I was pretty agitated myself."
Although not officially notified of the punishment meted out to the police officer, she knows he remains on the job.
"I can't believe he is still an officer," she said.
Redell received a letter in February stating her complaint against the officer was upheld. She contacted attorneys in the area but said none was interested in taking up her case. Her boyfriend knows David Lowery, a civil rights activist from Davenport who runs the Living and Driving While Black Foundation in Chicago, which advocates against police profiling and brutality.
Lowery put Redell in touch with an attorney and also provided the police report and letter affirming the complaint to the Better Government Association, which has a partnership with Chicago media outlets to investigate allegations of local government abuses.
"The Better Government Association doesn't usually shine a light on government in other states," Better Government Association president and CEO Andy Shaw said.
"But it's important to support whistleblowers like the Chicago activist who gave us the altercation video by taking their findings seriously, and — given Chicago's sorry history — to demand that police officers who allegedly use excessive force on suspects be held accountable."
Lowery pledges that the complaint and the subsequent lawsuit are just the tip of the iceberg.
"This is not just the only complaint to go to the Justice Department," he said declining to elaborate. "Moline, Rock Island, Davenport and Bettendorf all face complaints. Now is the time to step up and do what needs to be done."