Aurora police release dash camera footage of controversial traffic stop
Aurora police have released a 20-minute dashboard camera video of a controversial arrest made Saturday of a black couple, saying it provides necessary context -- unlike a nearly 3-minute video that was taken by a bystander and posted on social media.
The police department video, which was released Sunday, shows a car door opening in traffic and text saying an officer notices two people inside hitting each other. It leads to a traffic stop, continues through a lengthy exchange with the occupants and ends with them being forcibly removed and handcuffed. Both were charged with resisting a peace officer; the woman was also charged with obstructing identification.
Both said they were injured by police.
The videos, the department's news release and its Facebook post have triggered more than 5,900 comments -- some criticizing the officers' actions, some praising their restraint -- by late Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Chief Kristen Ziman wrote on her Facebook page that "The Aurora Police Department has dashcams and we are now expediting the process to get bodycams for our officers. Honestly, it can't happen fast enough."
In its statement, the police department said, "Unfortunately, people have rushed to judge about the incident without having all the facts." It said no pressure was applied to necks of the two who were arrested, and no restraints prevented them from breathing.
According to police, the events began unfolding around 6:30 p.m. when an officer saw a car stopped at New York Street and Eola Road with a passenger door open. The door then closed. Text on the video says officer saw a man and a woman in a physical altercation.
On the dashboard video, the car enters the left lane after the light turns green, then returns to the right lane.
The officer stopped the car. "Because the officer was investigating a crime (battery to an individual), the officer requested the identification of both occupants," the news release stated.
On the video, the driver, 22-year-old Jujuan Mitchell-Lomax of Aurora, says, "What's up? What's the problem?" The officer responds, "It looked like you both were fighting," and that it looks like the woman has been crying. Mitchell-Lomax replies, "She says she's OK and I'm OK. She's not even driving so what's the problem?"
He provided his driver's license; the woman, 23-year-old Alexus J. Ward of Maywood, refused to give her name and birth date, and said she wasn't carrying identification, according to the dashboard video. Both told the officer he had no right to her birth date.
A second officer arrived and opened the passenger door. Mitchell-Lomax began yelling at officers to close the door, said he was not giving police permission to search, and asked why the door was open.
"We just want her name and you guys can go," the first officer said.
Ward gave a name, which turned out to be false, but no birth date. When the department's dispatch center could not confirm the name, the officer asked again for her birth date. "I don't have no birthday. I'm not even sitting here," she said, according to the video.
Illinois law states you can be charged with a crime if you intentionally or knowingly give a false name, address or date of birth to a police officer who has arrested you, lawfully detained you, or believes you are a witness to a criminal offense.
As another officer, who is black, arrived, the first officer, who is white, told him, "They're literally like going nuts," that the driver's record is clear and the couple could be released if she would provide her name and birth date.
Ward refused and was told she was under arrest and to get out of the car or they would remove her.
On the video, she can be heard saying "Don't touch me!" "Don't (expletive) touch me!" "You don't have no probable cause! Don't (expletive) touch me!" "Get out of my face!"
The second officer tried to unlatch her seat belt, but Mitchell-Lomax blocked the release button, then grabbed the belt, according to the news release. Two officers pulled him out. The release said Mitchell-Lomax swung his arms, hitting an officer in the chin, and then refused to put his hands behind his back. An officer kneed him twice in the side. One officer had cuts on an arm and his forehead.
Ward screamed, kicked and flailed her arms, was put on her stomach and handcuffed behind her back on a grassy parkway. "I can't breathe!" she said. Police tried to sit her up. They laid her on her back, then on her side. The news release said she hyperventilated. Paramedics were called for Ward and Mitchell-Lomax, who complained his ribs hurt. Mitchell-Lomax said Ward was "choked out" and that he was electrically stunned.
"These crackers always do us like this," he said on the video, shortly after telling the black officer that he, too, could be subject to racial profiling.
Mitchell-Lomax was charged with felony aggravated resisting a peace officer, and failure to signal a lane change when required.
Ward was charged with misdemeanor obstructing identification and misdemeanor resisting a peace officer. She had identification in her bag.
When Mitchell-Lomax was booked at the Aurora police jail, he claimed he was injured by officers and that he had a bruise on his left hip, but he refused to let police photograph the injury, the police said.
Police say hospital staff told them they saw no injuries on Ward.