Cincinnati, OH – The City of Cincinnati and Kroger have agreed to pay $240,000 to the family of an 11-year-old girl who was tased while shoplifting.
Off-duty Cincinnati Police Officer Kevin Brown was working a security detail at the Spring Grove Village Kroger store on Aug. 6, when 11-year-old Donesha Gowdy and her friend decided to shoplift junk food and clothing, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
“We just had a craving for snacks…chips and candy bars,” Donesha told the news outlet.
It wasn’t the first time the girl had stolen from the store, but she had become accustomed to being let off with warnings by Kroger staff.
When Officer Brown, 55, spotted Donesha and her friend shoplifting, he ordered them to stop. Instead, the repeat offender attempted to run away with $53.81 in merchandise.
“I was scared I wouldn’t get another warning and go to jail,” she later told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Officer Brown deployed his Taser, hitting Donesha in the back, and took her into custody.
“She fell down and rolled over and was shivering,” her mother, Donna Gowdy, told NBC News in an interview.
“And I got up then I couldn’t really breathe,” Donesha added.
Bodycam footage showed Officer Brown as he spoke with the child in a store office after she was taken into custody.
“I didn’t want to do this, but y’all knew what you were doing,” he told her. “Sweetheart, the last thing I want to do is tase you like that. When I say stop, you stop. You know you’re caught. Just stop. That hurt my heart to do that to you.”
“You know, sweetheart, this is why there’s no grocery stores in the black community,” he added.
With the assistance of civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein, Donna, a mother of 10, filed an excessive force claim against the city and the grocery store, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
“I’m not sayin’ what she did was cool, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m not vouching for that,” Donna told NBC News. “But [the] way he went about it was totally wrong.”
The shoplifting charges against the fifth-grader were ultimately dropped, according to NBC News.
According to Gerhardstein, the city will pay Donesha $220,000, and Kroger will pay $20,000, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The funds will be monitored by a probate court to ensure they are utilized for the child’s needs.
Donesha said she was traumatized by the incident, and her mother told her that the outcome could have been deadly.
“Now you see what momma says,” Donna recounted from her conversation with Donesha. “These policemen aren’t playing…it could have been [worse]. It could have been a gun instead of a Taser.”
Donesha also wrote an apology letter to the grocery store.
“I, Donesha Dowdy, is writing this letter to apologize to the Kroger company…store to say I’m sorry for stealing from the store in will not do it again,” the letter read, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
In September, the Cincinnati Police Department’s internal investigation determined that Officer Brown violated four policies during the incident,.
Despite the fact that Officer Brown is black, the department claims his comment about grocery stores in black communities showed prejudice.
They also said that he failed to warn Donesha that she would be tased, failed to activate his bodycam until after the tasing, and used excessive force, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Officer Brown defended his statement about grocery stores in black communities, and said the comment was based on statistics.
“I think the officer was trying to express to this juvenile suspect that there are consequences, not only to herself, but to others, when you don’t respect the property rights of another,” Cincinnati Police Union President Dan Hils said.
“They should address the fact he did not turn on his camera in time, but other than that, the agency should consider policy and procedure changes,” Hils added.
Officer Brown was placed on restricted duties following the incident.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac has not yet made a decision regarding possible sanctions or punishments for the alleged policy violations, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.