Arrest in Albany racially motivated, Oakland couple says

Story by Shelly Meron of the Contra Costa Times

A black couple says white Albany police officers Tasered and arrested them in front of their children without provocation, in what they consider a racially motivated attack.

Oakland residents Stephanie and Michael Williams say a police officer pulled over their car about 10:30 p.m. June 5, in Albany, after a graduation party at a Sizzler’s restaurant on San Pablo Avenue. The officer later called for two others as backup.

According to Stephanie Williams, the first officer refused to tell her husband, who was driving the car, why he pulled him over; and the three officers spoke and behaved in an aggressive, demeaning manner toward the family; used a Taser on Michael Williams even though he was not resisting; and arrested the couple.

Stephanie Williams said she was threatened with a Taser and later arrested after she got out of the car to see what was happening. Police did not behave compassionately toward their three children — ages 10, 2 and 7 months — who were crying in the car, she said.

The couple spent about a day in jail, Stephanie Williams said. Charges against her were dismissed, but Michael Williams is still facing charges for resisting arrest.

Since the encounter, the couple has spoken twice during public comment periods before the Albany City Council and has met with City Administrator Beth Pollard. At each meeting, the Williamses have been accompanied by members of the Uhuru Movement of Oakland, a black

rights group led by the African People’s Socialist Party.Albany police Chief Mike McQuiston, in a statement released Wednesday, said his department “takes these allegations of police misconduct very seriously and a complete and thorough investigation of the matter is underway. All parties to this incident have a right to expect a fair, comprehensive and efficient investigation that takes place in a timely manner, which shall be done.”

Though McQuiston could not comment further because of the active personnel investigation, a report released by the department paints a different picture of the encounter.

Officer Michael Gibson, who pulled the family over, wrote that he stopped Michael Williams, 37, for driving without lights on and for speeding. Gibson wrote that Michael Williams “had an angry look on his face and angrily stated ‘What!’ ” when the officer approached him.

Gibson wrote that Michael Williams gave him a false first name and no last name; refused to turn over his license, registration and insurance; and would not turn off his engine. The officer said Michael Williams refused to get out of the car until he was threatened with a Taser gun, would not to put his hands up and physically struggled with Gibson and another responding officer, Donald Maiden.

According to the report, a third officer, Sgt. Tom Dolter, responded to the scene and asked Stephanie Williams — who had stepped out of the car — to stay back. She refused, was threatened with a Taser and later arrested.

Stephanie Williams, 29, called the accounts in the police report “sickening.”

“It was filled with lies, with stereotypes of who the police thought we were,” she said. “It was not an accurate retelling of what happened.”

The couple and their supporters plan to demonstrate outside the Albany Library from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

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