The Chicago police oversight agency is investigating a white officer’s struggle with a Black woman who was walking her dog in a lakefront park, an encounter the woman’s attorneys allege became violent and was “an obvious case of racial profiling”.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (Copa) opened its investigation on Sunday.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Monday she was “deeply concerned” by video of the incident that has been widely shared on social media. The city police superintendent asked the public for patience.
A law office representing Nikkita Brown said in a statement she was near the lakefront with her dog at about 12.10am on Saturday when a Chicago police officer approached her for being in the area after the park was closed.
In the two-minute-long video recorded by a bystander, Brown and her dog appear to walk away from the officer as he follows closely. Brown turns around with her phone in her hand and stops.
Moments later, the officer appears to reach for Brown’s phone and then grab Brown, who can be heard yelling, “Let go!” as she struggles to break free.
Brown’s attorneys accused the officer of “violently” attacking their client “for absolutely no reason”.
“He attempts to tackle her, all while groping her body as she screams for help,” the attorneys said in the statement. “This unprovoked attack lasts for approximately two minutes, during this time Ms Brown’s phone is knocked from her hands and she is knocked out of her shoes.”
When Brown is finally free, she can be seen picking up her phone before walking away with her dog. Her attorneys said she returned home, called 911 and filed a report with a sergeant. The attorneys said she had not received a copy of that report.
They allege the encounter was racially motivated, noting there were several other individuals in the park, including a group of about four white people walking some distance behind Brown.
“This was an obvious case of racial profiling,” the attorneys said, adding that Brown was suffering “emotional trauma” from a “brutal, unprovoked and unlawful attack”.
The Chicago police department said it was aware of the video and referred the matter to Copa, which opened an investigation. Ephraim Eaddy, a spokesperson for Copa, told the Chicago Sun-Times the agency has been in contact with Brown’s attorney.