A city police officer shocked a woman on the stomach with a stun gun after the woman begged the officer not to, saying she was pregnant, the woman and two witnesses say.
Aviana White, 27, was a passenger in her brother’s car when the officer pulled him over Monday morning for speeding, the police department said. He had no license.
Police Chief Tim Hendricks said the officer was trying to be helpful by asking for White’s name and license so that she could drive her brother’s car home.
The chief said White’s defiance throughout the traffic stop created a “heightened sense of awareness” in the officer, who had no way of knowing what might happen.
White told the Sun Herald the law does not require her to give her name, so she refused. White said she believes her refusal angered the officer, whom she and a witness identified as Kandice Clayton.
As it turns out, police later learned that White had an outstanding arrest warrant from 2014 for misdemeanor domestic violence in Long Beach.
Clayton told the siblings to stay in the car, all agree.
White called her mother, Mary Spear, to pick up the car. Mary Spear said the scene was calm when she arrived. She said Clayton told her that a tow truck was coming for the car.
At some point, White and her brother got out of the car. Her brother, Miles Spear, was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge and put in the back of a patrol car.
White walked off, saying she was not under arrest and did not have to stay in the car. White said she took her cellphone and called the Pass Christian Police Department to complain about the way she was being treated.
She was standing under a shade tree, talking on the phone, according to a witness who had strolled out onto her porch on Clarke Avenue, where the scene was unfolding.
Clayton “got in her car, sped down to this girl, and the girl wasn’t going nowhere,” said the witness, Alicia Burton, “so it didn’t have to escalate the way it did. I feel it could have went totally different if (the officer) had handled it different.”
Burton said the officer got out of her car and “charged” toward White. White was saying, “Wait, I’m pregnant,” resisting as the officer grabbed her, Burton said. The officer managed to wrestle White to the ground, Burton and White’s mother said.
Clayton also had a stun gun. By all accounts, White was screaming, “Don’t Tase me, I’m pregnant!” Her mom and Burton chimed in, they said. Both women said they also were screaming, “Don’t Tase her, she’s pregnant!”
Burton said the officer “went to Tasing that girl all over her body.” Spear said the officer shocked White at least three times in the abdomen and on her leg.
“I’m upset,” Burton said. “That was a situation that escalated that didn’t have to escalate the way it did.” Burton felt the officer should have waited for backup, which was on the way.
Hendricks said his department has four videotapes from the incident, two from patrol car cameras and two from body cameras. He said the department reviewed about 30 minutes of video. He would not release copies of the video, saying he does not want to compromise the criminal case against White.
White, he said, was allowed to go to the hospital, as she requested, to be checked. When the Sun Herald talked to her Tuesday, she mentioned bruising from her encounter with the officer.
Hendricks said White was supposed to come to the police department at 10 a.m. Tuesday, but she did not show up. The Sun Herald was going to interview White at her mother’s house Tuesday afternoon. The police arrived first, arrested her on a felony charge of assaulting a police officer and took her to the Harrison County jail.
“She was very defiant with the officer, and that's what led up to this,” Hendricks said. “The officer asked her repeatedly to stay in the car and she refused to do that.”
He added, “I think the charges are justified.”
He said an internal board, generally comprised of one civilian and two or three Pass Christian officers, will review what happened. The officer, whom he would not identify, is still working.
The officer has worked for the department for about a year, he said, and came to Pass Christian from another law enforcement agency.