Isiah Holmes, Wisconsin Examiner
November 7, 2023
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has released body camera footage depicting an incident at the county zoo in late October, in which a teenage girl was punched in the face by a deputy multiple times before being taken into custody. The 17-year-old and at least one of her sisters were arrested following reports of a fight or altercation at the zoo. The girl has been charged as an adult by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office with battery or threat to a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer, and disorderly conduct.
Video surfaced on social media showing a deputy pinning the girl to the ground while delivering what the MCSO called “targeted strikes” to control her. The girl’s mother has raised questions about why her daughter, who doesn’t have a prior record, was being held in the county jail, why male deputies handled her arrest, and other issues that arose since the incident. The video snippet which circulated on social media did not show what led up to, or what occurred after, the deputy struck the girl.
Body camera footage published to YouTube by the MCSO shows zoo staff complaining to deputies about the girl and her family members blocking access to the zoo. “We can’t really get out because they’re just sitting on the gate and they’re arguing with each other,” staff say. A deputy is directed to the walk-in entrance of the zoo, where he approaches four females trying to find a ride. It is apparent that they have gotten lost while trying to find their way back to the parking lot. The Milwaukee County Courthouse. (Photo | Isiah Holmes)
“Our ride is in front of the building,” one of the girls says. At one point the deputy tells one of the girls, who is raising her voice and becoming agitated, to calm down. The deputy then focuses on conversing with one of the girls who is more passive. Meanwhile, the girls call the driver who is trying to pick them up, and who also becomes irritated at the girls for not being at their pick-up location. “We just trying to get to the car and get out of here,” says one of the girls. One of the four girls remains vocal and aggravated as the deputy walks away to figure things out over the radio.
When the deputy returns to explain that another squad car is going to find the car they were waiting for, the girl who has remained agitated says that isn’t necessary, and that their ride is waiting for them. She asks what would happen if she hopped the fence, and the deputy warns she’d be arrested. Eventually he begins to take names, while offering to have their ride come around to the side of the zoo where they are waiting. When the car arrives, the deputy walks over to the driver. “I’m trying to find my sisters,” the driver says. The deputy asks for ID, explaining that the sheriff has been called because of “some verbal altercation between some possible friends or family members.” The driver says she doesn’t have ID, and simply wants to get her sisters and leave. “Why do you need my name to come and pick up my sister?” she says. “I don’t understand.”
The driver walks over to the fence where her sisters are standing, saying she is going to pull around. As the deputy follows, the driver turns and asks why he is following her. The deputy continues to ask for her name, and the driver continues to decline. She eventually says, “my name is Tiffany,” and then walks back to her car stating that her children are in the car and she wants to leave. “Do not leave,” the deputy says. Soon after, the sisters get across the gate and as they walk to the car they begin to argue. The deputy takes down the car’s license plate number.
The driver then identifies herself as Tiffany Willis, and asks why the deputy continues asking for her information. The girls say zoo staff likely saw them arguing amongst themselves, and that they were trying to leave. “We didn’t really disturb them because when they told us to leave, we genuinely, we left and we walked over there, and that’s when all the police started coming,” one of the sisters explains. They hadn’t argued with any other zoo-goers and hadn’t hurt anyone, the girl states. “Probably to them it probably seemed like it was a lot, but with us it wasn’t really that deep,” she adds. “Like we good now, we all good, nobody was injured.”
After this conversation with the deputy, the video cuts to a mute scene of the deputy driving. Several seconds pass and the body camera’s audio activates, showing the girls’ car stopped and surrounded by deputies. The driver’s side door is open, and one of the deputies is reaching through, yelling, “Let go of her! Donny, grab her! Get them both out!” The sister who’d been cooperative throughout the previous encounter is now crying and saying, “Don’t touch me.” She exits the car from the passenger side, and the deputies refocus on the driver’s side. One of the sisters who is sitting in the back gets out, and lightly shoves one of the deputies as her sisters yell in the background, “Please stop!” It’s at that point the girl is taken to the ground and a struggle ensues that removes the body camera from view.
The video captured by deputies ends with dash camera footage showing the three punches which made their way to social media. MCSO’s news release depicts the video as discrediting allegations made about the incident, including:
The second deputy attacking or assaulting 17-year-old, as was alleged in social media commentary of the cell phone video snippet.The targeted strikes being administered to the 17-year-old for “no reason,” as was alleged in social media commentary of the cell phone video snippet.The 17-year-old being “punched” or “beaten” while handcuffed, as was alleged in social media commentary of the cell phone video snippet.The 17-year-old being “punched” in the head or the back of the head, as was alleged repeatedly in social media commentary of the cell phone video snippet.
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