In March 2010, San Diego police stopped Shannon Robinson’s Pontiac Sunfire for apparently no reason. They then left Robinson, her fiancé Dante Harrell and a friend waiting in the car for 15 minutes.
Robinson, who believed she had not done anything wrong, called 911 to speak to the officers’ supervisor. Michael Chen of 10News reported on the 911 recording, which is now part of Robinson’s court filings.
“He stopped me by mistake," Robinson explained to the 911 operator. "Pushed his button and my license plate came back as a Honda.”
The officers admitted that they stopped Robinson by mistake. During a routine license plate check they typed in the wrong number. The officers decided to pull the car over anyway. A judge ruled that the officers made an illegal stop.
After a long wait, police finally returned to Robinson’s vehicle and she told them "I have your supervisor on the phone. I'm talking to your supervisor on the phone. Get your hands off me."
She said the officer tried to take her phone away.
"'They're on the phone with our supervisor, isn't that childish? I'm about to OC them,'"Harrell recalled the officer saying.
OC is short for Oleoresin Capsicum, also known as pepper spray.
The 911 dispatcher claimed a supervisor was being sent to the scene, but then Robinson could be heard shouting, “They pepper sprayed me!”
"Ma'am, you need to disconnect,” responded the 911 operator.
"They pepper sprayed me and my husband!" Robinson said.
Harrell claims he was then repeatedly tasered by the police. Both were taken to the ground and arrested. The phone, now in the backseat of the car, recorded the incident.
Robinson and Harrell sued the city and the officers in U.S. District Court in May. The suit claims the “defendants violated their Fourth Amendment rights through excessive force and false arrest and second, that these rights were interfered with by threats, intimidation, and coercion.”
The officers who made the stop, Daniel McClain and Ariel Savage, are both still on the force even after the completion of an internal affairs probe.
Robinson and Harrell’s attorney, Julia Yoo, said the 911 tape is evidence that the officers used excessive force.
"These 911 tapes reveal just a desperate plea on part of a citizen who was being wronged," Yoo said. "It was all about desperation and for survival."
The suit seeks summary judgment against Savage and McClain for unlawful detention, arrest without probably cause, battery on Shannon Robinson, negligence and a civil code violation.
A jury trial will begin in September.