Viral videos from Missouri show Marcia Gray, 68, and son Derek, who are black, being thrown to the ground, causing severe injuries

In this 23 March 2020 video grab, Marvia Gray, left and her son Derek Gray are arrested at a Sam’s Club store in Des Peres, Missouri. Photograph: AP

A 68-year-old Missouri woman has filed a lawsuit against four police officers and their suburban St Louis department after they were captured in a since-viral video beating and arresting her and her adult son over a claim that the pair had stolen a television.

The allegation turned out to be false. All four officers are white; the mother and son are black.

The lawsuit alleges that while Marvia Gray and her 43-year-old son Derek were attempting to get a refund for a television they had purchased at a Sam’s Club when the police officers grabbed them, “throwing them to the floor, beating them, handcuffing them, then arresting them”.

Gray’s son, Derek Gray, bought the television on 23 March, but could not fit the 65in device into his SUV. The lawsuit alleges when he came back to retrieve it, employees falsely accused him of stealing it. He eventually managed to verify his purchase and take the TV home.

As an outraged frequent store customer, Gray insisted her son return the television as a matter of principle. That is when, the lawsuit alleges, they were tackled and arrested without cause in the presence of several witnesses. Attorneys confirmed multiple videos of the incident are circulating online.

The beating and arrest were also captured by the surveillance cameras in the store.

“Mrs Gray thought her son was about to be another black man unjustifiably shot and killed by the police,” the family’s attorney, Andrew M Stroth of the Chicago-based Action Injury Law Group, told the Associated Press. “You can see in the video that she is terrified with respect to what they’re doing to her son.”

The elder Gray suffered severe injuries to her tailbone, back, rotator cuff, knees and arms. The son shattered three front teeth, had a concussion and face injuries that required nearly 20 stitches and seven staples, according to the suit.

Des Peres police department released a statement following the incident in March, maintaining that store personnel had told them that products were stolen. They also insisted that the Grays were arrested for failing to comply.

“The struggle started as soon as the subject was told he was being detained and one handcuff was applied,” the statement read.

In an interview with the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Gray said that the officers “were beating him so bad”, that she had all but given up, thinking he was going to die.

“I have no faith in the police any more,” she said. “They tried to take my only child.”

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