Lawyers for a Black man who alleges he was racially profiled by police when he was arrested in Hollywood are expected to argue March 30 in federal court that the officers’ body camera footage of the encounter should be unsealed.
Antone Austin, 42, claims he was taking in his trash cans at his apartment on May 24, 2019, when two Los Angeles Police Department officers suddenly pulled up and ordered him to turn around.
Without explanation, the officers immediately attempted to handcuff Austin and became upset with him when he didn’t comply, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles last April.
As Austin was being detained, his girlfriend came running out of the apartment and was also arrested without cause, the plaintiffs allege. Both Austin and the woman were held in jail for hours, paying a total of $57,000 in bail, according to the suit.
Jasmyne Cannick, the couple’s media representative, said Austin was initially charged with resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, but the assault charge was eventually dropped.
His 30-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Michlewicz, was charged with taking by means of a riot of another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to four years.
“The charges remain in limbo,” Cannick said. “They haven’t been dismissed. They’re still standing.”
In court filings, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office argue that the couple’s claim is without merit and should be dismissed, and that Austin and his girlfriend are to blame for the incident. Attorneys for the city also allege that the two LAPD officers are immune from liability.
LAPD Officer Tony Im of the Media Relations Division said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit is set for jury trial in October.
The couple’s attorney, Faisal Gill, said the officers didn’t know who they were looking for when they arrived at the scene in response to a domestic disturbance call involving a white neighbor.
“We have body camera footage that shows the initial responding officers spotting Antone bringing in his trash can,” Gill said. “One officer says, `Is it this dude?’ to which his partner responds, `Probably.”’
Gill said the bodycam footage also shows officers discussing the fact that they had no information on what the suspect looked like.
“It was racial profiling,” Gill alleged. “No question about it and to add injury to insult they arrest my clients, put them in jail … Even the woman who called 911 tried to tell the officers that they had the wrong person.”
Much of the incident was recorded by bodycams worn by the officers involved, according to Gill, who filed a motion last week to have a judge order the footage unsealed and released to the public.
“Just because someone didn’t die, it’s still serious,” Cannick said. “Here we voted for body cameras, and they’re fighting to keep them secret.”