A federal judge has released body cam footage in which Los Angeles Police Department officers are seen arresting a Black man while searching for a suspect that turned out to be white.
According to ABC 7, the video was unsealed this week as part of a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. The plaintiff, 42-year-old Antone Austin, says he was unlawfully arrested by the LAPD, and has accused the involved officers of racial profiling and violating his civil rights.
The incident reportedly took place on May 24, 2019, when Austin was confronted by police as he was taking out his trash. The authorities were reportedly responding to a domestic disturbance call from Austin’s neighbor, who claimed her white ex-boyfriend was violating a restraining order. Though the caller reportedly didn’t provide a description of the suspect during her call, officers immediately restrained Austin’s without any questions.
“Is this the dude?” one officer is heard saying as the patrol car approaches Austin.
“Probably,” his colleague responds.
The video then captures officers going toward Austin, as one of them tells him to turn around. Austin questions the demand and explains to officers that he lives there. The cops then grab Antone before pinning him against the garage doors and placing him in handcuffs. Austin’s girlfriend, Michelle Michlewicz, came outside shortly after and tried to intervene. She was later charged with interfering with an arrest, while Austin was charged with resisting arrest and assault on an officer; the latter charge was eventually dropped.
According to the lawsuit, Austin and Michlewicz were placed behind bars for several hours before paying a total of $57,000 in bail.
“It was racial profiling,’’ the couple’s attorney, Faisal Gill, told ABC 7. “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.’’
The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has asked the court to dismiss the suit, arguing the couple’s actions is what ultimately led to their arrest. The office also tried to keep the footage under wraps, telling the court that releasing the video would “interfere with the officers’ expectation of privacy.” U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian wasn’t convinced.
“The Court is not persuaded by Defendant’s arguments and concludes that Defendant has failed to carry its burden of showing ‘good cause’ for the retention of the confidentiality designation for the body camera footage in issue,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian said, as reported by Patch.
The couple’s case is set for jury trial in October.