The Los Angeles Police Department has been slapped with another lawsuit alleging excessive force and racial profiling.
According to legal documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, the department is being sued by Ernest Simon Jr., a Black production employee of the Walt Disney Company’s General Entertainment Division. The plaintiff says the incident took place in March 2021 during a location shoot for Grey’s Anatomy in Tarzana, California. Simon was working as a driver for the series’ production crew when he was reportedly stopped by police on suspicion of stealing a vehicle.
Per the lawsuit that was filed Thursday in federal court:
[...] Mr. Simon—a thirty-one year old African American male—was targeted by LAPD police officers who, without any legal justification, initiated a racially motivated “high risk” traffic stop. Multiple LAPD police officers then forced Mr. Simon to lie prone on an asphalt lot at gunpoint for over 20 minutes, using an overwhelming and unjustified show of force against Mr. Simon that caused him to legitimately (and understandably) fear that he was going to be shot at his workplace in front of his coworkers for simply being a Black man in the wrong neighborhood.
The lawsuit states that several witnesses informed officers Simon was a member of the crew, and the vehicle had been rented by DGE; however, the officers seemingly ignored their explanations.
“Instead of heeding those pleas, Doe Officer Defendants yelled at the crewmembers to ‘get out of the line of fire,’ which only increased Mr. Simon’s legitimate fear for his life as he lay surrounded by at least eight LAPD officers pointing their guns in his direction,” the complaint read. “[...] The only conceivable reason that Doe Officer Defendants had to draw their firearms was based on their racial profiling of Mr. Simon. Given that Mr. Simon was unarmed and fully cooperative, there simply were no facts to support a reasonable belief that deadly force may be justified.”
The involved officers reportedly checked the plates of the van Simon was driving and mistakenly matched them with a BMW sedan that was reported missing. Simon’s attorney told THR that Simon was operating a Ford van, “which is very different.”
The complaint alleges the officers demonstrated “malice and reckless indifference to Mr. Simon’s rights” and that the department “failed to take any meaningful action to either hold those officers accountable or to give Mr. Simon even a semblance of justice.” Simon is suing the City of Los Angeles, the two unnamed officers, and the LAPD Chief of Police Michel Moore for $20 million. He is also seeking a jury trial.
“What happened to Mr. Simon was beyond unacceptable. It was another example of a broken system that puts valuable lives in danger and damages spirits,” said Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. “Shondaland stands with Mr. Simon and his family in this complaint.”