By Michelle Watson and Amy Simonson, CNN
A Black man in Massachusetts says he was wrongly arrested by police who were looking for a White man, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the US District Court of Massachusetts.
Donovan Johnson says officers with the Arlington Police Department “wrongfully stopped, searched, arrested, and assaulted,” him “with no legitimate basis for their conduct.”
Johnson is suing three officers along with the town of Arlington and asking for compensatory and punitive damages in a sum to be determined by a jury trial. Johnson argues that his fourth and fourteenth amendments were violated as a result of the police pursuit and arrest.
CNN has reached out to the Arlington Police Department for comment.
In response to the lawsuit, town officials announced Friday they had previously been made aware of Johnson’s allegations and hired an “outside, licensed private detective to conduct an investigation to determine” if the officers violated any policies.
That investigation “found no evidence to support a claim of racial profiling or excessive use of force,” according to a news release on the town’s website.
“The investigator did find that officers violated some department policies, and as a result of the outside investigation, three officers were disciplined, one officer and the sergeant received mandatory re-training and the sergeant received remedial supervisor training. The third officer later left the department,” the release said.
The town will review the allegations in the lawsuit and “intends to vigorously defend itself against the allegations,” the release said.
Johnson says he was walking home after work on February 10 of last year when a police officer who, according to the lawsuit, was chasing a White suspect, ran up to him.
According to the lawsuit, that officer, identified as Steven Conroy, yelled to “get the f**k on the floor,” the complaint said. The White suspect, identified in the lawsuit as Kyle T., dropped down but Johnson, who was “unaware of what was happening” didn’t, the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, Officer Conroy pointed his gun at Johnson, threw him to the ground and placed his knee on Johnson’s neck. The complaint also alleges Johnson was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser before he was released without charge.
And while Johnson was eventually let go once police acknowledged “that they had no basis for arresting and detaining” him, “his entire detention lasted approximately 45 minutes,” the suit said.
The lawsuit alleges that police officers ignored information that showed Johnson was not a suspect. In a statement, Johnson’s attorneys said, “this is a quintessential racial profiling case. The Arlington Police Department had no evidence that Mr. Johnson was involved in a crime, in fact to the contrary, witnesses informed the police that he was not involved. Yet, at the end of the day, Mr. Johnson was humiliated and physically violated.”
Days after the incident, the suit says, “Conroy prepared a police report stating that a connection between Mr. Johnson and,” Kyle T. “existed on the CopLink database, a tool that integrates various law enforcement databases.”
“However, there was no connection between Mr. Johnson and Mr. T on the CopLink database,” the suit said.
When reached by phone Thursday morning for a statement, Conroy told CNN, “no comment.”
About a month after the incident, the police department conducted an independent administrative review of Johnson’s arrest.
Conroy told investigators that he saw the suspect who appeared to be jogging with another person outside of the hotel. The second subject, Conroy said, was not following his verbal commands so “he reached out and grabbed him by the arm … so he could further investigate the situation,” the investigative report said.
The review concluded, “the Arlington Police Department Use of Force Policy and Procedure … appears to have been complied with” and later says investigators, “found no evidence to support (name redacted) claim that he had been racially profiled.”
The review also states that officers violated several department policies regarding arrests outside of their jurisdiction, proper method of handcuffing and evidence seizure. The review recommends “additional training” in these areas.
Four recommendations were also given regarding training, retraining and policy revisions, following the outside investigator’s probe, town officials said Friday. Those have been implemented, the news release said.
“The Town of Arlington Police Department is committed to providing equal and fair justice to all its residents and visitors,” Town Manager Sandy Pooler and Police Chief Julie Flaherty said in the town’s news release. “It trains its staff to administer justice without regard to race and conducts ongoing training in diversity, equity and inclusion.”
In a statement, one of Johnson’s attorneys, Mirian Albert of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said, “All people should feel safe in their own communities. Our client’s rights were violated within view of his own home. This is the type of police misconduct that fuels mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement.”
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