A young black couple has sued an Aurora police officer and the Aurora Police Department claiming the officer searched them and their car without probable cause after they were pulled over for a broken tail light.
Angela Brown and her husband Keith Penny brought the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver against officer Andrew McDermott.
“This case concerns the careless and cavalier harassment of a young black couple when a white veteran police officer stopped a vehicle for a broken tail light and subjected the couple to an unnecessarily long detention that included searches of the couples’ bodies and vehicle, without a legal basis,” the lawsuit said.
The couple is seeking compensatory and punitive damages after suffering emotional distress, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering, according to the lawsuit filed on their behalf by Denver civil rights attorney Raymond Bryant.
Aurora police spokesman Matt Longshore said he had not previously heard about the lawsuit and would call back when he had information.
Bryant said what is extraordinary about the April 15, 2017 incident on the corner of East Colfax Avenue and North Sable Boulevard was how candid McDermott was when he explained to his trainee what he planned to do. It was all captured on his body camera footage, Bryant said.
McDermott asked Brown, the driver, and Penny for their driver’s licenses, the lawsuit said. He then went back to his patrol car and did criminal background checks on both of them. He then got out of his patrol car, approached the trainee and began speaking.
“So (Penny’s) got priors for coke, drug abuser, and gang stuff. I don’t think (Brown) is going to find her insurance so let’s pull em’ out, we’ll pat em’ down, just sit em’. I’ll ask her for consent. If she denies it, either way, we’ll protective sweep the car, make sure there’s no weapons in there and then I’ll finish the summons,” McDermott told the trainee, according to the lawsuit.
Although McDermott didn’t spew any racial epithets, he showed obvious bias against a young black couple who were in an older car.
McDermott had Penny and Brown step out of the car and submit to an invasive pat-down without any probable cause, the lawsuit said. Penny repeatedly asked, “Did I do something wrong,” the lawsuit said. But McDermott didn’t answer until he finally admitted Penny hadn’t done anything wrong and the search was prompted by his criminal record.
As he searched the back of the car, McDermott told the trainee, “There’s dope in here somewhere.”
But there were no drugs or weapons in the car. McDermott than explained to Penny that “in years of doing this job, I have found that typically speaking, people who have a past that’s similar to yours tend to reoffend more often than not … It’s not rocket science,” according to the lawsuit.
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