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Two women are suing the Los Angeles Police Department after saying officers falsely targeted them in a “terrifying and unnecessary” traffic stop last year.
Shibani Balsaver and Sheilanee Sen hired a U-Haul to get from apartment to apartment when they were pulled over by Los Angeles Police. Officers, apparently believing the truck had been stolen, handcuffed the women and held them down at gunpoint – the incident being filmed.
“It was terrifying,” Sen told CBS Los Angeles, “It was probably the scariest I’ve had in my life.”
Sen, who works in community development, was helping Balsaver, a film producer, move into a new apartment in February 2020. They rented a U-Haul truck to haul Balsaver’s stuff from Hollywood to Los Feliz, about five minute drive.
In a blog post recounting the incident, Balsaver said a police vehicle followed her most of the way between her old and new apartments, but she didn’t think much about it and was confused when he followed her. to his new neighborhood.
The women said at least 10 officers had arrived with their guns – and they could hear a helicopter overhead. Balsaver described the panic she was feeling as more police cars arrived, saying no one was coming to the truck window to explain what was going on, as a handful of police cars drove up on them. places.
The women say the police ordered them to get out of the vehicle with their hands behind their heads. They say the officers then threw them to the ground and they couldn’t hear the controls properly due to the noise of the helicopter.
Sen’s boyfriend, Roger, arrived at the apartment before the women and videotaped the interaction, after being told by police to “take a step back”.
“I’m grateful it doesn’t go unnoticed, but all I can think of is that I’m going to die alone on camera,” Balsaver wrote.
Describing the weapon pointed at her, Balsaver wrote: “It is a weapon that requires a long body strap just to hold it. It is a weapon that should not be intended for anyone, certainly not Shona and me. ”
“I feel a knee pushing hard on my back. Another force my head down, ”she continued. “They grab my right hand, twist my arm behind me, and wrap an armband around my hand. I lift my left and they do the same.
The women said they were not told why they were arrested until they were handcuffed. Balsaver told an officer that a receipt for the truck, rented earlier in the morning, was in his bag.
Balsaver said after proving her innocence with the receipt, officers jokingly teased her about the incident, telling her to “request free U-Haul services for a year.”
Balsaver said the LAPD told him officers had yet to be trained to decipher between stolen and recovered vehicles in the department’s “new” four-month system. U-Haul had reported that the vehicle was recovered several weeks before the incident.
Balsaver and Sen’s attorney Brian Olney alleges officers used “high-risk procedures” during a traffic stop that was not high-risk and involved a suspected non-violent property crime.
“The courts have been very clear, but the LAPD refuses to listen,” he said. “They know what the law is, they have sworn to obey it, but they have deliberately decided to break it.”
LAPD and U-Haul did not immediately respond to the CBS News investigation.