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Texas police were looking for teenage suspects, but instead detained a black couple in their 50s and 60s at gunpoint, lawsuit alleges


Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis.Courtesy of Michael Lewis.

  • An elderly black couple is suing a Texas police department after being arrested at gunpoint.

  • Officers said they were looking for teenage suspects when they arrested the couple, according to the lawsuit.

  • The lawsuit alleges excessive force, unlawful search and seizure, and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

An elderly black couple have filed a lawsuit against a Texas police department after they say police violently arrested them at gunpoint while searching for teenage suspects.

Attorneys for Michael Lewis, 67, and his girlfriend, Regina Armstead, 57, said the Rosenberg Police Department used excessive force in the November 2020 arrest.

“What they went through was incredibly degrading, dehumanizing and unconstitutional,” attorney Lauren Bonds told Insider.

The lawsuit said five RPD officers were looking for a group of black teenagers suspected of wielding weapons and assaulting when they arrested Lewis and Armstead.

“The DPR incorrectly identified Ms Armstead’s vehicle as the one used by the group of teenagers to flee the scene of an alleged assault, even though the complainants are elderly and do not remotely match the description of the suspects teenagers,” the lawsuit states.

During the stop, officers ordered Armstead to throw his keys out the window, kneel outside the vehicle, then back toward the police cruiser with his hands in the air, according to the lawsuit. . An officer arrested Armstead “while two other officers kept their guns pointed at her”, according to the lawsuit.

During his arrest, Armstead told officers that Lewis was a dialysis patient with a relay in his hand and could not have anything tight, such as handcuffs, around his arm or wrist, according to the lawsuit.

“She told them, ‘My boyfriend is on dialysis,'” Lewis recalled to Insider. “‘He can’t be in handcuffs at all. He’s on dialysis,’ but they didn’t listen to that.”

“We both feared for our lives”

After Armstead was placed in the back of a police vehicle, “four armed officers – including one holding an assault rifle – then ordered Mr Lewis out of the vehicle and told him to get on down,” the lawsuit states.

“I was praying to God the guns wouldn’t shoot at us because when you point guns at someone like that, you never know,” Lewis told Insider.

Officers handcuffed Lewis over his medical objections and placed him in a separate police cruiser while they searched Armstead’s vehicle and confiscated his mobile phone without explanation, said the lawsuit, which accuses the DPR of search and unlawful seizure, unlawful detention and false arrest.

“It was really scary. I’m telling you, it really was. I was scared for my life. Really, and so was Regina,” Lewis said. “We both feared for our lives. Because, like I said, a gun could have exploded.”

The lawsuit said that after officers found “no weapons, contraband or other evidence of illegal activity” in Armstead’s vehicle, she and Lewis were not handcuffed. Armstead questioned why they were stopped and searched, and an officer said they were looking for teenage suspects, the lawsuit said.

Armstead later realized she didn’t have her cell phone or her keys, the lawsuit said. They returned to the scene to retrieve Armstead’s phone from an officer and found their key fob, which had been thrown out the window on police instructions, had been crushed. The RPD said it would reimburse Armstead for the key fob, but they did not, according to the lawsuit.

Armstead and Lewis “both felt frightened, humiliated, embarrassed and persecuted because they were black, and suffered severe mental anguish as a result of their arrest and detention,” the lawsuit said, who claims the officers violated the Fourth Amendment and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“Following the handcuffs during his arrest, Mr Lewis’ medical device in his wrist malfunctioned. This resulted in three separate medical procedures to replace her fistula. These procedures caused Mr. Lewis prolonged pain and suffering,” the lawsuit states.

Bonds, Lewis and Armstead’s lawyer, said she hoped “to see if we can hold them to account and bring justice”.

A spokesperson for RPD did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original Insider article

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