Black man accuses Nevada police of mistaking him for white suspect during arrest
Shane Lee Brown says he spent nearly a week in jail before police realized they had arrested the wrong person.
A Black man in Nevada is suing local police whom he says jailed him for nearly a week two years ago after mistaking him for a white man with the same name.
The plaintiff, Shane Lee Brown, now 25, filed his lawsuit in federal court on Jan. 7, according to court records obtained by theGrio.
His complaint says Las Vegas Metropolitan and Henderson police officers confused him with a white man named Shane Brown, now 51, who had an outstanding warrant for illegally owning a firearm after being convicted of a felony in 1994.
That felony conviction happened about two years before Shane Lee Brown was born.
The Black Shane Brown is 5-foot-7-inches with black hair and blue eyes, according the complaint. The white Shane Brown is 5-foot-11-inches with brown hair, blue eyes and a “bushy white beard,” the lawsuit claims.
At the time of his arrest, the Black Shane Brown was 23 years old and the white Shane Brown was 49, the complaint stated.
“It’s pretty hard to make a mistake of that magnitude when you have such different characteristics and races of a suspect,” Shane Lee Brown’s attorney told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this month.
The lawsuit says the plaintiff was driving home from work in Henderson on Jan. 8, 2020 when one or more city officers pulled him over for unspecified reasons. He didn’t have his driver’s license on him, but gave an officer his name and Social Security card, according to the complaint.
An officer ran a records check on Shane Lee Brown and found a warrant for the white Shane Brown, the complaint stated. The officer took the plaintiff to Henderson Detention Center where he was held for two days until Las Vegas police officers came to arrest him, according to the lawsuit.
“During his unlawful detention, Shane Lee Brown repeatedly explained to numerous unknown Henderson police officers and supervisors that he was not the 49-year-old white Shane Brown who was the subject of the felony warrant,” the complaint stated. “The unknown Henderson police officers and supervisors failed to perform even the most cursory review of the warrant to determine if Shane Lee Brown was the person named in the warrant.”
Las Vegas police officers took Brown to the Clark County Detention Center on Jan. 10, according to the complaint. He told them they had the wrong man, the complaint stated, but they wouldn’t even check the white Shane Brown’s mug shot photo to confirm they had the right person.
Shane Lee Brown remained behind bars for another four days before his court-appointed attorney showed mugshot photos of the white Shane Brown to police and a judge, confirming they had arrested the wrong man.
Las Vegas and Henderson city attorneys did not immediately respond on Tuesday to a request for comment from theGrio.
Henderson city spokesperson Kathleen Richards told NBC News that Shane Lee Brown’s arrest was legal and that he “has not presented all the facts and circumstances behind his lawful and proper arrest.”
“During a routine traffic stop for driving an unregistered vehicle, Shane [Lee] Brown was correctly arrested by Henderson Police for driving with a suspended license and for a contempt of court, failure to pay warrant issued by Henderson Municipal Court,” she said in an emailed statement obtained by NBC News.
“Mr. Brown admitted to the arresting officers that he knew his driver license was suspended and that he had traffic warrants in Henderson,” the statement said.
Brown’s lawsuit accuses police of violating his civil rights and asks for a total of at least $550,000 in federal and state compensatory damages.
E. Brent Bryson, the plaintiff’s attorney, told the Review-Journal on Jan. 11 that officers are required to investigate if they have reason to believe they arrested the wrong person.
“This happens much more frequently than what the public hears about,” he said. “It’s a result of either intentional or unintentional conduct by the officers.”
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