A black Texas couple was the victim of a mistaken identity gone horribly wrong when police searching for teenagers traumatized the older couple as they were held at gunpoint and handcuffed. The couple have since filed a lawsuit against the department accusing them of excessive violence.
“I was scared because I didn’t know what was going on, I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong,” said Regina Armstead.
Armstead, 57, and her boyfriend Michael Lewis, 67, were leaving a seafood dinner on the evening of November 6, 2020 when they encountered several Rosenberg police officers on the drive home. The city of Rosenberg, Texas is about 30 miles west of Houston and has a population of about 38,000, 15 percent of whom are black.
When Armstead and Lewis were confronted by police, the officer activated the emergency lights and ordered the couple to stop.
“So I tried to go to the right side because I thought they were going to pass and so they came up behind me again and I turned the radio down and I could hear them say turn off the car and throw the keys out the window and all that stuff,” Armstead said.
According to the lawsuit the couple filed against the city of Rosenberg on Aug. 4, 2022, their police department and five of their officers were searching for a group of black teenagers who allegedly pointed a gun at a group of children and then fled in a white vehicle tinted windows and black rims. Armstead drove a white Dodge Charger similar to the car the teens reportedly got away in and led to the traffic stop.
“They stopped us because they were looking for three teenagers with a gun who shot some other teenagers and I said if that’s the case they’re gone now you’re kidding us,” Armstead said of the Incident.
The suit alleges officers ordered Armstead out of the car and onto the ground and on his knees while an officer’s gun was pointed at her. She was then handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police car. Meanwhile, Lewis, a dialysis patient, was also handcuffed. He says when officers handcuffed him, it posed a serious health risk.
“When they handcuffed me, I told them I can’t have anything on my arm at all because it would mess up my fistula,” Lewis said.
Despite briefing officers on his medical condition, officers ignored those warnings, causing the medical devices in Lewis’ wrist to stop working, which led to three medical procedures, according to the lawsuit. While the couple remained in detention, officers searched their car and it wasn’t until nearly an hour later that the traffic stop flash point was raised, Lewis and Armstead were not the teenagers officers were after.
“We didn’t favor the three guys they were looking for, but they should have known I wasn’t one of the guys when they pulled me out of the car,” Armstead said.
“There were a number of constitutional violations which we alleged, the apparent excessive force with the brandishing of guns, the handcuffing of Mr Lewis, the constitutionality of the stop at all, whether there was a reasonable suspicion based on the fact that there was no clear consensus between our clients and the suspects that police were looking for,” said Lauren Bonds, the attorney representing the couple in the lawsuit.
Atlanta Black Star received a statement from Rosenberg Police Chief Jonathan White regarding the lawsuit and the allegations it contains.
“The Rosenberg Police Department is aware of media reports of a lawsuit against the police department in relation to an incident that took place on November 6, 2020. While we are disappointed by the amount of false information in the plaintiff’s complaint and media articles, we will respect our justice by providing factual information to the court of competent jurisdiction,” White said in a statement.
Bonds says her office tried to get its hands on body camera video of traffic control, but a city official told him “they don’t have video of the stop,” leading Bonds to question whether the officers were ever activated their body cams or dash cams, or if the footage has been deleted.
Bonds described via email her efforts to get a police officer’s report on what happened during the stop:
“The only record of the stop that we received was an incident report that was virtually devoid of details. We made several public requests for information between April and June of this year for records mentioning the names of our customers, their license plates, and requests for documents for stops made at the time and date our customers were stopped became. The official at the Rosenberg Public Archives informed us that such documents did not exist. Unfortunately, they could not tell us whether the documents already existed but were later destroyed in accordance with a department’s records retention policy, or whether they were not created at all.
“We look forward to RPD’s response to the allegations in the complaint. Not only against the claims of our customers, but also against dozens of other civilians who have claimed they experienced or witnessed similar wrongdoing.”
The lawsuit has an unspecified dollar amount of damages at this time. In addition to possible financial damages, another goal of the lawsuit is to convince the Rosenberg police force to change the way they deal with the city’s non-white population.
“I want people to be better off here because they mess with a lot of people of color,” Armstead said of the lawsuit’s intended purpose.
Armstead and Lewis say they received no subpoenas during the traffic stop by Rosenberg Police Department.
https://atlantablackstar.com/2022/08/19/they-mess-with-a-lot-of-people-of-color-black-elderly-couple-mistaken-for-teenagers-files-lawsuit-against-police-alleging-excessive-force/ Elderly Texas couple are suing police after being arrested at gunpoint and mistaken for teenagers