A black member of the TV show ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ crew accuses two Los Angeles Police Department officers of racially profiling him when they forced him out of the production van he was driving and attempted to arrest him in front of his colleagues, apparently believing they had stolen the vehicle.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court on Thursday, Ernest Simon, Jr., 31, said the attempted arrest on March 18, 2021 took place despite the fact that he had already driven on the production lot. from Tarzana where he was working that day, in front of security guards. who told the two LAPD officers he was an employee.
“(The officers) – unaware of the security guard’s explanation and the other readily observable facts that the (lot) was being used for a television production – entered the (lot) and approached Mr. Simon with their guns drawn as Mr. Simon sat in the driver’s seat of the parked van,” according to the suit.
Additionally, although Simon’s colleagues told the officers they had been mistaken, other LAPD officers and a helicopter arrived on the grounds while Simon was ordered to “lie face down. and spread the eagle on the hot asphalt”.
In all, it took officers about 30 minutes to realize that Simon had not stolen the van and release him.
“The unlawful and unlawful actions of the LAPD caused Mr. Simon to fear that he was about to be shot in the workplace in front of his co-workers for simply being a black man in the wrong neighborhood,” Stephen said. Larson, Simon’s lawyer. .
The lawsuit, which named LAPD Chief Michel Moore and 20 unnamed officers as defendants, charged the LAPD with unreasonable search and seizure, excessive force, de facto arrest without probable cause and racial profiling, among other charges. Simon demanded $20 million in damages, though any damages will be determined in a jury trial.
An LAPD spokesperson said the department is not commenting on pending lawsuits.
In the lawsuit, Simon’s attorneys said the LAPD claimed the officers following him did so because their automated license plate reader “erroneously alerted them that the license plate of the van corresponded to a BMW sedan that had been reported stolen”.
The van Simon was driving was a black Ford Transit with yellow Oregon license plates.
Simon’s lawyers said officers should have been able to recognize immediately that the plate reader had given them an erroneous alert.
However, the lawsuit also claimed that the officers started following Simon before the plate reader gave them the wrong reading.
On the day of the arrest, March 18, 2021, Simon was idling at a four-way stop when he spotted the two officers at another stop sign to his left. According to the lawsuit, Simon waived having the officers come first.
“Although Mr. Simon had the right of way, he respectfully waved (the officers) through the four-way intersection ahead of him,” his attorneys wrote in the complaint. “Rather than heed this polite gesture, (officers) instead waited for Mr. Simon to cross the four-way intersection.
“Subsequently, (officers) turned left and began following Mr. Simon for several blocks as he returned to the (production lot).”
Simon continued driving to the field, which was located in a parking lot and playground at the Gaspar De Portola Middle School rented by the Disney production.
According to the lawsuit, the lot was clearly marked as a Disney television production with uniformed security guards at the entrance. Other vehicles used by the production were also parked on the grounds, including a fleet of Ford Transit vans identical to the one Simon drove.
Because of these circumstances, Simon’s lawyers said officers should have been able to recognize their mistake long before they attempted to arrest him.
LAPD officials would not say Thursday whether the department was aware that its license plate readers could return erroneous results.
Zach Norris, executive director of the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, wrote in June 2021 that unreliable technology combined with biased policing can lead to poor outcomes.
“Unfortunately, they get it wrong at least 1 in 10 times, and like almost everything else in our policing infrastructure, technology is applied unevenly to focus the greatest scrutiny in communities of color and low-income communities” , Norris wrote.