Black man sues police after he was mistaken for white suspect, arrested
A Nevada man is suing two US police departments after he was arrested for a firearms offense he didn’t commit. The police had mistaken him for another man, despite one being black and the other white.
Shane Lee Brown, now 25, was arrested by Henderson, Nevada, police at a traffic stop in January 2020. He didn’t have his license with him, so he told the officers his name and social security number. When the police ran the information, they reportedly discovered that he apparently had a felony bench warrant for possession of a firearm. Brown was jailed by Henderson cops for two days, before being handed over to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).
However, Brown was not wanted on a firearms charge. When the police at the traffic stop searched for ‘Shane Brown’, they discovered a file on Shane Neal Brown, who was 49 years old at the time and had a criminal record dating back to before Shane Lee Brown was born. Unlike Shane Lee Brown, who is black, Shane Neal Brown is white.
According to ABC News, Brown attempted to inform the officers of their mistake, to no avail. Likewise, the LVMPD wasn’t “bothered to review its own records to determine whether Shane Lee Brown was the subject of the warrant,” according to the lawsuit.
Brown was eventually freed by a Clark County District Court judge six days after his arrest.
He is now seeking damages of $500,000 under federal law and at least $50,000 under state law, with his lawsuit alleging civil rights violations, false imprisonment, negligence, and other wrongful conduct by both police departments.
“Had any of the LVMPD police or corrections officers performed any due diligence, such as comparing Shane Lee Brown’s booking photo against the existing mugshot belonging to the white ‘Shane Brown’ named in the warrant, they would have easily determined that Shane Lee Brown has been misidentified,” the lawsuit read.
Yet, in another twist to the story, the Henderson Police Department said that Brown’s arrest was actually lawful, as he had been driving on a suspended license and was wanted for failing to pay a fine issued by Henderson Municipal Court. However, Brown’s attorney told ABC News that the police still arrested him on the wrong warrant, and that Brown had arranged a court date to clear up his own legal trouble.
"From one standpoint, yes, they could have arrested him and be rightfully arrested for traffic,” the attorney, E. Brent Bryson, said. “He was wrongfully detained and arrested, however … for the felony possession of a firearm."