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Denver barber seeks retribution over arrest of 'riding while black'

Officers detained the wrong man
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jan 14, 2019

DENVER — A local barber said he was falsely handcuffed and detained in connection to a crime simply because he's a black man.

Jamiyl Brown, who owns Style-Dezign-N-Fades in downtown Denver, named three officers in a lawsuit for boarding a light rail train at the Decatur-Federal station and immediately taking him into custody in connection to shots fired in a church kitchen.

"We need to take you outside, please," an officer is seen and heard saying in body camera video moments after they boarded the train last January.

Brown is seen on video wearing headphones and seated among dozens of other passengers on his way to work. He lives in Lakewood.

According to Brown's lawsuit, officers were seeking a man for firing at least one shot into the kitchen ceiling at Mean Street Ministry in the hours before Brown's arrest.

Except for being black, the lawsuit said the description of the suspected gunman -- short and obese -- did not match Brown, who's tall and thin. Nor did the name. Yet after officers retrieved Brown's identification, he said they held him for roughly 30 minutes anyway because he coincidentally had a gun on him without a permit -- a charge that was ultimately dismissed.

"It was embarrassing," he told Contact7. "I felt violated."

Brown and an attorney argued that officers violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Another attorney is using the same argument as the basis of the lawsuit filed against the officers last week.

"It is literally the case that Mr. Brown was detained, searched, handcuffed, and arrested for the crime of 'riding while black,' in gross violation of his civil rights," the lawsuit reads. "Defendants' detention of Mr. Brown was not justified at its inception, because they had no articulable reasonable suspicion that Mr. Brown had committed or was about to commit a crime."

The lawsuit contends that officers could have avoided the false arrest had they simply asked Brown to produce his identification before detaining him.

"Any reasonable police officer would know that merely because a person is the same race as a suspect does not constitute grounds for a reasonable suspicion that the person is the suspect," the lawsuit also reads.

Contact7 contacted Denver police and city leaders on Friday about the lawsuit, but they have not yet responded. It's typically standard practice for government agencies to not speak on the specifics of pending litigation.

In the meantime, Brown said he's unable to obtain a concealed handgun permit because of the now-dismissed criminal citation. He said he was carrying the weapon at the time of his arrest as a means of protection because he frequently transports his business's earnings, paid in cash, between his home and business.

"It's accountability, it's to send a message," Brown said of the lawsuit filed. "And it's to open people's eyes to the world we're living in."