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On January 8, 2020, Shane Lee Brown, a 25-year-old Black man, was wrongly arrested during a traffic stop after Las Vegas police mistook him for a white man with a similar name.
Officers asked Brown to show his license, but he told them he did not have it with him, proceeding to give them his name and social security information.
When officers carried out a records check of the name “Shane Brown,” a felony bench warrant for possessing a firearm by a prohibited person appeared. However, that warrant was not for Shane Lee Brown but for Shane Neal Brown, a 51-year-old white man with brown hair, blue eyes, and a beard.
The officials arrested Brown, and he was placed into the custody of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department two days later. Eight days after Lee Brown’s release, officials discovered that Neal Brown was arrested in San Bernardino County, California.
Black man sues police dept. after mistaken identity
In late January, Neal Brown appeared in court and accepted a plea deal; however, it is unknown whether he was in custody during Lee Brown’s arrest.
A spokeswoman for the city of Henderson said the younger man was lawfully detained for driving with a suspended license; however, the town did not mention false identity.
According to the lawsuit, “Despite being informed of this mistaken identity, none of the unknown LVMPD police or LVMPD corrections officers bothered to review its records to determine whether Shane Lee Brown was the subject of the warrant.”
The lawsuit states that officers wrongly believed Lee Brown was Neal Brown, who was first jailed back in 1994 for a felony before Lee Brown was born. Moreover, the younger Brown is 4 inches shorter than Shane Neal Brown.
During the unlawful detention, Shane Lee Brown informed Henderson Police numerous times that he was not Shane Neal Brown, who was subject to the felony warrant. Additionally, the lawsuit implies that there were possibly booking photos of Shane Neal Brown.
In the lawsuit, the officials are accused of failing to perform “due diligence” by contrasting his booking photo to the middle-aged white man. It wasn’t until Shane Lee Brown’s lawyer had the judge compare his photo with Shane Neal Brown that he was freed.
Henderson Police push back against lawsuit
After spending six days behind bars for mistaken identity, Brown filed a lawsuit against the Las Vegas Police Department.
As a result, Shane Lee Brown is now seeking $500k in punitive damages from the Las Vegas and Henderson police departments. He is accusing officials of ignoring important details such as fingerprints, dates of birth, different photos, physical descriptions, or criminal identification numbers during his arrest and incarceration.
However, city attorneys are stating that Henderson Police properly arrested Lee Brown and that he knew his license was suspended but proceeded to drive anyways. Officials instructed Shane Lee Brown that he would have to pay a fine to the city, but he refused.
According to spokeswoman Kathleen Richards, “Mr. Brown admitted to the arresting officers that he knew his driver’s license was suspended and that he had traffic warrants in Henderson.”
She continued, “The plaintiff in the lawsuit has not presented all the facts and circumstances behind his lawful and proper arrest by Henderson Police, which will be further addressed in the City Attorney’s response to the court.”
Officials were correct about Shane Lee Brown driving with a suspended driver’s license, but they mistook him for another man, resulting in him being falsely arrested for a felony warrant.
LVMPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Black Wall Street Times.