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Two West Virginia Sheriff’s deputies might be regretting their actions after a trio of African Americans they accused of growing marijuana have filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit.
An African American landlord and his two Black tenants are suing Mcdowell County deputies Jordan Horn and Dalton Martin on a five-count civil action accusing them of violating the trio’s civil rights.
On August 7, 2020, the deputies were investigating a reported “marijuana growth” near Baptist Drive in Valls Creek, West Virginia, the lawsuit states. The deputies eventually found the plants by a church nearby but not on the property in which Donnie and Ventriss Hairston reside, WVVA reported.
The lawsuit accuses the deputies of approaching the Hairston residence and immediately asking them if they were growing marijuana.
“For the police officers in this area to come up and say, ‘Are you growing marijuana?’ That is preposterous to me,” plaintiff Ventriss Hairston said, according to body cam footage.
Landlord arrested, files lawsuit alleging racial discrimination
After denying the accusation, the Hairstons notified their neighbor and landlord, Jason Tartt.
Video of bodycam footage shared on social media shows the officers confronting Tartt, who refuses to provide them with his name.
Tartt calls out the officers for approaching his property without a warrant. In turn, the officers threaten to arrest him. As Donnie Hairston records the altercation on his cell phone, footage shows one officer pushing Donnie back inside his home.
The officers then proceed to place landlord Tartt in handcuffs and arrest him, charging him with Obstruction.
“I can walk without you putting your damn hands on me, you understand? I have not broken a law,” Tartt says as a second officer tries to grab his arm.
In the racial discrimination lawsuit, the Hairstons said the deputies had “no legitimate reason to be angry with them, or to suspect that they had anything to do with marijuana plants growing in overgrown brush on a different property in the woods, well beyond the curtilage of their home.”
Deputies face five counts of civil rights violation
Roughly two months after the arrest, prosecutors dropped the Obstruction charge after the officers failed to appear for the hearing, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported.
The five-count civil action filed against the officers include: false warrantless arrest, malicious prosecution, unreasonable seizure, unlawful retaliation, and conspiracy to deprive.
“Defendants Martin and Horn, conspired for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, the plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws of the United States and/or of the equal privileges and immunities under the laws of the United States … They were targeted as suspects in the defendant officers’ marijuana plant investigation just by virtue of their being African Americans,” the complaint alleges.
According to the racial discrimination lawsuit, the plaintiffs demand a trial by jury.