A Black youth leader in the Los Angeles area says Los Angeles County sheriffs entered his home in the early hours of the morning, dragged him outside, and handcuffed him before realising they had entered the wrong house.
Derrick Cooper, 54, has for nearly three decades run the the LA City Wildcats facility — a Compton-based organisation that runs academic and extracurricular programming for area children. Mr Cooper lives in an apartment in the same building where the organisation is based.
On April 18, Los Angeles County sheriffs located in department’s the Compton office were called to respond to an attempted robbery near the LA City Wildcats facility. When the law enforcement officers entered Mr Cooper’s room and began shining lights in his face, he said he feared for his life.
“I’m like, ‘They’re either here to kill me or I’ve done something that I don’t know about,’” Mr Cooper said in comments reported by NBC News. “I said, ‘I’m unarmed, I live alone, please do not shoot me.’”
The law enforcement officials ordered Mr Cooper to get up and walk towards them. Mr Cooper responded that he was naked from the waist down and asked for the chance to put on an undergarment or pair of pants, but was told that he could not.
“As much as I wanted to reach for something to cover up, I just knew if I did that, it was not going to be good for me,” Mr Cooper said. “So as embarrassed as I was, I chose being embarrassed to live another day.”
Mr Cooper was then handcuffed and led through the Wildcats facility and into the street. He asked why he had been detained, but was not given an answer. Mr Cooper said he was placed inside a sheriff’s vehicle and sat there for some 20 minutes before a radio dispatch informed the officers that they had apprehended the wrong person.
“You guys are at the wrong building,” the message from the dispatch radio said. “Let him go.”
Mr Cooper then was able to walk free, but left deeply shaken by the incident. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s office, which was led until December by conservative lightning rod Alejandro Villanueva, has said it is investigating the incident.
Meanwhile, Mr Cooper’s laywer Jaaye Person-Lynn said they have not recieved any information about why the officers targeted Mr Cooper.
“We haven’t been given any information, like any 911 calls or any other information related to that call,” Mr Person-Lynn said. “So as of right now, we are still quite unsure what actually led to the officers’ showing up.”
If the sheriffs did simply arrive at the wrong address, it is not the first time in recent weeks that law enforcement officers have accosted the wrong person. Earlier this month, police in New Mexico fatally shot a homeowner after responding to the wrong address.