LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A 21-year-old Black man has filed a lawsuit accusing officers in the embattled police department of Kentucky's largest city of wrongful arrest and excessive force.
Officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department arrested Jahmael Benedict last year as he walked along a sidewalk in the vicinity of a stolen vehicle, attorneys said in the lawsuit filed this month in Jefferson Circuit Court. The suit asserts that officers had “no reasonable suspicion or probable cause” to make the arrest in connection with the stolen vehicle and a stolen gun found nearby.
“Yet they acted in accordance with the custom and practice of LMPD violating the rights of the African-American citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky — especially the African-American males — and ignored all of the reliable information and available sources thereof that was communicated to the said defendant police officers and the other LMPD officers at the location,” the lawsuit states.
The Louisville Metro Police declined to comment on pending litigation but said in a statement that officers are working to make the city a safer place to live and work.
“LMPD is committed to providing fair, equitable, and constitutional police services to the people of Louisville,” the statement said. “The public expects our officers to perform trying tasks in tough conditions and maintain a high degree of professionalism. We stand behind those expectations, and meet and/or exceed them daily.”
One officer pulled his unmarked police vehicle on the sidewalk curb and exited with his gun drawn, and despite Benedict's compliance, the officer kept cursing and pointing his gun in a forceful way, making Benedict fearful of being shot, Benedict says in the lawsuit. Another officer made the arrest.
The defendants knew that their actions failed to establish reasonable suspicion and probable cause, and they intentionally caused unwanted unreasonable touching, intentional handcuffing and fear of death from being shot, Benedict says in the suit.
At the time of the arrest, police said in a citation that Benedict was observed walking in the proximity of the stolen vehicle and that a witness saw him driving the vehicle before officers arrived. Another witness contradicted the first during a preliminary hearing, and a grand jury declined to indict Benedict. The charges were dismissed.
The U.S. Justice Department announced in March it found Louisville police have engaged in a pattern of violating constitutional rights and discrimination against Black people, following an investigation prompted by the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor.
The Justice Department report said the Louisville police department “discriminates against Black people in its enforcement activities,” uses excessive force and conducts searches based on invalid warrants.
A consent decree between the Justice Department and Louisville Police, which would allow a federal judge to oversee policing reforms, has not been finalized.