Donovan Johnson says that he was walking home from work when an Arlington police officer tackled him and drove him to the ground–somehow mistaking him for a 20-year-old White man police had been chasing.
A Black man has filed a lawsuit against a suburban Boston police department, alleging that an Arlington officer who was pursuing a 20-year-old White suspect tackled and handcuffed him while he was walking home from work.
According to The Associated Press, Donovan Johnson says that he was on his way home from work in February 2021 when a White officer pursuing another suspect abruptly stopped his pursuit to confront Johnson,
The officer, says The Associated Press, drew his gun, then threw Johnson to the ground.
In his lawsuit, Johnson claims that, at one point, the officer thrust his knee into Johnson’s neck, leaving him unable to breathe.
Despite Johnson exclaiming that he could not breathe, the officer “continued to pin Mr. Johnson the ground with his knee,” all while the White suspect police had been chasing “was left unattended.”
Now, Johnson is alleging that the Arlington officer and his three of his colleagues violated Johnson’s constitutional rights by stopping him without probable cause, searching him, and then handcuffing him.
While Johnson was eventually released without charge, he maintains that the officers never had any rationale reason to suspect that he had committed a crime.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Johnson suggested that the Arlington officers may have been motivated by prejudice, assuming that—because he is a Black man—he was most likely responsible for the crime they were investigating.
“I was wrongfully arrested and wrongfully searched just because of the fact that he thought I was the person that he was chasing down,” Johnson said.
The Arlington Police Department refused The Associated Press’s request for comment, saying that it has yet to be served the lawsuit.
However, Johnson’s attorneys say that the department has already concluded an internal investigation of the incident, finding that the officers most likely violated standard operating procedures.
“The Arlington Police Department’s misconduct then triggered an internal investigation that found multiple violations of department policies and protocols, but they failed to implement any meaningful change that would prevent Mr. Johnson’s nightmare from repeating itself,” Mirian Alberts, an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights who is representing Johnson, told Boston.com.
“All people should feel safe in their own communities,” Alberts added. “Mr. Johnson’s rights were violated within view of his home, and this is exactly the type of police misconduct that fuels the mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement.”
Lawyers for Civil Rights said that it hopes the lawsuit will inspire policy changes in the department, eventually “eradicating racial profiling practices.”