Two civil rights groups joined in a lawsuit against the City of Orange on Thursday, accusing its Police Department of racial discrimination for detaining and photographing a black man at a bus stop while searching for a robber.
Ronald L. English, 29, contends that he was at a bus stop at Tustin Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard at about 3 p.m. on Nov. 15, 1985, when two police officers approached him, one with a gun drawn. They searched him and took his picture, English contends, and finally explained that there had been a robbery six hours earlier at a mall 10 miles away.
English contends that one of the officers told him that they had stopped him because he was black and the robbers were black.
The lawsuit was filed by the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union. Richard P. Herman, ACLU attorney, said it is the first case the two groups have filed jointly in Orange County.
The lawsuit seeks a court order barring the City of Orange from detaining and photographing people under similar circumstances in the future.
“It’s really an outrage,” Herman said. “You can’t detain a man and take his picture just because he is the same race as someone in a robbery. He was nowhere near that robbery.”
English was not arrested and no charges were filed against him.
Officials from the City of Orange and the Police Department have refused to discuss the incident. “If he takes us to court, then I suppose we will have our say there,” a police spokesman said.
English is a brother of Terry English, 31, who died at the UCI Medical Center in Orange 42 hours after he was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of the drug PCP. His parents, Mae and Abner English, have filed a lawsuit against county officials and the City of Santa Ana in connection with his death.
Ronald English has twice been convicted of burglary charges, but Herman claims that was an irrelevant issue when English was detained by Orange police.
“They had no idea who he was,” Herman said. “They only stopped him because he was black, which means that if black people are on a street corner in Orange they are subject to police harassment.”
English is seeking $1 million in damages and wants the photographs destroyed and all information about how the photographs were used turned over to him.