LAPD video shows Black man arrested at his home during search for white suspect
Newly released video from a Los Angeles police officer’s body camera shows two officers grappling with and arresting a Black man outside his Hollywood home as they responded to reports of a domestic violence incident in which the suspect was the white boyfriend of a neighbor.
A federal magistrate ordered the public disclosure of the video Friday as part of a lawsuit alleging racial profiling and civil rights violations brought by music producer Antone Austin, known as Tone Stackz, who was arrested in May 2019 despite not being the suspect in a domestic violence call. Austin and his girlfriend Michelle Michlewicz were taken into custody for resisting arrest.
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office had said in a court filing that it did not want the Los Angeles Police Department video released publicly because it would “be contrary to LAPD policy and may have a chilling effect on future LAPD investigations.” However, U.S. Magistrate Jacqueline Chooljian agreed with an attorney for the producer and his girlfriend that the 11-minute video should be released.
The video footage shows the two being physically detained by officers as they proclaim Austin’s innocence. But it begins with an unusual admission that the officers weren’t sure Austin was the man cited in the domestic violence call.
As their patrol car makes a U-turn after passing Austin, one officer asks the other, “This dude?”
“Probably,” says the partner on the May 24, 2019, recording. The officers were responding to a 911 call made by Austin’s neighbor about her ex-boyfriend, who was white; no description of the suspect is given in the call.
The officers see Austin as he was taking out the trash in front of his Fountain Avenue apartment; he smiles at the officers as they approach. The officers tell him to turn around. He asks why, and the officer snaps back, “Because I told you to.” Austin informs the officer he lives there, and the officer says, “OK, man, I don’t know who I am looking for.”
The officer asks Austin, “What is your problem?” As Austin attempts to turn back toward them, they become physical, grappling with him and placing his arms behind his back. Austin begins to yell “Help” repeatedly.
“You’re looking for the people upstairs,” Austin protests as the officers attempt to handcuff him behind his back.
The video then shows Michlewicz attempting to intervene. She can be heard saying, “What is happening?” while she attempts to hold onto Austin as the officers pull him away from her. At one point, her robe comes off, and she is briefly naked on the street. She is eventually pushed to the ground.
Handcuffed, Austin continues to try to explain to the officers that they have the wrong person. “My rights have been violated,” he says. His girlfriend says, “I just got tackled to the ground.”
Both were arrested.
“It is racial profiling. They had no description of the suspect — a completely blank slate,” said attorney Faisal Gill, who represents both of them in the civil rights lawsuit. “They literally saw the first Black man, and they arrested him.”
The LAPD declined Tuesday to comment on the video’s release, citing ongoing litigation. The L.A. city attorney’s office, in court papers, has sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Austin and Michlewicz are to blame for the force used against them and that the police should be immune from liability.
Gill said that when the woman who made the 911 call told the officers Austin was not the man she called about, they continued with the arrest. According to LAPD records, the officers were white and Asian American.
Austin said when the officers approached him, he thought they were “there for someone else. ... I thought they were going to be cool.” When they began yelling and putting their hands on him, he was confused. “I am telling them, wait a minute, I live here,” he said. He recalls being slammed into a wall face-first. He and his girlfriend were left bloody and battered with no apology, he said.
“I just want justice served,” Austin said.
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