Black couple sues Houston-area PD for civil rights violations

A black couple is suing the Rosenberg Police Department in federal court over alleged civil rights and disability violations that occurred during a November 2020 traffic stop. Lawyers for the National Police Accountability Project, who represent the couple in court, say the alleged violations in the case reflect the RPD’s current trend of conducting searches and detentions without probable cause.

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in the US District Court in Houston, on the evening of Nov. 6, 2020, the RPD received a “call to arms”, claiming that a group of black teenagers had pointed weapons at another group of children in Rosenberg, Texas, a town of about 30,000 people just southeast of Houston proper.

Regina Armstead, 57, and her husband, Michael Lewis, 67, were on their way home to Rosenberg after dining at nearby Captain D’s restaurant when four RPD officers responding to the call to arms arrested them, documents show judicial. The lawsuit says officers were looking for a car “supposedly similar” to one occupied by Armstead and Lewis.

After arresting them, officers used their intercom system to order Armstead, who was driving, to throw the keys out the window, get out of the car and kneel with his hands up, according to the combination. Armstead complied with their orders, while the officers stood by their vehicles with their guns drawn.

The suit claims that after handcuffing Armstead and putting her in the back of one of the responding officers’ cars, Armstead informed police that her husband had a dialysis machine implanted in his forearm and that it would be medically dangerous for him to be handcuffed because of his condition.

Officers continued to handcuff Lewis while in custody, according to the filing, even after he told them about the device in his arm and the danger the handcuffs would present.

Filing documents say officers then searched the interior and trunk of Armstead and Lewis’ car for about 20 minutes while the two sat handcuffed in separate squad cars. According to court documents, one of the officers confiscated Armstead’s cellphone while the others carried out the search.

Armstead and Lewis didn’t find out why they were detained until about 45 minutes after the altercation began, according to the prosecution. After being dispatched, officers told Armstead they were looking for three young men who were “driving around and shooting children”, the couple claimed.

The ordeal did not end after they left the scene, the suit states. As a result of officers handcuffing him, Lewis’s forearm medical device malfunctioned, requiring three different procedures to replace it, causing Lewis “prolonged pain and suffering”, they said. the lawyers said in court documents.

The officers are now charged with violating the couple’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. Armstead and Lewis also allege officers used excessive force against both of them and violated Lewis’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act when they handcuffed him despite knowledge of his medical condition.

“This is a shocking case,” said Tiffany Sams, a Houston-based attorney who co-represents the couple. “The way the Rosenberg Police Department has treated our clients is not how anyone should treat a human being, let alone seniors with medical disabilities,” Sams added.

The Rosenberg Police Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment Thursday. This article will be updated with any response received from the department.



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