While in pursuit of a white suspect, a Boston police officer pinned a 20-year-old Black man to the ground and placed his knee on the man's neck without any evidence that he was involved in a crime, a federal civil rights lawsuit alleges per AP News.
Donovan Johnson was walking home from work in February 2021 when a white officer ran up to him, drew his gun, and threw him on the ground face down, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday (August 3) states.
At one point during the encounter, the officer "continued to pin Mr. Johnson to the ground with his knee" as the 20-year-old yelled, “I can’t breathe!”
Meanwhile, the white suspect that police were in pursuit of "was left unattended."
The lawsuit filed in Boston federal court against the town of Arlington, Massachusetts, and three of its officers accuses police of violating Johnson's constitutional rights when they stopped him, searched him, handcuffed him, and placed him in the back of a police car.
“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 in a statement.
Police initially reported to an Arlington hotel after receiving calls about a man stealing televisions, according to the lawsuit.
The man escaped the hotel, and police ran after him. Johnson, who was walking to his home, saw the suspect jog past him before a cop yelled at both of them to “get the [expletive] on the floor.”
When Johnson didn't immediately get on the ground with the white suspect, an officer drew his gun, threw him to the ground, and pinned him down with a knee on his neck, per the lawsuit.
Another officer arrived at the scene and “immediately jumped on” Johnson to help hold him down, according to the complaint.
Officers had a photo of the white suspect they were in pursuit of, the suspect said he didn't know Johnson, and there was “nothing in the investigation indicated that there was more than one male suspect involved,” the lawsuit says.
Johnson’s attorney Mirian Albert hopes the case brings systemic change to tactics employed by the department.
“All people should feel safe in their own communities. 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,” Albert said.
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