Elderly black couple arrested by police seek teenage suspect: lawsuit

Elderly black couple arrested by police seek teenage suspect: lawsuit

  • An elderly black couple is suing a Texas police department after they were arrested with guns.
  • Officers said they were looking for teenage suspects when they stopped the couple, according to the lawsuit.
  • The lawsuit alleges excessive force, illegal search and seizure, and violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

An elderly black couple has filed a lawsuit against a Texas police department after they say officers violently arrested them at gunpoint while searching for teenage suspects.

Attorneys for 67-year-old Michael Lewis and his girlfriend, 57-year-old Regina Armstead, said the Rosenberg Police Department used excessive force during the November 2020 arrest.

– What they went through was incredibly degrading and dehumanizing and unconstitutional, lawyer Lauren Bonds told Insider.

The lawsuit said five RPD officers were looking for a group of black teenagers suspected of brandishing weapons and assault when they stopped Lewis and Armstead.

“RPD falsely identified Ms. Armstead’s vehicle as the one used by the group of teenagers to flee the scene of an alleged assault, even though the plaintiffs are retired and do not remotely match the description of the teenage suspects,” the lawsuit states.

During the stop, the officers instructed Armstead to throw her keys out the window, kneel outside the vehicle and then walk backwards to the police car with her hands in the air, the lawsuit states. One officer arrested Armstead “while two other officers kept their guns pointed at her,” the lawsuit states.

While she was being arrested, Armstead told officers that Lewis was a dialysis patient with a stint in his hand and that he could not have anything tight, such as handcuffs, around his arm or wrist, the lawsuit states.

“She was standing there telling them, ‘My boyfriend is on dialysis,'” Lewis recalled to Insider. “‘He can’t have any handcuffs on his arms at all. He’s on dialysis,’ but they didn’t listen to that.”

“We both feared for our lives”

After Armstead was placed in the back of a police vehicle, “four armed officers — including one holding an assault rifle — ordered Mr. Lewis out of the vehicle and told him to get on the ground,” the lawsuit states.

“I was praying to God that the guns didn’t go off on us, because when you point a gun at someone like that, you never know,” Lewis told Insider.

The officers handcuffed Lewis despite his medical objections and placed him in a separate squad car while they searched Armstead’s vehicle and confiscated her cell phone without explanation, the lawsuit says, which accuses RPD of unlawful search and seizure, unlawful detention and false arrest.

“It was really scary. I’m telling you, it really was. I feared for my life. I really did, and so did Regina,” Lewis said. “We both feared for our lives. Because like I said, a gun could have gone off.”

The lawsuit said that after officers found “no weapons, no contraband and no other evidence of illegal activity” in Armstead’s vehicle, she and Lewis were without handcuffs. Armstead asked why they had been stopped and searched, and an officer said they were looking for teenage suspects, the lawsuit states.

Armstead later realized she didn’t have her cell phone or her keys, the lawsuit said. They returned to the scene to retrieve Armstead’s phone from an officer and discovered their key fob, which had been thrown out the window at the police’s direction, had been smashed. RPD said it would reimburse Armstead for the key fob, but it did not, the lawsuit said.

Both Armstead and Lewis “felt intimidated, humiliated, embarrassed and persecuted for being black, and suffered severe mental anguish from the arrest and from being detained,” the lawsuit says, which claims officers violated the Fourth Amendment and the Americans With Disabilities Act .

“As a result of being handcuffed during his arrest, Mr. Lewis’s wrist medical equipment malfunctioned. This resulted in three separate medical procedures to replace his fistula. These procedures caused Mr. Lewis prolonged pain and suffering,” it said in the lawsuit.

Bonds, Lewis and Armstead’s attorney, said she hopes “to see if we can get them some accountability and justice.”

An RPD spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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