Los Angeles, CA — In one of the most egregious acts of ignorance, violence, and racial profiling we've ever seen from police, an innocent black man was assaulted at his home and kidnapped for fitting the description of a suspect. The suspect was a white man.
Body camera footage was released this week which is now the subject of a civil rights lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department and the city. LAPD officers accosted and arrested Antone Austin and his girlfriend in front of his home because the officers were too lazy and ignorant to realize the man they were looking for was white.
The incident unfolded on May 24, 2019 but the body camera has only just been released after the city kept it from the public for two years. 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, as the LA Times reported, U.S. Magistrate Jacqueline Chooljian agreed with an attorney for the producer and his girlfriend that the 11-minute video should be released.
On that day, Austin had harmed no one, had broken no law, and was simply taking out his garbage when two tyrants with the LAPD drove by and decided to attack him.
As their patrol car makes a U-turn after passing Austin, one officer asks the other, “This dude?”
“Probably,” says the other cop. The officers were reportedly responding to a 911 call made by a neighbor about her ex-boyfriend, who was white.
When the cops get out of their car, Austin thought it would be a peaceful encounter as he had committed no crime and thought they may have needed help. But this was no peaceful encounter and cops immediately began violating Austin's rights from the start.
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 admits his ignorance, and says, “OK, man, I don’t know who I am looking for.”
Not knowing what's going on, Austin was understandably frightened so he asks the officers what was happening.
"What is your problem?” the officer snaps at Austin, as if an innocent can't ask why cops are assaulting and kidnapping him.
As Austin attempts to turn back toward them, the officers escalate force and twist his arms behind his back.
This sends Austin into panic mode as he begins to yell “Help” repeatedly.
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"You’re looking for the people upstairs,” Austin tells the cops in an attempt to stop the assault, and doing better investigative work than the officers.
But the cops did not care and when Austin's girlfriend, Michelle Michlewicz, tried to stop her boyfriend's assault, they tackled her too.
“My rights have been violated,” he says.
Michlewicz adds, “I just got tackled to the ground.”
The innocent couple was then arrested.
Later, after Austin and his girlfriend were brutalized and kidnapped, the cops can be heard on body camera footage acknowledging, "...We got the wrong guy."
Despite this admission, the couple was still placed under arrest.
“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.”
"If they thought you were the guy, I feel like they would have had a conversation with you," Austin said.
"They wouldn't just immediately thought about slapping cuffs on your body and then pushing you up against a dirty garage, slamming you on the concrete," he said.
Unfortunately for Austin, these officers were not looking for a conversation, they were out for blood.
Austin says his calls for help saved his life. He explained that if the neighbors hadn't called police after hearing his pleas for help, he may have been killed by these cops. A chilling notion, indeed.
"I just know that these are the situations that people that look like me die in," Austin said. "The neighbors that saved my life are also white folks. So it's like, you know, without them, and no telling what would have happened to me.”