A black member of a television production crew has sued the City of Los Angeles and members of its police department over a 2021 traffic stop in which he alleges he was racially profiled and held at gunpoint for no reason.
Ernest Simon Jr., who worked as a shuttle driver on the hit show Grey’s Anatomy, says in the lawsuit that after stopping traffic, LAPD officers told him an automated license plate reader linked the license plates of the vehicle he was driving to a stolen BMW sedan. Simon drove a Ford van rented from Walt Disney Co.
Capt. Stacy Spell, an LAPD spokesman, declined to comment on the case because of the pending litigation.
Simon, 31 at the time of the 2021 Tarzana incident, had just dropped off other crew members at a nearby set and was driving back to a parking lot the show was using as a “base camp” when officers began following him, sources say in the lawsuit. He claims officers became suspicious of him because of his race and before the license plate reader incorrectly marked the car as stolen.
With the officers behind him, Simon pulled into the parking lot where other similar vans were parked. A security guard at the entrance to the property told officers Simon was a crew member, his complaint said.
Despite this, officers jumped out of their vehicle and, according to the lawsuit, approached Simon with guns drawn.
“Several LAPD police officers then forced Mr. Simon to lie at gunpoint on a tarmac lot for over 20 minutes, using an overwhelming and unwarranted show of force against Mr. Simon that made him legitimately (and understandably) fear that he was about to walk on.” being shot at work in front of his co-workers simply because he’s a black man in the wrong neighborhood,” the lawsuit reads.
Simon claims he calmly tried to explain that he was a crew member driving a production vehicle, but officers ignored him and instead called for backup, prompting more officers to arrive in “seven speeding LAPD squad cars” and join the others in training their guns on Simon.
When crew members attempted to intercede on Simon’s behalf, they were told to “get out of the line of fire,” the lawsuit says. Officers searched the van and ignored another black crew member who tried to tell them that Simon was his employee, according to the lawsuit.
Only after a similar intervention by a white crew member did officers release Simon from the ground, the ad said.
Simon alleges improper search and seizure, racial profiling and excessive violence, and a failure by the city to properly train officers.
The lawsuit states that the LAPD has not taken any action to hold the officers involved accountable for their actions since the March 2021 incident and that Simon is suing in part to hold them accountable. He also wants $20 million in damages, the lawsuit states.
Research by the Times and the LAPD’s own inspector general in recent years has found that the LAPD stops black and Hispanic drivers at a disproportionate rate, even though they are less likely to be carrying contraband. The Civilian Police Commission recently revised the department’s policies on traffic stops, in part due to bias concerns.
Other drivers have also sued the LAPD in recent years because officers held them at gunpoint after falsely believing the vehicles they were driving — including rented U-Haul trailers — were stolen.
Spell, spokesman for the LAPD, said the department has no specific policy for officers pointing their guns at drivers “based solely on information in a database of stolen vehicles” such as that used by license plate readers. The department has a policy that states officers “may not draw or display a firearm unless the circumstances of the incident reasonably indicate that it may be necessary to use the firearm,” Spell said.
Officers are also said to pocket their guns immediately if they determine such lethal force is not required under the policy.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-17/greys-anatomy-crewmember-sues-lapd-over-baseless-traffic-stop-at-gunpoint-near-set ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ crew member sues LAPD over racial profiling after traffic stop near set