A realtor and a prospective homebuyer sued the city of Cincinnati and three police officers in federal court Monday night, alleging they were illegally detained after a retired Cincinnati officer called 911 to report “two black males forced the front door (of the home) open,” according to the suit.
Realtor Jerry Isham and Anthony Edwards entered the residence on Morado Drive in West Price Hill Nov. 17, 2018, using the lock box on the door Isham had access to but were ordered out at gunpoint by an officer, the lawsuit alleges.
In all, at least 9 officers arrived at the scene, the lawsuit states.
Isham was handcuffed and searched and then Edwards, who protested to police, was placed in handcuffs, body camera footage provided to FOX19 NOW shows.
WARNING: Strong language is used in the video below.
The 911 call placed by the retired officer, Tom Branigan, who lives in the neighborhood, was ultimately determined to be “false,” according to the suit.
But the men are now asking a judge to hold the city and police officers accountable in the hopes of preventing something like this from happening to other African-Americans.
No one, the suit alleges, asked the men who they were or why they were there – and it all unfolded with the realtor’s 9-year-old son waiting in his car outside.
“I didn’t want him to see me being arrested,” Isham said Monday. “I had my hands raised and, as my hands are raised, I’m thinking about my son in the car. There’s a porch to the left of the front door and so what I’m trying to do is come out with my hands raised and then (the officer) said ‘put your hands behind your back.’ I’m not trying to step down the steps, I’m trying to stay on the porch so that I can be handcuffed not in front of my son.”
His lawyer, Chris Finney, said the police response was completely overblown and should have been avoided.
“Instead of just talking to them, investigating ‘what are you doing here, do you have a legitimate purpose?’ they immediately went to guns drawn, hands up, handcuff and then the illegal search of the pockets instead of just talking to them like normal human beings,” Finney said.
Edwards said he felt like they were racially profiled.
“Basically we were guilty until proven innocent in their eyes,” he said Monday. “It was all about we’re black, they’re white, and this retired police officer’s word is over us all and we had no defense until they found out ‘yeah, they are here looking at this house.’ And I was going to buy that house up until that point. It was a very, very nice house at a very good price.”
The retired officer admitted on a police sergeant’s body camera video “that he didn’t have a good view of the entry and may have been mistaken,” a police incident detail report states.
The lawsuit names the city of Cincinnati and Officers Rose Valentino, David Knox, and Dustin Peet. It alleges deprivation of civil rights, false arrest/false imprisonment and destruction of records.
The suit seeks:
- Compensatory and punitive damages against the individual defendants
- The court to issue “appropriate injunctive relief” against the City of Cincinnati to protect the “illegal removal, destruction, mutilation, or transfer of, or by other damage to or disposition of” police body camera videos or police cruiser videos
- Plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and costs
- “Any other relief to which Plaintiffs may be entitled in law or equity”
We reached out to police and city officials and the retired officer for comment.
Branigan declined to talk Monday.
He retired from CPD 16 years ago after working 30 years including many as a motorcycle officer, according to his 911 call.
Branigan told us he hasn’t seen the suit and referred us to the police union’s attorney, Steve Lazarus.
Lazarus said he could not comment. He said he also hasn’t seen the suit – but told us we should check back in a few days once he’s had a chance to read it and he would comment then.
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SOURCE: FOX19 NOW – Jennifer Edwards Baker