Texas police were looking for teen suspects but they instead detained a Black couple in their 50s and 60s at gunpoint, lawsuit says
- An elderly Black couple is suing a Texas police department after they were arrested at gunpoint.
- Officers said they were searching for teenage suspects when they pulled over the couple, per the lawsuit.
A Black elderly couple has filed a lawsuit against a Texas police department after they said police 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 demeaning and dehumanizing and unconstitutional," attorney Lauren Bonds told Insider.
The lawsuit said that five RPD officers were searching for a group of Black teenagers who were suspected of brandishing weapons and assault when they pulled over Lewis and Armstead.
"RPD incorrectly identified Ms. Armstead's vehicle as the one used by the group of teens to flee the scene of an alleged assault, even though Plaintiffs are senior citizens and do not remotely match the description of the teen suspects," the lawsuit said.
During the stop, officers instructed Armstead to throw her keys out the window, get on her knees outside of the vehicle, and then walk backward to the police car with her hands in the air, the lawsuit said. One officer arrested Armstead "while two other officers kept their guns pointed at her," the lawsuit said.
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, like handcuffs, around his arm or wrist, the lawsuit said.
"She stood telling them, 'My boyfriend's 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—then ordered Mr. Lewis out of the vehicle and told him to get on the ground," the lawsuit said.
"I was praying to God that the guns didn't go off on us because when you point guns at somebody like that, you never know," Lewis told Insider.
The officers cuffed Lewis despite his medical objections and placed him in a separate police car while they searched Armstead's vehicle and confiscated her cell phone without explanation, said the lawsuit, which accuses RPD of illegal search and seizure, unlawful detention, and false arrest.
"That was real scary. I tell you, it really was. I feared for my life. I really did, and Regina too," Lewis said. "We both feared for our lives. Because, like I said, a gun could have went 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 uncuffed. Armstead asked why they had been stopped and searched, and an officer said they were searching for teenage suspects, the lawsuit said.
Armstead later realized she did not have her cell phone or her keys, the lawsuit said. They returned to the scene to collect Armstead's phone from an officer and discovered their key fob, which had been tossed out the window at police instruction, was crushed. RPD said they would reimburse Armstead for the key fob, but they did not, the lawsuit said.
Both Armstead and Lewis "felt frightened, humiliated, embarrassed, and persecuted for being Black, and suffered severe mental anguish from the arrest and from being detained," said the lawsuit, which claims officers violated the Fourth Amendment and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"As a result of the handcuffing during his arrest, Mr. Lewis's medical device in his wrist malfunctioned. This resulted in three separate medical procedures to replace his fistula. These procedures caused prolonged pain and suffering to Mr. Lewis," the lawsuit said.
Bonds, Lewis and Armstead's attorney, said she hopes "to see if we can get them some accountability and justice."
A spokesperson for RPD did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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