Five people accused officers at a Northern California police department of “malicious treatment” in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, nearly two weeks after an investigative report alleging dozens of officers sent and received racist and derogatory text messages.
The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for Northern California, alleges that six of the Antioch police officers identified in the report prepared by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office violated the plaintiffs’ rights when they exchanged the messages.
The news identified two of the plaintiffs by name.
One of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, Ben Nisenbaum, said in a statement that the city allowed its police department “to run amok, leaving open racism and brutality [be] his standards.”
“We hope this lawsuit will bring about fundamental changes in the department’s governance, policies and training so that racism is eradicated from the department,” he said.
Two of the plaintiffs accused officers identified in the report of repeatedly subjecting them to traffic stops.
Plaintiff Adam Carpenter pointed to text messages from which the report was allegedly sent Eric Rombough, one of the officers he claimed carried out the checks, said, “I’m only stopping them because they’re black.” The report doesn’t specify who Rombough was referring to in the message.
Carpenter was arrested on gun charges in November 2020, and the charges were later dismissed, according to the lawsuit. An alleged text message included in the report from one of Carpenter’s arresting officers, Morteza Amiri, appeared to show him discussing falsifying evidence.
“I sometimes just say that people gave me a full confession when they didn’t,” Amiri said, according to the report. “Easier to put down.”
The report, prepared after a joint investigation by the FBI and the local police department, does not specify which case Amiri was referring to. It’s unclear why the gun charges were dropped.
Another plaintiff, Shagoofa Khan, was accused of burning a Blue Lives Matter flag at a protest in January 2021, according to the lawsuit.
Three months later, one of the officers identified in the investigation report, Sgt. Josh Evans, allegedly sent a text message to another officer in which he used a racist, vulgar term to describe Khan’s appearance.
Plaintiff Trent Allen was “brutally beaten” by Rombough in 2021 when Rombough arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder, the lawsuit states.
According to a supplemental investigative report detailing messages officials allegedly sent about Allen, Rombough texted Evans with a picture of Allen in a hospital bed and said he gave him “6 smacks in the muzzle” and tried to “smash his head over.” to kick your head”. Fence.”
Other texts included in both accounts allege that Rombough used a homophobic slur to describe Allen and a racist term to identify individuals he kicks in the head.
The investigation into the text messages became public this month after authorities made the investigative reports available to attorneys for Allen and others accused of the alleged 2021 crimes.
The fifth plaintiff accused officers of “maliciously” shooting his father in 2021 after a seven-hour standoff with authorities. The father had been armed and fired several rounds outside his home after Rombough and three other officers arrived, according to the lawsuit.
The father was unarmed when authorities fatally shot him as he fled the home as a fire broke out, the suit said. A brief report from the district attorney’s office on the incident confirmed he was unarmed and said the matter had been referred to the state Justice Department for possible criminal responsibility.
According to the State Ministry of Justice, this review is still pending.
Michael Rains, an attorney for Evans, Amiri and two other officers named in the lawsuit, declined to comment on allegations that the officers violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights and said he had the cases described in the complaint not checked.
Rains said he was disappointed by the allegations made by the FBI and prosecutors.
“Clearly, the problem is that their text messages showed attitudes that, in my opinion, as a former police officer, do not align with the attitudes or beliefs of the vast majority of officers,” said Rains, who also represents the Antioch Police Union.
Rains attributed those shots to a handful of “active lyricists” and said other officials may have been included in the text chains but didn’t respond at all responded “reasonably” are slandered.
“It’s not fair to them,” he said.
An attorney for Rombough did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The police department and prosecutors also did not respond to requests for comment.
The Antioch City Council this week voted to audit the police agency. In a statement last week, Police Commissioner Steven Ford condemned the “racially hateful content and incomprehensible behavior attributed to members of the Antioch Police Department in media reports”.
Ford apologized and said he took immediate action to ensure a thorough investigation.