Ernest Simon Jr., a driver for Grey’s Anatomy, has accused Los Angeles police officers of racial profiling and he is suing the force for $20 million.
Simon, who was working on the production of the U.S. medical drama, said Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers undertook an “unwarranted, unjustified, and unlawful” traffic stop in March 2021, “with no reasonable suspicion or probable cause”.
His lawyers said he was held “at gunpoint for over twenty minutes while he laid face down and spread-eagle on the hot asphalt.”
According to court documents, the 31-year-old has been left “terrified to do his job, reasonably fearing the possibility that he could again be subjected to the same, if not worse, excessive force” and that “any time he encounters law enforcement officers, knowing that although he is doing nothing wrong, he could still be subjected to another life-threatening experience simply because of his race”.
Simon’s work was to drive cast and crew members between where the show was being filmed and a “basecamp” for production, in Tarzana, California, according to Sky News.
Per court documents, “March 18 2021 began as a typical work day for Mr Simon, who was working as a driver for the production of the popular television show Grey’s Anatomy as an employee of The Walt Disney Company’s General Entertainment Division (DGE).
“His ordinary work day, however, took a drastic turn after Mr Simon – a thirty-one-year-old African American male – was targeted by LAPD police officers who, without any legal justification, initiated a racially motivated ‘high risk’ traffic stop.”
Simon feared “he was going to be shot at his workplace in front of his coworkers for simply being a black man in the wrong neighbourhood,” according to the legal documents. Lawyers said that the only conceivable reason that officers had to draw their firearms was based on their racial profiling of Simon.
Simon is seeking damages of “no less than” $20 million in compensation and has requested a trial by jury. Lawyers said that even though the LAPD has been investigating the conduct of the officers involved, it has “failed to take any meaningful action” to hold them accountable.
Producer Shonda Rhimes, who created Grey’s Anatomy, told Deadline that “what happened to Mr Simon was beyond unacceptable”, adding “another example of a broken system that puts valuable lives in danger and damages spirits”.