A Miami man, who was arrested for stealing his own car after he called police to report the theft, has filed a lawsuit against the city and five of its police officers.
Per the suit that was filed on November 13, Samuel Scott Jr. alleges he was unlawfully searched, falsely imprisoned, and maliciously prosecuted by the responding officers on the day of the incident, Miami New Times reported.
The June 2018 Scott incident happened outside the home of Scott’s aunt in Buena Vista. After realizing his black Jeep Compass had been stolen, Scott called 911 to report the theft. But the Miami Police Department (MPD) officers, who responded to the scene some 30 minutes later, rather handcuffed Scott and took him into custody.
Scott tried telling the officers he was rather the victim, and they were apprehending the wrong person. But that fell on deaf ears. “I’m telling you, you guys have the wrong guy,” Scott is heard telling one of the officers in the body camera footage. Scott was wearing a white undershirt and a dark shirt during the incident.
“The description of the guy who took off in your car is just like yours,” the officer replies, to which Scott tells him, “But that’s half of Miami, bald with a beard?” A bemused Scott is also later heard saying, “I mean, why would I call the police?”
Scott was reportedly taken into custody on charges of leaving the scene of an accident, false reporting of a crime, failure to carry a concealed-weapon license, and possession of marijuana. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, however, dropped the charges.
“He reported to the cops because he believed that the cops were actually going to assist him,” Scott’s attorney, Faudlin Pierre, said. “And then it turns out that they racially profiled him.” The plaintiff is seeking $500,000 in damages.
Scott’s vehicle was stolen outside his aunt’s house after he went there for a visit. And per the arrest report of the incident, one of the responding officers, Jonathan Guzman, saw Scott’s car speeding over the limit at an area not too far from where the vehicle was stolen.
Guzman, who is one of the officers named in the suit, tried getting the driver to pull over. But the driver in the stolen car crashed with another vehicle and subsequently took to his heels. The driver’s description was stated as “Black male, bald, about 6’2″ and heavy set, with a white tank top.”
The lawsuit states that the officers who went to the home of Scott’s aunt interrogated Scott “as if he had stolen his own vehicle.” An officer also made Scott aware he’ll be apprehended if his report about the theft was false. That was while he was filling a stolen-vehicle affidavit, Miami New Times reported. The suit also states an officer asked Scott if his vehicle had been repossessed. Another officer also allegedly drew his taser.
And besides not matching the suspect’s description by way of clothing, Scott was also shorter than the wanted man. But the arrest report stated “the person reporting the stolen vehicle matched the description of the offender that fled the scene of the hit and run. Upon arrival, the complainant was wearing the same clothing description.”
“Yeah, that’s him,” an officer was heard saying in the body camera footage. “He’s sweating, he has a black shirt on top of the tank top shirt.”
Scott was subsequently taken into custody. The lawsuit states Scott tried convincing the officers he was innocent and even told them he had never been locked up. But the officers “did not believe Scott, a black man, was never arrested.”
The arrest report also stated officers retrieved four plastic baggies with “green spots with suspected marijuana” after searching Scott’s car. But at the time the car was stolen, Scott’s lawyer said his client, who has a concealed-weapon permit, had a gun in the vehicle. Pierre also labeled the marijuana charge as “just adding to the fantasy we call this arrest.”
Pierre added Scott’s arrest was racially motivated as the officers failed to establish he did not match the description of the suspect. The only similar thing Scott and the man who fled share is their skin color.
During the incident, Guzman also turned his body camera off at least three times, Miami New Times reported. And following the incident, Scott also filed a complaint against Guzman alleging he took his cellphone, military ID, and wallet. An investigation by Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) sustained the allegations on the grounds that Guzman’s actions constituted a “negligence of duty” as he was responsible for Scott’s property since he was the primary arresting officer.
“We can clearly see the officer (Guzman) having the items in his hands. He obviously confiscated it from the community member,” CIP’s assistant director Rodney Jacobs said at the time, per NBC Miami. “We thought that was really concerning.”
Pierre also told Miami New Times it’s unlikely the officers would apologize to Scott though it would be a good gesture. He said he wants his client to be compensated.
“Yes, we want justice, but in the form of him being compensated,” Pierre said. “That’s the only way our legal system actually provides any remedies.”
All the five officers involved in Scott’s arrest are still at post.