A Black man on Wednesday filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging a Boston police officer wrongfully arrested him while he was trying to apprehend a White suspect after a pursuit. The defendants named in the suit are the town of Arlington, Massachusetts, and three officers in the state.
According to The Associated Press, Donovan Johnson, in the lawsuit, claims he was headed home from work in February 2021 when the police officer confronted him. The officer allegedly kneeled on the 20-year-old Black man’s neck though he could not ultimately establish if he had actually committed a crime, the lawsuit states.
The accused police officer was in pursuit of a White suspect when he came across Johnson. The officer allegedly pulled out his gun and later pinned Johnson’s face to the snow-covered ground, per the lawsuit.
The lawsuit adds that though Johnson complained that he couldn’t breathe, the officer “continued to pin Mr. Johnson to the ground with his knee.” All that while, the White suspect the police intended to arrest was allegedly “left unattended.”
The lawsuit also highlighted a number of actions by the police that violated Johnson’s constitutional rights. The violations included the plaintiff being stopped, searched, and placed in handcuffs. He was also detained in a police cruiser before he was let go. No charges were filed against him.
In the aftermath of the incident, Johnson said the confrontation had a negative emotional impact on him as he had issues going about his normal life. He said he was almost fired from his job as a result.
“I was wrongfully arrested and wrongfully searched just because of the fact that he thought I was the person that he was chasing down,” said Johnson.
An internal investigation that was conducted into the incident determined the police officers’ actions did not align with multiple department policies and procedures, the plaintiff’s lawyers said, per The Associated Press. Mirian Albert, who is one of Johnson’s attorneys, also said they hope the case will spur the implementation of policies that will eliminate the police department’s racial profiling practices.
“All people should feel safe in their own communities. Mr. Johnson’s rights were violated within view of his home and this is exactly the type of police misconduct that fuels the mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement,” Albert said.
The February 2021 incident occurred after staff at an Arlington hotel called police to make a report about a man who had entered the establishment. The staff told police the man possibly looked like someone who had previously stolen televisions at the hotel, the lawsuit alleges. The White suspect was also “known to police” for “prior criminal acts,” per the suit. A front desk clerk identified the man as the possible suspect after officer Steven Conroy showed the clerk a photo.
The officers who responded to the scene ended up chasing the White suspect after he fled, the lawsuit alleges, adding that Johnson was walking to his residence when he saw the suspect pass him by. But Conroy allegedly got nearer to both men and told them to “get the (expletive) on the floor.”
The White suspect ultimately kneeled, but Johnson remained standing, per the lawsuit. Johnson pulled out his gun and later pinned the Black man to the ground. A different officer who responded to the scene handcuffed the White man after recognizing him. The White suspect also informed the officer that he did not know the detained Black man, per The Associated Press.
Both men also confirmed to the officers that they did not know each other. “Nothing in the investigation indicated that there was more than one male suspect involved,” the lawsuit alleges.
The officers released Johnson after the staff at the hotel told them the Black man did not look familiar, the lawsuit adds.