A Black man who spent six weeks on Rikers Island for a crime he didn’t commit has filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for jailing him for fitting the vague description of an African-American man wearing a hoodie, Newsweek reports.
David Owens says he was leaving his stock clerk position at the NYC flagship Macy’s store at 3 a.m. in October 2012 when the incident occurred. Owens, who was 20 at the time, entered the subway station heading uptown from 34th street when he was approached by two police officers in a train car.
The officers allegedly “demanded” to see his identification before arresting him. They never told Owens what he was being arrested for until they walked up to a “hysterical and possibly intoxicated White woman” who claimed her backpack was taken from under her feet at the station around 2:28 a.m.
Owens had a Macy’s time clock receipt that supported his alibi, and did not have a backpack on him. He says he even gave the officers his supervisor’s phone number, but they ignored him. The woman insisted Owens was the culprit, as he fit her description–a young Black man wearing a hoodie.
‘All he could decipher, based on snippets of radio communications that he heard, was that a young black male had recently committed a crime,’ the suit states.
He was standing ‘surrounded by officers against the wall’ when she identified him as the thief.
Owens was charged with grand larceny in the fourth degree. A judge set bail at $3,500 and he couldn’t pay, so he spent the next six weeks in jail and lost his job. According to the complaint, ‘no grand jury was ever assembled to hear the Complainant or arresting officers testify, and the case against Mr. Owens was dismissed six weeks after the arrest when prosecutors conceded they could not prove the case.’
Owens says his life was then changed forever. His lawyer, Andrew L. Hoffman, described the New York native’s haunting moment much like a kidnapping, The New York Daily News reports.
‘It messed me up,’ Owens, who now lives in Augusta, Ga., told the Daily News exclusively Monday. ‘I just hoped and prayed I wouldn’t get killed in there, and I would be able to tell my story so other people wouldn’t have to go through what I did.
‘It was incredibly traumatic. If you get picked up and forcibly taken by someone and held against your will, it’s not that different from being kidnapped,’ Hoffman told The News.
The arresting officer, Anthony Francavilla, is also named in the lawsuit.
Francavilla was previously named in a settled suit after a 27-year-old Black man was also arrested and verbally assaulted at a Midtown subway station without alleged merit in April 2014.
The NYPD released two statements to reporters on Monday.
The New York Daily News reports:
‘We will review the complaint,’ a city spokesman said Monday.
‘We do not comment on pending litigation,’ an NYPD spokesman said.
Owens is seeking punitive damages.