A black teen’s constitutional rights were violated by a former Louisville Metro police officer, a federal judge ruled Thursday, during a high-profile 2018 traffic shutdown that led the department to reform a number of policies.
U.S. District Court Judge Greg Stivers said former Detective Kevin Crawford had no legal reason to find Tae-Ahn Lea, who sued the LMPD in the wake of the incident, suspicious during the arrest. The judge dismissed all other claims against the city and the other officers involved in the traffic stop.
The ruling will send the case to a jury to determine what Lea owes in damages after the judge ruled that the officer violated the rights of the then 18-year-old Fourth Amendment for the unconstitutional search and seizure when police removed him from custody. removed his mother’s car and searched and handcuffed him on August 9, 2018 during a traffic stop at 18th Street and Algonquin Parkway.
Crawford cited “nervousness” as the reason he searched the teen, the judge wrote, as did the presence of a small souvenir Louisville Slugger bat in the car that he did not tell police. But Stivers ruled that Lea’s “nervousness alone is not enough to formulate a reasonable suspicion,” instead describing Lea’s behavior as “rather annoyed or annoyed.”
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“However, the mere possession of a souvenir bat weighing six ounces does not objectively support the reasonable belief that Lea was no more armed than a screwdriver, sharp pencil, or scissors, had those items been present in the car,” Stivers continued. “This is especially true as Lea has given no indication of any attempt to wave or even touch the souvenir bat.”
Honors student who was searched by the police had no criminal history
Lea, an honors student recently graduated from Central High School with no criminal record, was driving his mother’s Dodge Charger when he was stopped by police with the department’s Ninth Mobile Division, who accused him of taking a wide turn. to make.
In the video, which went viral on YouTube and other social media for more than 20 minutes in the months following the shutdown, Lea is shown on the orders of officers before being pulled from the car, searched and then handcuffed as officers and a police dog hit the road. search vehicle. Lea’s mother Tija Jackson shows up at the scene after a few minutes and interrogates the agents, who found no drugs. A traffic citation issued to Lea was dismissed two months later after the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office dropped the charges following a review of the evidence.
The following May, following a wave of public criticism of LMPD, the department changed traffic stop rules to limit handcuffs and searches, which Lea’s mother called “great news and a positive start” in a 2019 comment to The Courier Journal.
The judge’s ruling on Thursday does not indicate when a trial could start.
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the circumstances that led to the dismissal of the charges against Lea.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: LMPD violated Tae-Ahn Lea’s rights in 2018 stop, court rules