Police arrested a Black man outside his Hollywood home because he was “probably” a domestic violence suspect, even though he repeatedly told the officers they had the wrong guy.
In the May 2019 exchange, caught on body camera footage released last week, Los Angeles police officers responding to a domestic violence call confronted Antone Austin while he was taking out his garbage. They had no physical description of the suspect, so they approached Austin, a music producer known professionally as Tone Stackz, because, as one cop said in the footage, “I don’t know who I’m looking for yet.”
The cops have been accused of racial profiling in a civil rights lawsuit over the encounter.
“It is racial profiling. They had no description of the suspect — a completely blank slate,” Faisal Gill, an attorney for Austin, told the Los Angeles Times. “They literally saw the first Black man, and they arrested him.”
Austin’s neighbor had called 911 about her ex-boyfriend, spurring the police response. The actual suspect, a white man, escaped during Austin’s arrest, according to NBC News.
“Yo, you’re looking for the people upstairs, bro,” Austin told the officers at one point, according to the body camera footage.
Throughout the confrontation, Austin can be heard repeatedly telling them they have the wrong person; the caller who made the initial complaint also allegedly told the cops he wasn’t the perpetrator, according to NBC News. Officers themselves weren’t entirely confident Austin was the man in question, with one officer responding “probably” when asked by a colleague whether Austin might be the “dude,” according to body camera footage.
Cops tried to handcuff Austin shortly after the exchange about whether he was the right suspect, putting him up against a wall as he screamed for help. One officer asked, “What is your problem, dude?”
Austin’s girlfriend, Michelle Michlewicz, came to his aid and tried to intervene. While wearing a bathrobe that at times came undone, leaving her naked before the officers, she demanded to know what was happening and why the officers were detaining him, according to the body camera footage.
She was later pushed to the ground, according to the Times. She can be heard screaming “You have the wrong guy” in the body camera footage.
Both Austin and Michlewicz were eventually arrested, according to NBC News. Austin was taken into custody on charges of felony resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. Michlewicz was also charged and taken to jail.
While the two were in custody, officers allegedly laughed while reviewing body camera footage from the incident, which shows Michlewicz’s naked body, according to the lawsuit filed by the couple last year. They were later able to post bail.
While neither person has been prosecuted, the charges still haven’t been dropped, according to NBC News.
When different officers returned to the neighborhood about a week after the first incident to respond to the woman calling to enforce her restraining order against the white man, the cops treated Austin more professionally, he told NBC News.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office had sought to keep the body camera footage from the initial incident private, arguing it would “interfere with the officers’ expectation of privacy” and cause risk to both the cops and their families, according to KNBC, a local NBC affiliate. But a federal magistrate ordered that it be made public last week, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Austin’s attorney and the Los Angeles Police Department did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.