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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ crew member sues LAPD for racial profiling after traffic stop near set

A black member of a television production crew has sued the city of Los Angeles and members of its police department over a 2021 traffic stop in which he alleges he was racially profiled and detained under the threat of a weapon without reason.

Ernest Simon Jr., who worked as a shuttle driver for the hit show ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ says in the lawsuit that after traffic was stopped, LAPD officers told him that a license plate reader of automated registration had linked the plates of the vehicle he was driving to a stolen BMW sedan. Simon drove a Ford pickup truck rented by Walt Disney Co.

Capt. Stacy Spell, an LAPD spokesperson, declined to comment on the case due to ongoing litigation.

Simon, 31 at the time of the 2021 incident in Tarzana, had just dropped other crew members off at a nearby set and was heading back to a parking lot the show was using as a “base camp” when officers started following him, according to the lawsuit. He alleges officers were suspicious of him because of his race and before the license plate reader incorrectly reported the car as stolen.

With the officers behind him, Simon pulled into the parking lot, where there were other similar vans. A security guard at the entrance to the grounds told officers that Simon was a crew member, his complaint states.

Nonetheless, the officers jumped out of their vehicle and approached Simon with their weapons drawn, according to the lawsuit.

“Several LAPD officers then forced Mr. Simon to lie on an asphalt lot at gunpoint for more than 20 minutes, using an overwhelming and unwarranted show of force against Mr. Simon that caused him to rightfully fear ( and understandably) that he was going to be shot in his workplace in front of his co-workers for simply being a black man in the wrong neighborhood,” the lawsuit states.

Simon alleges he calmly tried to explain that he was a crew member driving a production vehicle, but officers ignored him and instead called for backup, at which point other officers arrived in “seven high-speed LAPD squad cars” and joined the others in formation. their weapons on Simon.

As the crew attempted to intervene on Simon’s behalf, they were told to “get out of the line of fire,” according to the lawsuit. Officers searched the van and ignored another black crew member who tried to tell them Simon was his colleague, according to the lawsuit.

It was only after a white crew member similarly intervened that officers let Simon take off, the complaint says.

Simon alleges abusive searches and seizures, racial profiling and excessive force, as well as the city’s failure to properly train officers.

The lawsuit says the LAPD has done nothing to hold the officers involved accountable for their actions since the incident in March 2021 and that Simon is suing in part to hold them accountable. He also wants $20 million in damages, according to the lawsuit.

Investigations by The Times and the LAPD’s own inspector general in recent years have found that the LAPD stops black and Latino drivers at disproportionate rates, despite being less likely to have contraband on them. The Civilian Police Commission recently revised the department’s policies on traffic stops in part due to concerns of bias.

Other drivers have also sued the LAPD in recent years over officers holding them at gunpoint after they mistakenly assumed the vehicles they were driving — including rented U-Haul trailers — had been stolen.

Spell, the LAPD spokesperson, said the department does not have a specific policy on officers firing their weapons at drivers “based solely on information contained in a stolen vehicle database,” such as those used by license plate readers. The department has a policy that states officers “must not draw or display a firearm unless the circumstances surrounding the incident create a reasonable belief that it may be necessary to use the firearm.” , said Spell.

Officers are also supposed to put away their weapons immediately after determining that such deadly force is not necessary, according to the policy.

Los Angeles Times

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