LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Black woman is suing the city of Beverly Hills, its police department and several individual officers, alleging she was stopped because of her race while driving through the city, then ordered out of her car at gunpoint.
Ashley Blackmon's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges violation of civil rights, false arrest, excessive force, unreasonable search and assault and battery. She seeks punitive damages from the officers.
Keith Sterling, the city's public information officer, said he is not certain whether the city has officially received the lawsuit.
“However, as it would be pending litigation, we have nothing further to add at this time,'' Sterling added.
Blackmon was traveling on La Cienega Boulevard on Feb. 9 when officers stopped her, according to her court papers.
“All of these defendants had seen her driving the car alone and were aware that she was a young Black female,'' the suit says.
The officers ordered Blackmon to show her hands or put her hands up, which she did by putting her left hand out of the driver's side window and her right hand up through the sunroof, according to her lawsuit.
The officers then told Blackmon to unbuckle her seatbelt, toss her keys out of the window, open her car door and get out of the vehicle, the suit states.
Blackmon, 29, believes the only reason she was stopped by more than one police officer is because she is Black.
“Had plaintiff been white, an officer would have simply pulled her over and approached the car respectfully without ordering her to put her hands up,'' her suit alleges.
Blackmon initially was unable to comply with the directions because three of the officers were pointing guns at her and she did not want to move her hands and cause them alarm by reaching for her keys or the seatbelt buckle, according to her court papers.
Blackmon says she was eventually able to unbuckle herself and emergefrom her vehicle, at which point she was ordered to stand facing forward and walk backward toward one officer and kneel.
“The order terrified plaintiff because she did not know what was going to happen to her or what (the officer) was going to do to her,'' her suit says.
After kneeling down on La Cienega in front of members of the public, Blackmon “experienced extreme anguish, fear and humiliation, and her knees hurt because of the hard asphalt,'' according to the suit, which says she was handcuffed and her entire car was searched without her consent.
The officers found merchandise in Blackmon's car trunk and questioned her in a way that suggested they believed she stole the items, according to the suit, which alleges the officers were “openly incredulous that plaintiff was a professional with a career and an education, demonstrating their racism and prejudice....''
Blackmon says she was eventually released after being told by the officers that they had thought her car was stolen.
Blackmon believes the officers “knew the car was not stolen ..., but wanted to harass (her) because she was driving through a predominantly white city... and defendants wanted to intimidate and frighten her into not returning to Beverly Hills,'' the suit states.
The officers removed Blackmon's license plates and gave her a handwritten piece of paper that they claimed would explain the situation if she were pulled over again by police on her way home, the suit states. But Blackmon says she paid for her car to be towed and for a ride home because she did not want to get stopped by police again and have to explain why she did not have license plates.
Blackmon “remains afraid to drive through or near Beverly Hills, particularly if she is alone, and (she) experienced significant emotional distress and physical injury from this incident,'' the suit says.
After the traffic stop, BHPD officers posted information on social media that was favorable to them and also omitted anything that cast Blackmon in a positive light, leading “numerous people'' to believe that the stop was justified, according to the suit.
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