God Bless lawyers like Mr. Igwe. Come on, Delaware State Police, you can do much better than this bullshit!
When cops act like the rude idiots in this case, they just further undermine respect for police. This is another good reason to eliminate the Delaware police Bill of Rights law!
Excerpts from the Article:
Delaware State Police are facing a lawsuit after four plainclothes officers in unmarked vehicles blockaded a woman in her car and held her at gunpoint, before realizing she was not the suspect they were searching for.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday night in U.S. District Court, seeks damages for “extreme emotional pain and suffering,” citing claims of excessive force, false arrest, assault and battery, and negligence.
Martiayna Watson, 20, was leaving the BP Gas station at 201 S. Heald St. in Wilmington’s Southbridge neighborhood at 5:25 p.m. on June 24 when, according to the suit, she noticed a car driving slowly behind her. The car followed her to the 1000 block of Church St. when the car suddenly swerved in front of Watson to cut her off, stopped and reversed into her car. At the same time, a second car hit Watson from behind.
A third and fourth car then pulled up on either side of her car, blocking her in. All four cars were unmarked Delaware State Police vehicles driven by plainclothes officers.
“I thought I was about to be kidnapped,” Watson said Thursday during a press conference outside the gas station.
The four plainclothes officers got out of their cars with guns drawn and pointed at Watson through her rolled-down windows, according to the suit.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Stop talking and shut the —- up,” an officer said, the suit says.
One of the officers broke the driver’s side rear window of Watson’s car, according to the suit, and another officer opened the door of her car and forcefully pulled out Watson.
When Watson started to cry and ask what was going on, according to the lawsuit, an officer put a stun gun to her neck and said, “I’m going to —- you up.”
“I think we have the wrong person,” an officer eventually said, according to the suit.
The officers had been searching for a Black man and woman driving a dark gray Nissan Maxima, suspects of a pawn shop robbery earlier that day, said Emeka Igwe, one of the lawyers representing Watson. Watson, a Black woman, was driving a light gray Nissan Altima.
When they realized they had the wrong person, the officers drove away, leaving Watson in the street with her damaged car, the lawsuit said.
Richard Smith, president of the Delaware NAACP, happened to be driving by when he saw the officers pull Watson out of her car. He intervened when he heard her crying out for help.
“What do we do as Black people in the city of Wilmington? Just lay down and die?” Smith said at the press conference. “When is enough enough?”
Watson, standing at 4 feet, 10 inches, said the 10-minute incident left her traumatized. “I can’t even drive without thinking something is going to happen to me,” Watson said. “I’m so scared, and I did nothing wrong.”
Watson said she was not offered victim support like counseling in the aftermath. Instead, a state police sergeant and lieutenant apologized and offered money to help fix her car, Igwe said.
Delaware State Police did not respond to questions about any support Watson received.
Igwe also said none of the four officers was wearing a body camera.
Delaware State Police did not respond to questions asking if unmarked police cars have dash cameras.
Watson and her lawyers have not been able to learn the names of the four officers involved. Her requests for badge numbers that day went ignored. The Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights has made it difficult for her to learn any information about the officers involved and whether they are being disciplined.
The Officer’s Bill of Rights bars the public from accessing police disciplinary and personnel records. Delaware is one of only 15 states to have these kinds of laws, which keep citizens largely uninformed about police shootings and instances of misconduct.
Under the law, internal investigations into complaints against police are kept secret.
State police did not respond to questions asking if an internal investigation was underway. Watson’s attorneys have also not been able to confirm if the incident is being investigated by state police. The only way records can be disclosed is through civil proceedings, like Watson’s lawsuit.
In the past year, Delaware activists and lawmakers have pushed to reform the law. Attempts at change stalled this year in the Legislature after police raised concerns about what it would mean for law enforcement.
“They can get away with anything they want to get away with,” Smith said.