GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new federal lawsuit has been filed against the cities of Grand Rapids and Kentwood after a man claims he was racially profiled by police officers last year.
According to the lawsuit, on May 28 of last year, Johnathan Gafford, a Black man, was tailed by police after leaving Kentwood to drive to a Grand Rapids hotel.
“He was following the speed limit, he had rented a car, was in a rental car, there was no problem with that,” said Richard Mack Jr., Johnathan Gafford’s attorney. “He’s not done anything wrong, he’s not done anything but driving while Black.”
When Gafford arrived, he says Grand Rapids and Kentwood officers surrounded his vehicle with their guns drawn. Gafford claims he was detained for nearly an hour, after being told he matched the description of a breaking and entering suspect.
“You would think they were looking for a capital murderer, a mass murderer, someone who has done something very serious,” Mack said.
Gafford was eventually released but his attorney says the situation should have never gotten that far.
“You don’t have to have him handcuffed at gunpoint to get this information. That’s the tragedy here, an investigation should’ve happened beforehand and not after the fact,” Mack said.
Mack said Gafford continues to be scarred by the incident.
“Mr. Gafford still today suffers from night sweats, still today suffers from anxiety when he sees a police officer,” Mack said.
Charges in the complaint include civil rights violations, false arrest, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In response to the complaint, a city of Grand Rapids spokesperson wrote:
“The City has not been served with the lawsuit. We did access the filing through the online court filing system and are currently reviewing the legal claims. The City will be issuing a response to the complaint in accordance with the Federal Court Rules.”
The Kentwood Police Department said it could not comment on the matter at this time.
Mack said he hopes both departments are held accountable for the incident.
“To see that they are called to task to not let these sorts of things happen again,” Mack said.
According to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, they have one open complaint against Kentwood Police Department and 22 open complaints against Grand Rapids Police Department that involve racial discrimination.