Wisconsin City Hit With Civil Lawsuit a Year After Black Teen Was Detained for Allegedly Carjacking His White Grandmother

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More than a year after an 18-year-old was arrested over an alleged carjacking, he and his grandmother are suing on the grounds of it being a “racially-motivated vehicle stop.”

Akil Carter, who is Black, was riding in the car with his grandmother Paulette Barr, and her friend Sandra Adams, who are both white, after they left church in Wisconsin on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018. Atlanta Black Star reported two witnesses had flagged down a Wauwatosa Police officer and said the teen was in the back seat of a blue Lexus.

Akil Carter
(Wauwatosa Police Department)

Dashcam footage showed officers ordering Carter to get on his knees and put his hands up before they detained him in the back of the squad car. One officer is seen pulling his gun from his holster and pointing it toward the ground before approaching one of the women, who were still in the vehicle.

“Some guy comes up to me in his car and says there were two black guys robbing a lady in this blue Lexus,” an officer said in the video, noting it was Black people who reported the alleged carjacking.

The grandmother explained that Carter is her grandson and her friend has known him since he was a baby. The women were headed to drop Carter off at work.

“What it seems like is that, like I said, there’s some type of misunderstanding,” another officer who spoke to Carter stated in the footage.

The officers and later their department ultimately apologized and Carter was released after about six minutes of being apprehended. Carter retained an attorney who said he was being harassed by police.

Now Carter, his grandmother and her friend have filed a civil lawsuit against the multiple Wauwatosa Police Department offices, the City of Wauwatosa and its police chief. Fox 6 Now reported Wednesday the suit has moved to federal court.

A media response issued last year by WPD stated Carter was “detained based on reasonable suspicion.” However, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the lawsuit says it was not reasonable, adding there was no proof that the officer was flagged down about a carjacking.

“The officers had no reason to believe that Mr. Carter was armed,” states the lawsuit. “Officer Kaine has claimed that he had been ‘flagged down’ by unidentified, phantom witnesses, who told him two African American males had hijacked a blue Lexus.”

The suit also notes the Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber has rejected launching a formal probe of the incident.

“When the plaintiffs asked Chief Weber for a formal investigation of the incident, he refused,” reads the filing.

Wauwatosa Police Capt. Brian Zalewski declined to speak to the newspaper about the suit, saying he was unable to remark on ongoing litigation. He referred questions to the city attorney.

Among the damages the plaintiffs are claiming are “severe emotional pain, distress and the loss of enjoyment of life,” according to CBS 58. The suit says Carter “re-lives [the] terror” daily of what is described as a “racially-motivated vehicle stop.”