A Black postal worker who was stopped and wrongfully detained by police in August filed a lawsuit against the city of San Rafael, California, on Wednesday.
Karl Bracy, a 21-year employee of the United States Postal Service, was on his way home from work on Aug. 7 when he was stopped and handcuffed by San Rafael police.
Police in the Northern California municipality were looking for a stolen white Chevy Impala thought to be driven by an armed individual. Bracy, still wearing his mail carrier uniform while on his way to his Fairfield home, was driving a white Chevy Malibu, a different vehicle model than the one police were searching for.
“I was shook, scared, thinking of what’s going on in the world today, thinking that I was actually going to be shot,” Bracy said during a news conference last week.
Attorney John Burris claims in the federal legal claim Bracy “was wrongfully stopped, detained, and handcuffed by the police for being a person suspected of carjacking.”
“A police officer loudly ordered him out of the car at gunpoint. Bracy noted that there were at least three other officers present with guns drawn,” the attorney’s office said.
San Rafael police released footage of the incident in September, calling the wronful stop a “mistake.”
“We made a mistake. This kind of mistake is rare, but it happens,” Police Chief Diana Bishop said.
Burris said police should have gathered more information about who they were looking for before stopping Bracy.
“It’s very disturbing because all you really had was a Black man in a car,” said Burris.
Police said they were not aware that Bracy was Black until after he stepped out of the car due to the vehicle’s tinted windows.
In video footage of the arrest, one officer told Bracy it became clear that they had stopped the wrong vehicle after police noticed stickers on the side of the car that did not match the description on the vehicle in question.
“No problem man,” Bracy said after the officer apologized. He was detained for several minutes before police let him go.
“I really think I got out of there because I had the mailman uniform on. I was just another Black man trying to go home from work,” Bracy said during the Oct. 29 conference, calling the incident “a scar that will never go away.”
Bracy has taken leave from his job and is under psychiatric care and taking medication.
Bishop said she tried to call Bracy after the incident to apologize. She has also defended the officers’ actions, stating that the stop was based on “very reasonable,” information.
“Any police officer worth their salt would have stopped that car,” she said in an interview.