The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) and its sister department are being sued by a Black man that spent almost a week in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.
The officers arrested him in 2020 because he shared the same name with a white man, who was the actual suspect for the crime.
According to the lawsuit filed on Jan. 7, 2022, and obtained by the Atlanta Black Star, in 2020, Shane Lee Brown was incarcerated for six days at the Henderson Detention Center and then the Clark County Detention Center after law enforcement officers from two different police departments mixed him up with another man.
The man filing the suit is 23 years old, 5 feet 7, and Black. The actual man listed on the arrest warrant was 49 years old, 5 feet 11, and a white man with a “bushy white beard” and blue eyes. The arresting officers failed to properly verify the person listed on the warrant.
On Jan. 8, 2020, the lawsuit states, Shane Lee Brown was driving from work when he was “pulled over by one or more unknown Henderson City Police Officers.” He didn’t have his driver’s license on him, so he gave them his name, social security number, and social security card.
The officer ran the name and when he saw the same first and surname pop up with a warrant, he assumed it was the man waiting in the car they pulled over.
However, if he had read the warrant, he would have seen the description of the man with an outstanding felony bench warrant for the illegal ownership or possession of a firearm. The subject of the warrant was Shane Neil Brown, a man whose first conviction was in 1994, two years before the plaintiff was born.
Despite this, Shane Lee Brown was arrested and placed in Henderson Detention Center (HDC) from Jan. 8 to Jan. 10, and then transferred by the LVMPD to the Clark County Detention Center (CCDC), where he stayed until Jan. 14.
Shane Lee Brown communicated over and over again that they had the wrong man, but to no avail.
The lawsuit, prepared by attorney Brent Bryson, noted, “Despite being informed of this mistaken identity, none of the unknown LVMPD or LVMPD corrections officers bothered to review its own records to determine whether that Shane Lee Brown was the subject of the warrant.”
“Had any of the LVMPD police or corrections officers performed any due diligence, such as comparing Shane Lee Brown’s booking photo against the existing mug shot belonging to the older, white ‘Shane Brown’ named in the warrant, comparing his fingerprints, birth date, ID No., or physical description, they could have easily determined that Shane Lee Brown was misidentified as the subject of the warrant,” it continued.
A bench warrant return hearing presided over by Judge Joe Hardy was held on Jan. 14. Shane Lee Brown was appointed a public defender named Shannon L. Phenix and she shared the same information with the court that her client had been telling the officers since before his arrest.
In a dramatic demonstration, she compared a mug shot filed online of the white man to the one her client took, just days ago. She also compared the identification numbers of both men, something that none of the officers had done.
The judge immediately released Shane Lee Brown.
The filing names the LVMPD, Henderson Police Department, the city of Henderson, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, and Henderson Police Department Chief Thedrick Andres as defendants.
Bryson states, “It’s pretty hard to make a mistake of that magnitude when you have such different characteristics and races of a suspect.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 11, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, City of Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards gave a statement regarding the lawsuit. She said that the department will, “address the claims in their response to the court.” The LVMPD did not offer any comment.
While both departments are tight-lipped, Bryson shared what he and his client’s position is, “This happens much more frequently than what the public hears about.”
Another case similar to Shane Lee Brown’s is the 2018 mistaken identity of 53-year-old Timothy Ernie Diaz.
Chandler, AZ police confused him with Timothy Dean Diaz, a man twenty years his junior, and arrested him in 2017. According to ABC Action, he had to borrow money from his family to post the $10,000 bond — for a crime, he did not commit. The actual suspect was a young white guy with brown hair, a completely different profile than the innocent older Hispanic man.
Despite Timothy Ernie Diaz saying he was innocent, no one believed him. His son made a public records request for the report over at the Chandler Police Department and the officers then noticed that they had the wrong guy.
Like Shane Lee Brown, they had not compared birth dates nor the full names of the suspect and accused.
Eight days after Shane Lee Brown was released from CCDC, law enforcement found Shane Neil Brown in California. Court records show that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office contacted Las Vegas police and told them exactly where to pick up the wanted man.
With his lawsuit, Shane Lee Brown is asking for compensatory damages of $500,000 under federal law, and an additional $50,000 minimum under state law in addition to punitive damages.
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