Tokamawon Juty, 31, and his attorney Joseph Hennessey are slated to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Worcester Police Department after Juty was reportedly stopped by officers more than 70 times in eight years.
“I feel like every single time, even if I’m not driving, and I make eye contact or an officer sees my dreads or he sees I’m Black, they’re going to come after me,” Juty told GBH.
Juty accuses the Worcester Police Department in Worcester, Massachusetts, of racial profiling. He also claims officers who have profiled him over the years lodged bogus charges against him, including stealing cars and drugs, he told GBH.
Juty is the founder of TJ Solutions, Corp., a marketing business he’s operated since 2014. He says he was on his way to Boston from Worcester, which is an hour-long commute by car, when he experienced one of his more memorable police encounters.
On Nov. 17, 2021, Juty was a passenger in the Mercedes SUV he owns. His friend was driving his car when a Worcester police officer pulled them over. The encounter was recorded on cellphone camera, a practice Juty adopted as his traffic stops became more frequent in the city.
“I just know whenever they’re coming now, I just have my phone ready to record,” Juty said.
During that encounter, police told Juty his car did not match the color listed on his vehicle registration. Juty admitted to the officer he had a purple vinyl wrap covering the original white paint as the registration indicates.
“It’s a car wrap,” Juty is seen telling the officers on cell phone video.
The law doesn’t require his registration to be updated in such cases, GBH reported.
The traffic stop ended with Juty being arrested after an argument over the wrap. He was charged with disturbing the peace and interfering with a police officer. Juty is disputing those charges.
“The officer states that Mr. Juty was yelling and screaming but that never happens,” Hennessey said.
Prior run-ins captured on video include a 2020 traffic stop where he and his brother were pulled over and forced to lay face down on the cold pavement while handcuffed for 20 minutes. Police found nothing before releasing them during that encounter.
Another incident is captured on video showing a Worcester police officer approaching Juty eating lunch in his passenger seat. The officer said, “you look like somebody who has a warrant, and you just need to confirm or deny it.”
“For over 35 minutes he was questioned by officers,” Hennessey said.
“A lot of the stops that happened to me are not actually documented. I started recording honestly for my own safety,” Juty told NECN.
Juty’s repeated encounters with Worcester police coincide with a federal investigation the police department is under by the Department of Justice launched on Nov. 15, 2022.
The investigation is expected to give an idea of if the Worcester Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force or engages in discriminatory policing based on race or sex.
“Ensuring that our law enforcement officers act in a constitutional and non-discriminatory manner is among the highest priorities of the DOJ,” assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke said.
Hennessey told Atlanta Black Star, too many of its internal investigations clear the officers of wrongdoings and should also be a focus of the federal investigation.
“The Bureau of Professional Standards does not do fair and impartial investigations. Their findings in complaints against officers has been overwhelmingly in favor of officers,” Hennessey said.
In 2021, the City of Worcester paid Ambrose Toekulah, $20,000 to settle a racial profiling lawsuit. Toekulah, a Liberian immigrant, was arrested while working his security job at Walmart and charged with disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for suspected shoplifting, MassLive reports. Court records later revealed Toekulah proved he purchased all of his items with a receipt but was still arrested by the officer.
The internal investigation cleared the Worcester police officer of racial profiling, the Telegram & Gazette reported.
Juty’s attorney says his client is not currently driving out fear of the police.
“He is afraid to get his license back for fear of being stopped more,” Hennessey said.
Juty’s license was suspended a few years ago, according to his attorney, for alleged street racing.
“It’s my understanding that the charges were dismissed but he still cannot get his license back,” Hennessey said. He goes on to say Juty is awaiting a court hearing on the matter.
When asked about the allegations of repeated racial profiling by its police officers, a spokesperson for the department told Atlanta Black Star, “We do not comment on pending litigation.”
With the filing of their federal lawsuit, Hennessey says Juty is seeking $2 million in damages.
“My hope is to make Juty whole but also bring to the public’s attention of this wrongful police conduct, and hope that it will be stopped,” Hennessey said.