The city of Antioch, California, is being sued in federal court by a group of citizens who claim that the Antioch Police Department is infested with police who share racist jokes with each other and allow their bigotry to spill into how they police Black and brown people in the city.
The lawsuit relies heavily on an FBI and Contra Costa County District Attorney report that identifies 17 APD officers who sent and/or received racist text messages, including photographs of gorillas to reference Black people, in 2020 and 2022.
Officers also threw the N-word around in the messages obtained during the probe that sparked concerns in the community and the filing. There were also multiple texts calling Black people gorillas and monkeys.
“They all look alike,” said one officer in a text.
“I feel like I am at the zoo,” another replied.
While 17 officers are named as active participants, reports say 44 Antioch officers have gotten as least one message included in the investigation of the group.
Related: ‘Clearly a Murder Case’: A Previous DA Failed to Prosecute, Now Two California Cops Are Indicted for Shooting of Black Man Months After Texts Mocking His Death Were Exposed
Attorneys representing five Californians and the spokesperson for the estate of a deceased resident filed the federal complaint in the Northern District of California.
On Thursday, April 20, they spoke about the lawsuit at a press conference which alleges the officers “engaged in a repeated pattern and practice of civil rights violations and other misconduct,” specifically against Black residents.
“I’ve never seen the pervasive form of racial bigotry that was communicated amongst these officers as if it were a cup of coffee […] it made me cringe to think that these were the very people that were supposed to be serving the people of this community,” CNN reports attorney John Burris stated.
The investigation used in the lawsuit zeroed in on certain bigoted practices engaged by the APD and documented “a pattern and practice of discriminatory law enforcement based on race and gender” by officers on the force.
Defendants named in this complaint include the city of Antioch, nine current and former APD officers, and an undetermined number of unnamed officers. Six of the cops named in the lawsuit are also mentioned in the CCCDA report and participated in racist conversations via text.
The lawsuit states that each of the plaintiffs reportedly “experienced malicious treatment by Antioch Police Department officers during the time frame in which officers exchanged these text messages.”
Once the CCCDA report was made public, the citizens came forward believing they were victims of profiling based on “racial animus, misogyny, [and] homophobia.”
One of the officers named as a defendant is Eric Rombough. Plaintiff Trent Allen says that the officer beat him savagely in 2021 and violated his civil rights by bragging about it to his partners in the texts.
Rombough said he gave him “6 muzzle thumps” and attempted to “kick his head over the fence,” adding “I tried to knock him unconscious.”
The messages presented in the report also showed that the officer referred to Allen using the N-word and a homophobic slur.
The lawsuit names Rombough as a bad actor in the police-involved shooting of Guadalupe Savala. Savala was shot 19 times by the cop and Officer Scott Duggar. While Savala is not mentioned in the lawsuit, the man’s son, Diego Savala, signed on to the lawsuit because he believes the things that Rombough said in the exchanges point to his attitude about minorities and contribute to the use of excessive force in his dad’s killing.
Officer Josh Evans referred to plaintiff Shagoofa Khan in the messages. After Khan was arrested for burning a “Blue Lives Matter” flag at a demonstration in 2021, the officer called him a vile term used to belittle people of Arab descent in the chat
Plaintiffs Adam Carpenter and Joshua Butler are not named in the text messages but believe the overriding attitude of the force is reflected by the texts and believe it proves how their arrests, alleged by the lawsuit to have been without cause, were fueled by their racist dispositions.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking a trial by jury and want an award of unspecified damages.
In addition to the lawsuit, two congressmen, Reps. Mark DeSaulnier and John Garamendi have written to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting a formal investigation be launched.
“We’ve got a very urgent situation in Antioch, right now, and the Department of Justice has to be part of the solution,” DeSaulnier said according to ABC 7 News. “And be aware that, right at this moment, we have some real constitutional issues and some public safety issues, and some racism, that we have to address immediately.”
He also stated he is giving the DOJ until May 5 to respond to his outreach and plans to contact California Attorney General Rob Bonta about the APD.
While DeSaulnier is making his rounds, he said he would also reach out to the department’s chief, Steven Ford.
“This type of racism in these kinds of professions is a very large warning sign to me, and it should be to every American,” DeSaulnier stated.
Leaders in the city declare the racist mindset is more pervasive than just the individuals named in the text, believing more than 40 percent of the 99 officers working for the ADP are possibly implicated in the scandal.
The 17 officers identified in the probe had been placed on leave. Some have resigned, and others are working on the force but not in roles that are public facing.
One thought on “‘Kick His Head Over the Fence’: California City Police Sued Over Slew of Racist Texts Among Dozens of Cops Where They Bragged About Beating Black Man”
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