A former Providence, Rhode Island police officer and his son are suing the department for $1 million, alleging they were arrested due to racial discrimination, physically harmed, and not allowed to exercise their Fourth Amendment rights.
According to the lawsuit, ex-police officer Christopher Owens and his son Tyler were on their front lawn doing yard work when a high-speed police chase ensued on their street. The driver of the escaping vehicle, Sean Sparfven, struck a woman driving another car; she turned out to be a federal law enforcement officer, the Providence Journal reports.
After assisting the woman, Owens, who had been on the police force for over ten years, pursued Sparfven, who tried running away from the scene. As a violent struggle between the two took place, other officers – some of who had been in academy training with Owens – arrived on the scene. According to Owens’ lawsuit, he was then violently placed in handcuffs and into a police car. His son was punched and placed in the backseat by Officer Martin A. Rawnsley. Owens tried to tell officers Rawnsley, Frank Furtado, Lt. Oscar Perez, and state police Detective Mark McGarrity that he was a Providence police officer, but they ignored his statements.
After the ordeal, the Providence police department acknowledged Owens’ injuries and his work in helping to capture the suspect.
Owens expressed his discontent with the treatment he received – despite his willingness to risk his and his son’s safety. Owens, who was also a Providence school resource officer, retired from the police department as a result of the many injuries he endured in the line of duty.
“They were assaulted, arrested, handcuffed and placed in the rear of police cars due to the color of their skin and because they are African-Americans. One officer remarked that all he saw was a big black guy.”
Some officers on the scene have also denied they were there at all. Read more about Owens’ lawsuit here.