Fombah Teh Sirleaf, the current director of Liberia’s National Security Agency and stepson of the President of Liberia, is moving forward with a lawsuit against New Jersey State Police for racial profiling, selective enforcement, and false imprisonment.
Both Sirleaf and his friend Stanley Summerville are each suing for $250,000 from the state after being handcuffed and detained in October 2014 by the New Jersey State Police Gangs and Organized Crime Central Unit.
The lawsuit was filed after the two were cuffed after New Jersey State Police officers were detained a drug dealer in the same parking lot where Sirleaf and Summerville were loading their vehicle with suitcases.
According to allegations made by Sirleaf, he and his friend were racially profiled and illegally detained during the event, saying the only thing they had in common with the drug suspect was their skin color.
The event surrounding the lawsuit took place on October 4th, 2014, when Stanley Summerville and Fombah Sirleaf were leaving The Mills outlet mall in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
After shopping in the mall for suitcases that would be used to carry things he bought in America back to his home country of Liberia, the two plaintiffs were loading them in the back of their high-end vehicle when New Jersey troopers surrounded a white Lexus nearby.
The special crime unit of New Jersey was arresting alleged drug trafficker Richard Parker of Newark, New Jersey, who was on parole at the time after being convicted of aggravated manslaughter.
After receiving a tip that Parker was a heroin source distributing drugs throughout New Jersey, troopers had Parker under surveillance. When a hand-to-hand tradeoff was made, State Police apprehended the suspect and found $1,400 in cash in his vehicle as well as a large cache of heroin. Parker is back in prison for violating his parole.
During the arrest of Parker, Detective Sergeant Michael Gregory noticed that there were two men—Sirleaf and Summerville—across from Parker’s vehicle who were “manipulating” a suitcase.
According to Det. Sgt. Gregory, heroin traffickers often use lookouts when drug deals are being conducted and upon noticing Sirleaf and Summerville with large suitcases, he had his surveillance team determine if the two plaintiffs had any involvement with Parker.
According to the report by Gregory, when troopers approached Sirleaf, Sirleaf moved his hands downward toward his waistband and turned away from the troopers. At that point, troopers instructed the Liberian and his friend to get on the ground.
Sirleaf did as instructed. According to Jeffrey Gauthier, Summerville did not comply with commands by the troopers and was brought to the ground.
After consent had been given by Summerville, the New Jersey troopers conducted a search of the suitcases and found no contraband but did find a “voluminous amounts” of over-the-counter medication.
After security footage from the mall was viewed, the New Jersey troopers released Summerville and Sirleaf without any charges, as the footage revealed that neither had any contact with Parker and were only shopping.
Sirleaf, who has cooperated in sting operations conducted by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, claims that the only reason he and his friend were detained and questioned were because they were black.
In a statement given to NJ Advance Media, Sirleaf said that he and Summerville were farther away from the vehicle than troopers claim and that the police officers passed up white shoppers who were closer to the scene of Parker’s arrest.
The plaintiffs claim that they saw the commotion happening during the arrest but simply turned away and focused on loading up their suitcases and mind their own business when troopers ran toward them with guns drawn, illegally detaining them because of their skin color.
The plaintiffs filed a complaint with internal affairs and an investigation was conducted. During the investigation, the internal probe cleared the troopers and did not find any violations of divisional standard or state law.
Editor Note: This case is another sad example of the courts taking out the common sense that we rely our law enforcement to have. While it is true the subjects were black, it is also true that it is awful strange to see two men loading a bunch of suitcases in the back of a car at a shopping center. The officers properly investigated it and then let them go.
The lawsuit is convenient but what if the story was different? What if there was contraband in the suitcases? What if it was something worse and what if law enforcement ignored it or stayed away?
What if law enforcement stays away because the subjects are black even though anyone with common sense knows that it is not exactly normal to do what these guys did?
Isn’t that what many want? To take the common sense out of law enforcement?
What do you think?
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