Police kept Black man naked in yard while looking for teens
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) - A 71-year-old black man in South Carolina was embarrassed and feared for his life when a police officer searching for teenagers who might have broken into cars held him naked and at gunpoint outside after he was seen peeked out his door to check the malfunction, said the man in a lawsuit.
The body camera video of the June 2019 encounter at Rock Hill shows Officer Vincent Mentesana berating Jethro DeVane and telling him not to close the door.
Mentesana orders DeVane to stand naked in front of his house at 4 a.m. and face the wall. This is evident from the video DeVane and his attorney received upon public request and released on Tuesday. When DeVane asks what's going on, Mentesana replies, "I don't want to talk to you."
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The officer held the gun to DeVane's head for 90 seconds while other officers peered through his house, according to the complaint.
“I did what the man said. He had the gun. He could have killed my life in a minute, "DeVane said at a press conference Tuesday with his lawyer.
After Mentesana got the all-clear, he asked DeVane his name and explained why the police were in the neighborhood.
Police did not have a warrant to search DeVane's home, according to the lawsuit filed Monday alleging gross negligence, emotional distress and improper detention. The suit doesn't ask for a specific dollar amount.
At the press conference, DeVane said he was embarrassed that there was at least one woman among the officers. He also said he was afraid for his life; If he tried to close the door, grab some clothes, or fight, the officer would shoot the gun in the head.
"I won't get over it for the rest of my life," DeVane said.
DeVane attorney Justin Bamberg said the way police treated his client reminded him of a Chicago police video that surfaced earlier this month. This video shows police breaking into the door of a black woman's apartment while she is changing and handcuffing her while naked.
What happened at DeVane would never happen in a rich white neighborhood, Bamberg claimed on Tuesday.
“Why do we have to stand up for human decency and dignity here? It's utterly ridiculous and unacceptable, "he said." And it has to stop before death occurs. God forbid if Mr. DeVane panicked, as many people do, and tried to close that door. "
DeVane's lawsuit alleges that the Rock Hill Police Chief found Mentesana to be rude but acted properly, along with officers who went into his house and searched it without a warrant.
Rock Hill Police spokesman Lt. Michael Chavis said the department does not comment on pending lawsuits. Mentesana requested a transfer from the police department to the Rock Hill Utilities department in February, the city law firm said.
In a press release shortly after the encounter, police said officials who saw the teenagers running noticed DeVane's house with tall grass, no lights, an open door and a dirty swimming pool. They thought it could be given up and the teenagers could be inside.
DeVane was arrested by officers and police ransacked his home in the interests of public safety, the press release said.
DeVane said the police chief went to his home later that month to discuss what happened and said he should probably not sleep naked.
"I didn't have my clothes that night. Why? I'm in my house," said DeVane on Tuesday, adding, "As I told him, if you let me know you were coming, I would have dressed."
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.
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