A retired Nassau County corrections officer filed a federal lawsuit this week alleging several Garden City village police officers racially profiled him and used excessive force when they mistook him for a suspect last year.
Ronald Lanier, who is black, was shopping in the Western Beef supermarket in Mineola when two white officers, George Byrd and John Russell, grabbed him from behind, cursed at him and threw him to the ground on Nov. 30, according to the lawsuit. Two officers were looking for a larceny suspect who was a black man.
“My goal is to have those officers be held accountable for their actions,” Lanier told reporters during a news conference at the Hempstead office of his attorney, Frederick Brewington. “That’s my whole goal. That they change their form of policing, because this has been going on since I was a child.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday at Central Islip federal court, includes allegations of false arrest, excessive use of force, false imprisonment and battery, among others. Officers Byrd and Russell, the Village of Garden City and the Garden City Police Department are all named as defendants in the suit.
Lanier, who got emotional while recalling the incident, said the officers did not listen to his pleas that he was a retired member of law enforcement when the officers handcuffed him, walked him out of the store and held him in the back of a patrol car for 20 minutes. After being notified that the real suspect had been caught, neither Byrd nor Russell asked for his name or if he needed medical attention, he recalled. Lanier drove himself to the hospital, was given pain medication and was told he needed 2-3 weeks to recover from the injuries to his ribs and upper body, he said.
He then drove to the Garden City Police Department and asked to file report regarding the false arrest. The department had his name filed as John Doe, and to this day a report has not been provided to Lanier, Brewington said.
“When we talk about racial profiling, and evaluate what it is, this couldn’t be any more clear than a racial profiling case,” Brewington said, “because the police didn’t even know who they were looking for, except that he was a black man.”
Lanier and Brewington said they contacted the village and the police department in an attempt to discuss the incident, but they were met with no response, no acknowledgement of the incident and no apology. They hope the lawsuit will force changes in the Garden City Police Department.
“The Garden City Police Department has a big responsibility, as does their government, because their government has been responsible for housing discrimination, and other discrimination, including those found by the Justice Department,” Brewington said. “They need to change the culture, so that people of all faiths, all backgrounds, all races can feel free to be in Garden City without being singled out because of the color of their skin.”
The village did not return a request for comment on the lawsuit.