LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A teenager who was on the way home from buying an Icee was "targeted" by Louisville Metro Police officers in an illegal stop and search "to be the next victim for their pack," according to a lawsuit filed this week.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the teen Monday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, claims that Tae-Ahn Lea's civil rights were violated when he was pulled over, searched and handcuffed by officers, after he allegedly made a wide turn.
The traffic stop in August was the subject of a viral video that showed the teenager being searched by LMPD's 9th mobile division officers. 9th mobile is a group of officers that specifically targets violent crime.
The lawsuit claims that the officers tailed Lea as he left a gas station because he was a black teenager driving a nice car and no other reason. Officially, officers claimed that Lea made a wide turn and that was justification for the stop.
"The LMPD officers' conduct was intentional, extreme, outrageous, intolerable egregious, and offends against generally accepted standards of decency and morality," the suit says.
The suit names police chief Steve Conrad, 9th mobile commander Billy Hibbs and officers Kevin Crawford, Gabriel Hellerd, Jefferey McCauley, Jason McNeil and Kiersten Holman.
During the stop, the lawsuit says Lea was "verbally abused, threatened, lied to, embarrassed, humiliated and mocked by the officers" on scene.
"Tae-Ahn did not deserve to be stopped, detained, held-out, treated like a criminal," said Lea's attorney, Lonita Baker.
In the body camera video, officers physically removed Lea from the car, patted him down, handcuffed him for nearly 20 minutes and searched his car after bringing in a drug dog. No contraband was found. A citation for the wide turn was quickly dismissed in court.
"None of the LMPD officers articulated any basis for the their apparent determination that Lea was suspected of committing violent crime," the lawsuit says.
In April, Police Chief Steve Conrad defended the so-called "aggressive traffic stop policy" in six high crime neighborhoods.
"Since January of this year ... [the Ninth Mobile Unit] seized 205 guns," he told a Louisville Metro Council committee at the time. "Seventeen of them were in the hands of juveniles."
"You can't do this, it's not lawful," Baker said. "People deserve to be treated equally regardless of what part of town they live in. You can't mask illegal stop and frisks through traffic tickets."
However, less than a month later, Conrad announced a drastic change to the department's traffic stop policy. The new guidelines raise the threshold for pulling over drivers and add rules on removing people from vehicles and handcuffing citizens.
The Professional Standards Unit is reviewing the stop.
LMPD does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.
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