Ken Sheppard is a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. Ken is the Chief Executive Officer of Progressive Investigations, located in Hawthorne, CA. Ken finds people who do not want to be found. He also videotapes people when they are doing physical activities they purportedly cannot do. Such video is most often requested by insurance companies, relative to worker’s compensation claims. Ken is very good at his job.
On March 3, 2014, Ken was engaged in a lawful investigation. He was doing his job. At approximately 7:12 a.m., during that investigation, Ken positioned himself in the immediate vicinity of Gage and 17th Avenue, within the City of Utopia, California. Specifically, Ken stationed his vehicle in front of a single-story apartment building featuring detached, open carports.
When Ken arrived at his target location, there was no inclement weather; visibility was fine. There was little to no activity in the immediate area, relative to automotive and foot traffic. Ken’s vehicle was facing southbound, on the west side of a residential road. Ken’s vehicle was legally parked. Prior to being contacted by local law enforcement, Ken neither exited from his vehicle, spoke to any individual, nor made any type of contact with any person within the area. Prior to his engagement with local law enforcement, no persons approached Ken’s vehicle and no one attempted to make contact with him.
Ken was driving a black Chevy Tahoe, featuring heavily tinted side and rear windows. The front windshield of the Tahoe was clear from any and all obstructions. The vehicle was currently registered and insured, with three (3) million dollars in policy coverage.
At approximately 9:48 a.m., Ken observed a black and white, four-door Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department cruiser, traveling northbound. The vehicle was driven by a deputy, who made eye contact with Ken, as the deputy’s vehicle came into close proximity with Ken’s stationary Chevy Tahoe. The deputy, later identified as Deputy Brown, continued northbound until he eventually came to a stop, just to the rear of Ken’s vehicle. Ken maintained eye contact with Deputy Brown, as the latter exited his LASD cruiser and approached the Tahoe.
Deputy Brown exited his vehicle at approximately 9:51 a.m., walking along the driver’s side of Ken’s vehicle, with his weapon drawn. Upon viewing Deputy Brown’s approach, Ken rolled the driver’s side window down and exposed both of his hands, demonstrating that there was no cause for alarm. Ken specifically informed Deputy Brown, on more than one occasion during this encounter, that he was going to fully cooperate with any inquiry. Ken also requested that Deputy Brown holster his weapon, to no avail.
Deputy Brown had not been called to the scene of Ken’s location by a neighbor or any other witness. He was not responding to a radio call of any type. He was not aware of the status of Plaintiff’s license plates1, nor any issues with the relative tint of Plaintiff’s vehicle windows. No person had alerted Deputy Brown’s station of suspicious activity in the area. In response to Deputy Brown’s question concerning his activities, Ken advised that he was sitting in his vehicle working. Deputy Brown asked, “why?” making no mention of having noticed tinted windows, nor that Deputy Brown had taken any notice with the vehicle’s license plates. Deputy Brown next asked if Plaintiff was engaged as a “P.I. or something.”
Ken Sheppard is Black. Neither Deputy Brown nor 98% of the residents in this particular neighborhood are Black. These facts will play a pivotal role in the manner in which the events unfold, yet a federal judge will ultimately impose the fiction that, as a matter of law, race is a non-factor. More on that later.
At this point, Ken asked Deputy Brown whether it appeared that Ken was doing something wrong. Deputy Brown admitted that he “did not know.” With his weapon still drawn, Deputy Brown then placed his left hand on Ken’s left wrist, as if to hold Ken’s wrist in one place. Though Ken politely asked Deputy Brown to “please remove” his hand from Ken’s person, Deputy Brown refused this request. Instead, Deputy Brown initiated his shoulder-mounted radio and called into his station for “back up.” Deputy Brown continued to ignore Ken’s repeated demands2 for the intervention of Deputy Brown’s Watch Commander, or a supervisory deputy. Ken asked Deputy Brown at least eight (8) times to summon Deputy Brown’s Watch Commander to the location. Deputy Brown inexplicably failed to comply with this reasonable request.
While holding Ken’s wrist, Deputy Brown was visibly shaking, to the point that Ken could feel and observe the tremors emanating from Deputy Brown’s hand. Ken repeated his request that Deputy Brown holster his weapon. In order to make certain that he could properly hear any commands from Deputy Brown, Ken slowly raised his left hand and removed a Bluetooth earpiece, from his left ear. In a pretextual movement, Deputy Brown immediately pointed his weapon, a Beretta 92F, at the side of Mr. Sheppard’s head, less than 10 inches away from Ken’s left temple. Deputy Brown aggressively shouted “do not fucking be reaching.” In response, Mr. Sheppard calmly reminded Deputy Brown that he had had made no sudden movements, but had simply removed his earpiece with his left hand.
At approximately 9:55 a.m., a second Deputy, a female Latino, later identified as Deputy Smith, arrived at the location, exited her black and white Sheriff’s vehicle and joined Deputy Brown’s side. Deputy Smith also had her weapon drawn, in a “low ready3” position. A few moments later, Sergeant Green arrived, driving another marked Sheriff’s vehicle. Mr. Sheppard informed Deputy Smith and Sergeant Green of everything that had transpired to that point in time. Ken also advised Sergeant Green that he was “Code 5,” a reference to his work as a private investigator and the fact that he was actively involved in a legal investigation.
At some point, prior to holstering his weapon, Deputy Brown “cocked” the hammer of his weapon, while continuing to point the weapon, less than one foot from Ken’s temple. The act of cocking the hammer made rendered the situation even more dangerous, since the weapon was infinitely more capable of firing accidentally, given the sudden vibration of a passing vehicle, a gust of wind, or an accidental bump from another Deputy.
Deputy Smith continued to observe, keying her radio microphone. Deputy Brown continued to shake, with his Beretta still pointed at Ken’s left temple. No one immediately advised Deputy Brown to lower his weapon, or to stand down. Ken protested to Deputy Smith and Sergeant Green that Deputy Brown continued to have his gun pointed at Ken’s head, despite the fact that Deputy Brown had neither identified nor articulated a crime in commission.
A second female deputy, later learned to be Deputy Black, next approached Ken with her tazer drawn. Deputy Brown continued to point his weapon, hand shaking, at Plaintiff’s left temple. Ken continued to strictly comply with all directives, to the best of his ability.
As Sergeant Green began to attempt to exert control over the scene, he finally advised Deputy Brown to back away from Ken’s vehicle. Sergeant Green specifically asked Deputy Brown to explain the episode, but Deputy Brown refused to answer. Ken asked Sergeant Green to explain the reason that Deputy Brown had addressed Mr. Sheppard with profanity. Ken’s hands remained in plain view. Ken also complained regarding the disrespectful and unprofessional manner in which Deputy Brown had initiated the entire sequence of events, consistently attempting to exacerbate, as opposed to ameliorate the circumstances.
After several minutes, Sergeant Green eventually was able to convince Deputy Brown to step back from the Chevy Tahoe’s driver’s side door, so that Ken could exit the vehicle. Even as Sergeant Green was making these statements, Deputy Brown continued to point his weapon at Ken’s head, even contorting his own head towards his right shoulder and evidencing a very angry facial expression. Whether embarrassed at the fact that he stood as a poster model for over-reaction of frustration in the face of a “lost” opportunity to fire his weapon, Deputy Brown was a menacing figure in Ken’s mind.
When Sergeant Green’ attempt to open the Tahoe’s driver’s side door, his attempt to open the door from the outside was unsuccessful. Ken calmly informed Sergeant Green that the door was locked and that it would be necessary for Ken to open the Tahoe’s driver’s side door from the inside. Once Ken patiently and deliberately unlocked his door, Deputy Smith stepped towards Ken, grabbed his left arm and wrist and commanded Ken to turn. Ken complied immediately and completely with each and every one of these commands, reassuring Deputy Smith that “there is no problem.”
When Ken turned around, Deputy Smith attempted to use an interlocking finger grip, during the process of applying handcuffs to Plaintiff’s person. Deputy Smith, Deputy Black and Sergeant Green escorted Ken to Deputy Brown’s cruiser. Contrary to Los Angeles Sheriff Departmental policies, relative to opposite sex field frisk procedures, Deputy Smith patted Ken down, touching Ken’s genital areas in the process. This was observed by Deputy Black, despite the presence of several male deputies, who were available to perform the frisk. Prior to the patdown and frisk, Defendant Smith made no observation of specific facts that created a reasonable suspicion that Plaintiff was armed and dangerous, justifying the patdown search.
Without a warrant and without having observed illegal activity being conducted within the vehicle, several deputies entered the front seat cabin area of Ken’s vehicle. These deputies impermissibly inspected the contents of the vehicle, without Ken’s permission and without any conditions which are recognized as an exception to the warrant requirement, such as consent, exigent circumstances, hot pursuit or the observation of a crime in commission.
A few moments after the field pat-down and frisk, Ken was placed into the rear passenger seat of Deputy Brown’s cruiser. Next Deputy Black entered the front seat of the cruiser and asked Ken what he was doing in the area because, according to Deputy Black, Ken “did not belong in the area.” Based upon the conversation that ensued between Deputy Black and Deputy Smith, regarding the possible crimes for which Ken could be pretextually charged, combined with the pretextual nature of Defendant Brown’s decision to detain Plaintiff and the relative dearth of Black motorists in the area, it was apparent to Ken that Deputy Black’s comments referred to her belief that, as a Black motorist, Ken did not belong in the area.
At approximately 9:58 a.m., two plainclothes Deputies arrived at the scene. At approximately 9:59 a.m. another unidentified, Deputy appeared on the scene. A young, male Explorer Cadet was also involved in the scene. In all, Mr. Sheppard observed, either directly or with the video evidence collected at the scene, eight (8) law enforcement officials and one (1) citizen (Explorer Cadet).
During the course of the next several minutes, the Deputies on scene conspired to concoct a citable offense against Ken. These law enforcement officials attempted to justify Deputy Brown’s actions, ex post facto. Most critically, Deputy Black and Deputy Smith drafted a citation that was ultimately signed by Deputy Brown. Neither Deputy Black nor Deputy Smith was willing to personally sign the citation, after engaging in a lengthy discussion concerning the contents of said citation. As she was attempting to creatively fashion charges to be brought against Ken within the aforementioned citation, Deputy Black stated, “please, just let me tazer him!”
At approximately 10:19 a.m., Ken requested that Sergeant Green provide the information, including first name, last name and badge number, for all persons who had been on the scene. Ultimately, Sergeant Green chose to write partial information on the back of a business card, one that bore his full name on the front of the card, “Booker Green, Sergeant.”
Ken was pretextually cited on the scene for violation of the Vehicle Code, sections concerning tinted windows and license plates being displayed. Deputy Brown was aware of none of these alleged defects, at the time he approached Plaintiff, with his firearm drawn. During the course of a subsequent investigation, Deputy William Adams responded to a discovery request, made by criminal defense counsel for Ken. Said response provided only five (5) deputies names4, denied the presence of non law enforcement witnesses5 and confirmed the fact that no citizen had called to report Ken’s actions prior to Deputy Brown’s interactions, as aforescribed.
Each of the charges with respect to the Citation was dismissed with prejudice on August 26, 2014. Ken was completely exonerated from these allegations, largely due to the fact that Deputy Brown did not bother to appear on that Court date.
On September 2, 2014, a Claim for Tort Damages was timely presented to the County of Los Angeles, in substantial compliance with California Government Code §910. This Claim for Tort Damages was a pre-requisite to filing lawsuit for damages, with respect to injuries Ken sustained during the incident. On October 20, 2014, this claim was rejected by operation of law, accompanied by requisite Notice. Then County decided to ignore the Tort Claim. Maybe Ken would drop the matter. Instead, however, Ken brought a civil rights suit against the County of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
The entire incident described above was captured on video. Ken held his keys, at the “12:00” position on the steering wheel. These keys actually contained a hidden camera, which Ken managed to hold steady, through the more than onehundred and twenty (120) seconds that a 9mm Beretta was trained at his skull, hammer cocked. In the space of thirty minutes, law enforcement officials violated Ken’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and excessive force, protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.