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LAPD Sued by ‘Greys Anatomy’ Driver for Excessive Force and Racial Profiling in $20 Million Lawsuit

Incident happened in March 2021

In a lawsuit demanding at least $20 million in damages, Earnest Simon Jr. accused the Los Angeles Police Department of racial profiling, excessive force, and several racism-motivated violations of his constitutional rights, following an incident that occurred while he was working as a driver on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Named as defendants are the City of Los Angeles, LAPD chief Michel Moore, and 20 unnamed Does.

In the lawsuit, Simon describes a March 2021 encounter in which he says he was wrongfully pulled over, swarmed by dozens of cops and detained at gunpoint while working for the ABC series on a shoot in Tarzana.

“March 18, 2021 began as a typical work day for Mr. Simon, who was working as a driver on the production of the popular television show ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ as an employee of The Walt Disney Company’s General Entertainment Division (“Disney”). His ordinary work day, however, took a drastic turn after Mr. Simon — a 31-year-old African American male — was targeted by LAPD police officers who, without any legal justification, initiated a racially motivated ‘high risk’ traffic stop,” the suit says.

“Multiple LAPD police officers then forced Mr. Simon to lie prone on an asphalt lot at gunpoint for over 20 minutes, using an overwhelming and unjustified show of force against Mr. Simon that caused him to legitimately (and understandably) fear that he was going to be shot at his workplace in front of his coworkers for simply being a Black man in the wrong neighborhood,” the suit, filed Thursday in the Central District of California court in Los Angeles, said.

Simon says he was driving from one location during filming to another, when he encountered two police officers in a car coming from a different direction at a 4 way traffic stop. Attempting to wave them ahead, instead the police followed Simon to that second set location where they pulled him over, then forcibly pulled him from his vehicle and held him at gunpoint. This, according to the lawsuit, despite please from several of his coworkers and supervisors that he was an employee performing his job duties and not engaged in any illegal activity.

“Given that there was no reason to suspect Mr. Simon of committing any crime or traffic violation, the decision to pursue Mr. Simon — based solely on the fact that he was an African American male lawfully driving in the predominantly-white neighborhood of Tarzana, California — constitutes racial profiling and discrimination in violation of Mr. Simon’s rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and California law,” the suit says.

According to the suit, the police response to Simon’s traffic stop was far out of proportion to any reasonable response even if criminal behavior had occurred.

“Further increasing the intrusiveness of the unwarranted stop, Doe Officer 1 and Doe Officer 2 called for additional LAPD officers to provide support, even though Mr. Simon did not pose any threat and had remained fully cooperative,” the suit says.

“Thereafter,” the suit continues, “at least seven speeding LAPD squad cars drove into the Basecamp, and those LAPD officers responded to the scene by drawing their guns and pointing them at Mr. Simon as he continued to lay face down on the asphalt. They also requested that a LAPD helicopter report to the scene. This response constitutes an overwhelming and unnecessary show of force.”

According to the suit, Simon was fully cooperative the entire time. Despite this, officers had guns aimed at him while he was forced to lay down in the street. Further, according to the suit, when several of Simon’s coworkers, all of whom were black, attempted to intervene, officers shouted at them to “get out of the line of fire,” suggesting the possibility they might shoot him. Eventually, they handcuffed him, with six LAPD officers keeping watch over him, even as Simon’s coworkers continued to try to intervene.

According to the suit, the officers only relented when one of Simon’s white coworkers spoke to them.

“The Doe Officer Defendants’ unjustified hostility and mistreatment of Mr. Simon only ended approximately 10 minutes later when another co-worker of Mr. Simon, this time a white male, spoke to Doe Officer Defendants and reiterated what the security guard, Mr. Simon, and Mr. Simon’s African American co-worker had previously told them: that the van was rented and operated by DGE and that Mr. Simon was a DGE employee who was authorized to be inside the Basecamp. Only after listening to Mr. Simon’s white co-worker did Doe Officer Defendants finally release Mr. Simon from custody,” the suit says.

The suit lists causes of action: Unreasonable search and seizure; arrest without probable cause; racial profiling; excessive force; supervisor liability; unconstitutional custom, practice, or policy (against the city of LA); failure to train (against the city of LA); negligence; negligent training, hiring and supervision; false arrest and imprisonment; assault; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Simon is seeking “no less” than $20 million in damages, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, coverage of court costs including interest, and any additional relief as determined by the court. Simon is seeking a jury trial.

Representatives for LAPD didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by TheWrap. Representatives for ABC didn’t immediately respond either, but in a statement provided to Deadline, a representative of ABC Signature said:

“On March 18 of last year, Mr. Simon, a member of our transportation team, was pulled over by Los Angeles police officers while he was working, removed roughly from his vehicle and treated in a manner that was overly aggressive and inappropriate. We filed a formal request then with the LAPD for an immediate investigation into this matter and for the appropriate action to be taken promptly. We were disappointed to learn that no action was taken and support Mr. Simon in his complaint.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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