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Black man who was thrown off bike and arrested without cause sues City of Portland for $475,000

Posted by on May 19th, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Screenshot of story in The Oregonian.

The Oregonian reports that a northeast Portland man who was tackled off his bike, roughed-up and arrested in 2015 has filed a $475,000 lawsuit against the City of Portland.

An attorney for 23-year-old Anthony James Allen Jr. told The Oregonian her client was arrested without cause simply because he was black. Allen was cycling home from work when the police first made contact with him and began questioning him about an unrelated incident. Here’s more from Allen’s attorney as reported in The Oregonian:

“You need reasonable suspicion,” Albies said. “It can’t just be because ‘I feel like it.’ It can’t just be because ‘You’re black and I want you to do what I want you to do.’ … If that was me on my bike … there’s no way they would have done that. I’m a white woman.”

The lawsuit filed Wednesday (PDF) says that Allen was profiled due to his race. Police were in Allen’s neighborhood because of a shooting that had occurred. Here’s what happened when Allen rolled up on his bike (from the lawsuit):

Once on his street, Allen approached his home on bike with grocery bags in hand. PPB Officer Colby Marrs appeared suddenly out of the shadows and yelled at Allen and his cousin to stop… Allen told Marrs that he had just gotten off work and was going home, and pointed to his house about two or three doors down. Marrs said “not if I have questions for you.” Allen explained that he had just spoken to two other officers who told him to go home. Marrs then told Allen that he was not going home, and that when “an officer tells you to stop, you fucking stop.” Allen, put off by this disrespectful behavior he did not deserve, said that he did not have anything to say to Marrs, and continued on his way home.

Instead of letting Allen go home, Marrs yelled at Allen and grabbed his shoulder. Marrs put his hand on his gun and called for backup, ordering Allen to the side of the street. As Allen attempted to comply with Marrs’ order by bringing his bike over to the curb and telling Marrs he was doing so, Marrs attacked Allen. Marrs grabbed Allen, threw him off his bike on to the ground, and forcefully leaned his knee into Allen’s neck and shoulders, handcuffing him. Allen’s groceries spilled out on the ground, and his bike hit his shins, causing pain and bleeding.

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Allen was acquitted by a jury three months later. His lawyers say the Police Bureau failed to adequately train its officers on racial profiling and made a false arrest that caused Allen physical and mental suffering.

News of this lawsuit broke on the same that that the Portland Bureau of Transportation hosted a lunchtime discussion session titled, Vision Zero and the Equity Lens. One of the major currents of that discussion is how to create safe street environments while making sure enforcement does not have an unequal impact on people of color and in designated “community of concern.” Increased police enforcement used to be considered a pillar of safe streets programs; but the City of Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan was adopted with specific language that prevents increased enforcement. The reason? Fears of racial profiling similar to what happened to Mr. Allen.

Read more coverage of this story from The Oregonian.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Patrick
Guest
Patrick

When a police officer tells you to stop–you have to stop.

Justin M
Guest
Justin M

If you don’t stop tho it isn’t reason enough for an officer to grab their gun or tackle someone to the ground. People who point to what the victim did wrong in these situations totally ignore the fact that there’s such a thing as proportional response.

Mike 2
Guest
Mike 2

The officer was responding to a shooting. He told a person to stop – they did not. Why wouldn’t an officer be prepared to draw his gun? All it states is that he put his hand on his gun – not that he drew it.

Anyways – I am very impressed that Allen was able to ride his bike at night with grocery bags in his hands while also having a conversation with a police officer.

Justin M
Guest
Justin M

Maybe with the settlement money he’ll be able to get a basket for his bike. It’ll make riding home with those groceries a lot easier. And yes, the officer responded to a shooting, but this kid wasn’t the shooter, was he? If he hadn’t been black they would not have responded this way.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I doubt Mr. Allen had any knowledge of that. For him, there was an agitated officer yelling at him and he had no idea why. Perhaps if the officer stated why he was detaining Mr Allen, Mr Allen might have been more receptive.

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

We only have one side of the story here though. So we don’t definitely know what was said.
I’m not saying who was right/wrong, but we don’t have all the information.

mw
Guest
mw

And then recite “am I being detained; am I free to go” ad nauseam until they are so annoyed that they let you go.

soren
Guest
soren

Or until they attack you, brutalize you, and/or kill you.

Toadslick
Subscriber

That is such a disgusting excuse for the unwarranted brutality this person endured.

Mossby Pomegranate
Guest
Mossby Pomegranate

This is the danger of the “BLM” mentality. And it’s going to get people hurt or killed.

bendite
Guest
bendite

There’s a BLM mentality? What’s that?

Mossby Pomegranate
Guest
Mossby Pomegranate

There sure is. F the police and I don’t have to comply with authority. Keep putting that poison in young people’s minds and there will be more people getting killed.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Lick those boots.

E
Guest
E

What makes a police officer? It should be conduct, not costume.
Replica police costumes can be easily purchased by private citizens.
Thanks to persistent abuse of power and violations of citizens rights, in 2017 when someone in a police costume is doing whack shiz it is absurd for a minority male to assume they are an actual police officer or are acting within their scope of authority.
The officers he spoke with initially told him to go home and he was complying. At some point the man has to make a decision for himself, not just stumble around doing whatever any person in a cop costume tells him to do, hoping he isn’t shot in the back with his hands up.
Caucasians have no grounds to comment on what Mr. Allen should or should not do in such a situation. Interactions with police are clearly life and death situations for minorities, regardless of guilt.
You’re assuming they can just comply and sort out the issues later; so many documented murders of minorities by police make it clear that is not the case.

Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, the list goes on.

Monkeysee
Guest
Monkeysee

This can of worms will get convoluted so quickly here.
My race does not in any way void my opinion to speak on ones conduct with police no matter what their color.
I lived in the crack capital of the mid south in the 1980s. My actions as a social deviant then would most certainly get me shot in today’s world.
I speak to my child every single day on how to behave when and if a cop enters their reality.
Just like D.L. Hugely, I have that talk.
I know that talk is quite different for them.
My biggest hope is that my child will not be half as stupid as I was.
In no way am I going to cast aspersions on this young man here, and clearly the case he brought was won. I will read more about it as it comes to light.
But it seems some justice prevailed.
I grow so weary that my voice is invalid in other peoples opinions because of my color.
I’ve filed over 27 police harassment charges in my life.
I’ve had cops put guns to my head, I’ve seen friends brutally beaten, I’ve had my face pan seared on the hood of a roller in 110* weather by a black cop. I had my skull split open by a Latino cop. One time an older black cop kept two vicious rookie white cops from having their way with me.
The list goes on…..By all accounts I could have been killed too.
All this in the 1980s.
Today my white ass would be shot. Dead.
I’m sorry there is injustice. Race shouldn’t be an issue, but at times it rears it’s ugly head, and I should be able to speak about it either way.
I hope this is somewhat understandable to you.
I’m not trying to be inflammatory.
I’m not really sure where you think people are impersonating police often enough that this a real threat, but I’m open minded enough to investigate it. That aspect of you comment seems far fetched.

Monkeysee
Guest
Monkeysee

I see he wasn’t awarded the suit yet… The headline lead me to believe the award was given. I hope he wins, if in fact he was wronged.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

screw the PPB, they are a bunch of idiots when it comes to incidents like this.

Mike 2
Guest
Mike 2

Screw the general public, they are a bunch of idiots when it comes to incidents like this (but they sure are fast to judge based on a one-sided account of what happened).

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

your brush is too broad. it would be like painting all cyclists the same based on the selfish actions of a few.

BB
Guest
BB

Which is somehow only a problem when it’s the subject of a straw man argument..

grrlpup
Guest
grrlpup

Held until 4 a.m. and put through a jury trial– none of it should have happened. Best wishes for this lawsuit.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Only 475,000? Should be at least 4,750,000.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Police had been scouring the neighborhood for a black man suspected in a shooting when they came upon Anthony James Allen Jr., said his attorney, Ashlee Albies.

Police refused to answer Allen’s questions about why they were stopping him, she said Thursday.

“You need reasonable suspicion,” Albies said. “It can’t just be because ‘I feel like it.’ It can’t just be because ‘You’re black and I want you to do what I want you to do.’ … If that was me on my bike … there’s no way they would have done that. I’m a white woman.” …” oregonian

By the Oregonian story’s report, the police were looking for black man, which by his picture, Anthony James Allen Jr seems to be. His attorney on the other hand, Ashlee Albies, says she’s a white woman. She doesn’t meet even the basic description of the person the police were looking for.

Some people might feel the police were rough with Allen Jr, though knowing that police were looking for a suspected shooter, which Allen does seem to have fit the basic description of, maybe this would moderate their view as to the degree of handling that was justified. When police officer Colby Marrs yelled at Allen to stop, did he stop? Can’t tell from the O story or the lawsuit. I don’t want to say that Allen just kept walking on after he was asked to stop, but he might have. Doing so could have intensified the suspicion of him by the officer.

The cops weren’t just looking for some dude wandering around drunk, peeing in the street. They were looking for someone that may have been a murderer. Sounds as though Allen, claimed to have already talked to a couple officers, may have known who the cops were looking for. Sure it’s annoying to have stop, again, to talk, again, with cops looking for someone whose description Allen happened to meet, but why not just do that? Stop, answer the cops questions, show him i.d., let him call up on his radio and confirm with the other officers what Allen said. I hope this turns out well for Allen.

bendite
Guest
bendite

See what us white guys respond with when cops stop us because we’re 5′ 11″ and look 25 – 40 years old.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

There is something strange about this case. The Multnomah County DA actually filed a misdemeanor charge against Allen and took it all the way to trial. Based on the events as described in this post, it is hard to understand why the DA would do that. The DA declines to prosecute arrested persons all the time, and drops filed cases too. They are shorthanded, and prosecutors don’t usually like to take pointless little losing cases to trial.

Either there are additional facts not stated in the post, or the DA made an unusual decision. The version of the facts stayed in the post appears to be taken entirely from Allen’s lawyer, so it is basically an advertisement for the lawsuit.

The relevance of this story to a bicycling blog puzzles me. Allen was on a bike but there’s no reason to think that his bike had any bearing on what happened.

X
Guest
X

Well, bike. This is a bike blog, a bike was involved. A person was thrown off their bike by a cop. Also, racial equity and the actions of public officials are a topic of this blog (unfortunate necessity).

Sure the cop(s) were wound up. But, in my work, the more the s*** is in the fan, the more careful you have to be. It’s not a good time to assume things about black people because it turns out there is more than one in this town? Also, grocery bags. Duh.

It should have been sufficient for Mr. Allen to say “I’m not a shooter, I’m a person going to my house with my groceries, see?” But this is copland until the damage awards reach a point of unaffordability that all can recognize. The actions of the DA’s office are inexplicable. Instead of knee-jerk backing the cop, they should have offered the guy a new bike or something. And groveled.

Biking while black.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

He was wearing shoes and carrying food, so the story should be in footwear blogs and foodie blogs too, then?

I get that racial profiling and police misconduct are very important issues. That also means republishing an Oregonian story on the topic is effective clickbait for any blog.

On the DA’s decision to prosecute: as I said, that is strange. Either something is missing in the version of facts being promoted by Allen’s lawyer (who has a financial interest in the case) or this is also a story about prosecutorial misjudgment.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…It should have been sufficient for Mr. Allen to say “I’m not a shooter, I’m a person going to my house with my groceries, see?” …” x

Why do you think Allen saying that to officer Marrs, should have been sufficient? Do you think Marrs knew who Allen was before calling out to him to “Stop” ? I get the impression from the lawsuit description of the incident, that Marrs had no idea who the person he initially saw, was, other than he met the general description of a suspected shooter.

How does Marrs know without questioning Allen, and maybe checking his bags and whatnot, who the heck this guy he asked to stop, actually is? Maybe a requirement for cops today, should be that they’re clairvoyant or have ESP, so they know exactly from a distance who they’re seeing so they won’t have to bother people coming home from getting groceries. .

Adam
Subscriber

I came here to learn about bikes, not the systematic exploitation of black and brown bodies for capitalistic gain! /s

Justin M
Guest
Justin M

The other day I was musing to my partner, instead of adopting a kid can I just run a summer camp where I teach kids to ride bikes and how recognize structural inequality? I mean, those go great together. Glad I’m not alone in thinking so. 🙂

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Do we think he would have been treated differently if on foot or in a car?

Adam
Subscriber

No. He would have been treated differently if he was white, though.

Justin M
Guest
Justin M

Thanks for not being afraid to point out the obvious. Clearly he was targeted because he was black. If a white person had been involved in a shooting they wouldn’t go harassing the first white person on a bike they see, especially if they’ve got their groceries. So ridiculous.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

‘Suspect is a white male. Harass every white male in the area.’

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

I think it’s quite unusual for a cop on foot to pull over a car driving by. If Allen gets a six-figure settlement, I wonder if he might not find driving a car an attractive choice.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Maybe, but it wouldn’t change his situation that much. “Driving while black” gets just as much police harassment nationwide as “biking while black” or “walking while black”, and he probably grew up knowing this.

soren
Guest
soren

Harassment of people of color on bikes is not a myth, John.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…The Multnomah County DA actually filed a misdemeanor charge against Allen and took it all the way to trial. Based on the events as described in this post, it is hard to understand why the DA would do that. The DA declines to prosecute arrested persons all the time, and drops filed cases too. They are shorthanded, and prosecutors don’t usually like to take pointless little losing cases to trial.

Either there are additional facts not stated in the post, or the DA made an unusual decision. The version of the facts stayed in the post appears to be taken entirely from Allen’s lawyer, so it is basically an advertisement for the lawsuit. …” john liu

Did you run across what was the misdemeanor charge against Allen? Apparently, it wasn’t reported, or it missed my attention. The DA has to at least think it has solid grounds for a case in order to proceed. Maybe it wasn’t until late into the proceedings that the DA concluded it was a losing proposition.

Any word yet that Allen’s lawsuit will be approved to go to court? I wonder how sharp his lawyer is, whether she has thoroughly examined as many aspects of the incident as could be, and still feels there really is a case here.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Let’s not let this devolve into “white people defending cops” thread. Let’s see this for what it is.

soren
Guest
soren

“white people defending cops”

too late.

Randee Peppercorn
Guest
Randee Peppercorn

The cops actions were about as racist as a 29er

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

huh?