Exclusive: Brownsville grandma and family ‘imprisoned’ by NYPD file $15M lawsuit
A Brownsville grandmother is looking for answers after more than a dozen NYPD officers kept her and her family imprisoned inside their apartment for more than 16 hours, according to a newly filed federal lawsuit.
When Rolinda Walls heard loud pounding on the door of her Dumont Avenue apartment on Oct. 21, 2017, she had no idea who was on the other side. It was 11:30 p.m., her 10-year-old granddaughter was sleeping and she was expecting her 14-year-old daughter home any minute.
NYPD officers were in the hallway of the Van Dyke Houses and “demanded to be let in,” according the lawsuit filed on Thursday in Brooklyn Federal Court by Walls’ attorney Rose M. Weber.
When Walls allowed the officers inside her Brownsville home, one of them allegedly said the cops were looking for Walls’ 27-year-old daughter, who was not home at the time.
When Walls’ 14-year-old daughter returned to the apartment amidst NYPD officers rummaging through her home, she was questioned by the officers about her late curfew, said Weber.
The officers allegedly searched the apartment without probable cause or Walls’ permission and found a small marijuana joint in Walls’ adult son’s bedroom. The cops then focused their attention on questioning the son and did not allow anyone to leave the apartment until Walls’ 27-year-old daughter came home.
Up to 20 unidentified officers allegedly remained in the Brownsville apartment for a total of 16 hours — some officers switched shifts around 8 a.m. — until 3:30 p.m. the next day, according to the lawsuit.
“What happened to Ms. Walls and those little girls is an outrage. It happened because they’re black and working class. If they were a white, middle-class family, the police would never have invaded and occupied their home,” said Weber.
Before finally leaving the apartment, the officers gave Walls a summons for marijuana possession, the lawsuit read. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute low-level marijuana possession cases — less than 25 grams — since 2014, under former District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson.
“When Rolinda Walls appeared in court on Jan. 5, 2018, she was advised that all charges against her had been dismissed because defendant police officers failed to file a legally acceptable accusatory instrument,” the lawsuit read.
The NYPD officers, who are not named in the lawsuit, are accused of “misrepresenting and falsifying evidence before the District Attorney.”
A spokesman for the Brooklyn DA said the criminal investigation against the officers is still ongoing.
As a result of the incident, Walls, her daughter and her granddaughter are seeking $15 million in damages for their “loss of liberty, mental anguish, shock, fright, apprehension, embarrassment and humiliation and deprivation of their constitutional rights,” according to the lawsuit.
“Somehow, the police manage to keep white neighborhoods safe without trampling on the civil rights of the residents. Why can’t they do the same in black neighborhoods?” asked Weber.
An internal review was launched after Walls filed complaints with officials. A spokesperson from NYPD referred questions to the city’s Law Department.
“We’re not going to comment before all the facts are in. We’ll review the lawsuit if one is filed,” said Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department.
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