Teen sues LMPD over controversial traffic stop

LMPD sued after controversial traffic stop involving black teen

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The controversial traffic stop of a teenage boy in west Louisville has now led to a lawsuit.

Tae-Ahn Lea is suing Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad, Major William Hibbs of the Ninth Mobile Division and the five officers involved in the traffic stop in August 2018. The officers who made the stop are Kevin Crawford, Gabriel Hellard, Jeffrey McCauley, Jason McNeil and Kiersten Holman.

Lea was 18 years old when he was pulled over and accused of making an improper turn.

Police body camera video showed Lea being cooperative and complying with police. It shows police pulling Lea from the car, patting him down, searching his car and handcuffing him.

Lea was cited for a wide turn, which prosecutors later dismissed.

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The lawsuit alleges Lea was targeted, surveilled and followed because he’s black and was in a nice car.

“You know, for them (police) it’s moving on and figuring out what other 29 or 30 cars they’re going to do the same way,” attorney Lonita Baker said. “But, for Tae-Ahn, it was a traumatic event.”

Baker believes LMPD’s People, Places, Narcotics strategy amounts to nothing more than racial profiling and illegal stop and frisk.

“The message that is out there is if you live in these neighborhoods, if you’re black, if you drive a nice car, we’re going to assume you’re a criminal,” Baker said. “And you can’t do that.”

Since that traffic stop, Conrad announced policy changes that will take effect Aug. 1 meant to reduce implicit bias.

Tae-Ahn Lea was pulled over for making a wide turn when he was handcuffed and subjected to a search of his car. (Source: LMPD)
Tae-Ahn Lea was pulled over for making a wide turn when he was handcuffed and subjected to a search of his car. (Source: LMPD)

New procedures instruct officers not to remove people from their car or handcuff people who aren’t under arrest unless there is a clear danger to another person.

The department will also have tighter restrictions on pulling people out of vehicles during a stop, requiring justification and documentation from officers anytime it happens.

“There were things in place before the Ninth Mobile was instructed to engage in these processes,” Baker said. “I’m not sure that any policy change is really going to have an impact. We have to change the thought processes and when I say that, it’s, ‘How can we work together?’”

Conrad said the policy changes were in response to community feedback, and not the traffic stop of Lea.

LMPD does not comment on pending litigation.

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