LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Shane Lee Brown, 25, calls his six-day stay at two Las Vegas area jails “a nightmare” – the young Black man was in custody on a warrant involving a middle-aged white man in a case of mistaken identity, a lawsuit filed in federal court claims.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, because it seemed from my perspective that they were convinced that I was this guy, I was a felon,” Shane Lee Brown told the 8 News Now I-Team’s David Charns on Tuesday. “It seemed like they got their guy, and no one would listen to me.”
As the I-Team reported last week, Henderson police pulled over Shane Lee Brown, 25, on Jan. 8, 2020. Brown did not have his identification but provided police his name, Social Security number and Social Security card, the lawsuit said.
“It started with being pulled over — simple traffic violation, and then it escalated into something polar opposite,” Shane Lee Brown said. “More or less a nightmare.”
While performing a records check for “Shane Brown,” a felony warrant for a different Shane Brown appeared, the lawsuit said. The bench warrant out of a Las Vegas court for Shane Neal Brown, then-49 years old, was for a charge of ownership or possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
This is how Shane Lee Brown described the differences between he and Shane Neal Brown: “Polar opposite.”
“They just said, ‘You’re Shane Brown. We see you have a felony warrant,’” Shane Lee Brown said Tuesday.
Monday, a spokesperson for the city of Henderson said officers had “correctly arrested” Shane Lee Brown for driving without a license and skipping a court date.
“I just explained to them there’s no way I’m a felon,” Shane Lee Brown said. “I haven’t participated in any felon activities.”
“During a routine traffic stop for driving an unregistered vehicle, Shane Brown was correctly arrested by Henderson police for driving with a suspended license and for a contempt of court, failure to pay warrant issued by Henderson Municipal Court,” senior public information officer Kathleen Richards said in a statement Monday.
When the I-Team first asked Henderson police about the lawsuit last week, Richards said the city would respond in court.
Shane Lee Brown was first detained in the Henderson jail for two days and then taken to the Clark County Detention Center, the lawsuit said. It is customary for a person with a warrant of out Las Vegas court to be taken to that jail.
“Could they have arrested him for that? They could have, usually, they don’t for traffic violations,” Shane Lee Brown’s attorney, E. Brent Bryson, said Tuesday.
It remained unclear Monday how Henderson police informed the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which runs the Clark County Detention Center, that a Shane Brown was in its custody.
Shane Lee Brown said he was then put on a bus and taken to the Clark County Detention Center.
“That doesn’t relieve Henderson of their duty to investigate the fact that he’s not the felon that he’s being detained for,” Bryson said.
Prior booking photos are available in the custody record system. The I-Team found at least two prior booking photos for Shane Neal Brown, two most recently taken in 2019, months before the younger Shane Brown was taken into custody on the older Shane Brown’s warrant.
On Jan. 10, 2020, a member of LVMPD filed paperwork with the court, indicating officers had Shane Neal Brown in custody, though, it was really Shane Lee Brown.
“At CCDC, Shane Lee Brown once again explained to numerous unknown LVMPD officers and supervisors that he was not the ‘Shane Brown’ named on the felony bench warrant,” the lawsuit said. “Despite being informed of this mistaken identity, none of the unknown LVMPD police or LVMPD corrections officers bothered to review its own records to determine whether Shane Lee Brown was the subject of the warrant.”
During a return warrant hearing on Jan. 14, 2020, a public defender told Judge Joe Hardy the wrong Shane Brown was in custody.
“Your honor, we have a major issue in this case,” she said in a video first obtained by the 8 News Now I-Team. “The Shane Brown who is the defendant in our case has a separate ID number and he is a 49-year-old white male.”
Hardy ordered Shane Lee Brown to be released immediately.
“They didn’t say anything,” Shane Lee Brown said about his release from CCDC. “They just got me out of jail pretty quickly.”
An arrest report for Shane Neal Brown indicated LVMPD learned on Jan. 22, 2020, that he was in custody in San Bernardino County, California. He appeared in court later that month, accepting a plea deal.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages. Both Shane Lee Brown and Bryson said they hoped it sparked change in how police and jails handle inmates.
“Once you’re in the custody of a law enforcement agency, you’re basically at their mercy,” Bryson said. “I don’t know if maybe all the people he talked to have heard it 100 times that you’ve got the wrong person and they’re just numb to it, that’s doesn’t really matter. They have a duty.”
A spokesperson for Metro police, which oversees CCDC, said the department does not comment on ongoing litigation.
“Mr. Brown admitted to the arresting officers that he knew his driver’s license was suspended and that he had traffic warrants in Henderson,” Richards said in the statement Monday. “The plaintiff in this lawsuit has not presented all the facts and circumstances behind his lawful and proper arrest by Henderson police, which will be further addressed in the city attorney’s response to the court.”