LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — One of two Southern Nevada police agencies being sued for arresting a young Black man on a warrant for an older white man insists it “correctly arrested” him. The statement comes as the NAACP is asking why no one checked prior records before transferring and holding the wrong person in jail for days.
Shane Lee Brown, 25, spent six days in two separate jails on a warrant involving a middle-aged man in a case of mistaken identity, a lawsuit filed in federal court claims.
Henderson police pulled over Shane Lee Brown, 25, on Jan. 8, 2020, the lawsuit said. Brown, who is Black, did not have his identification but provided police his name, Social Security number and Social Security card, the lawsuit said.
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.
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.
“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 8 News Now I-Team first asked Henderson police about the lawsuit last week, Richards said the city would respond in court.
“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.”
Henderson police arrested Shane Lee Brown on the active warrant for Shane Neal Brown, the lawsuit said.
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.
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.
“During his unlawful detention, Shane Lee Brown repeatedly explained to numerous unknown Henderson police officers and supervisors that he was not the 49-year-old white ‘Shane Brown’ who was the subject of the felony warrant,” the lawsuit said.
While being booked into the Clark County Detention Center, staff gave Shane Lee Brown a standard custody record identification number, noting his birthday, race and other identifying factors, the lawsuit said.
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.
“In today’s society, there are so many checks and balances that are in place that should be in place if they’re not in place to make sure that these types of mishaps do not happen,” Roxann McCoy, president of the Las Vegas NCAAP, said Monday.
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.
“It’s unfortunate that this young man just happens to be a Black man and he’s mistaken for somebody that looks totally opposite from him and nobody took the time to do their due diligence,” McCoy said.
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.
“Let’s talk about what they did wrong and figure out how we fix this so this does not happen to another not just Black man but another citizen period in this city,” McCoy said.
An attorney for Shane Lee Brown did not respond to a request for comment Monday.