LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Black man was not even alive when the white man police misidentified him as was first convicted of a crime.
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 for Shane Neal Brown, then-49 years old, was for a charge of ownership or possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
Shane Neal Brown is an older white man with brown hair, blue eyes and a beard. He was first convicted of a felony in 1994, the lawsuit said, indicating there were likely prior booking photos available.
Documents obtained by the I-Team show two booking photos of Shane Neal Brown in the system from 2019.
Court documents indicate Shane Neal Brown was arrested and booked on the gun charge in January 2019. He failed to appear at a court hearing in November 2019 and a judge issued a bench warrant ordering no bail if he was found.
Henderson police arrested Shane Lee Brown on the active warrant for Shane Neal Brown.
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.
“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 the Las Vegas Metro Police Department filed paperwork with the court, indicating officers had Shane Neal Brown in custody, though in reality, it was 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.”
Prior booking photos are available in the custody record system.
“Had any of the LVMPD police or corrections officers performed any due diligence, such as comparing Shane Lee Brown’s booking photo against the existing mug shot belonging to the world, white ‘Shane Brown’ named in the warrant, they would have easily determined that Shane Lee Brown has been misidentified as the subject of the warrant,” the lawsuit said.
Shane Lee Brown remained in jail until Jan. 14, when, during a bench warrant return hearing, a public defender told the court the wrong person was in custody.
The public defender compared Shane Lee Brown’s booking photo to Shane Neal Brown’s photo, the lawsuit and court records said.
“[The public defender] advised that the incorrect individual had been arrested on the bench warrant in the instant case, which parties confirmed by comparing the defendant’s mug shot with the mug shot of the individual arrested on the instant bench warrant,” the court record for the hearing said.
“Additionally, [the public defender] indicated that the defendant was a 49-year-old white male and the individual who was arrested on the bench warrant was a 23-year-old African American male,” the entry said.
Judge Joe Hardy ordered Shane Lee Brown to be released immediately.
The lawsuit seeks $500,000 in damages. The younger Shane Brown does not face any charges.
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.
A spokesperson for the LVMPD, which oversees the jail, said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
A spokesperson for the Henderson Police Department referred questions to a city spokesperson who said once the city reviews the lawsuit, they will respond in court.