LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A federal civil rights lawsuit alleges Metro police singled out a Black Lives Matter protester and subjected her to precisely what she was protesting against on the night of July 4, 2020.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, names the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Metro Lt. Kurt McKenzie and 12 officers who are not identified.
The lawsuit by Alexandria Devore, who is represented by attorney Margaret A. McLetchie of McLetchie Law, alleges a list of violations that range from state laws to federal civil rights. Devore was in attendance as protesters gathered south of the Las Vegas Strip near a Metro police substation on Las Vegas Boulevard. She had been directly involved in organizing Black Lives Matter protests in the valley following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
Metro’s arrest was in retaliation for Black Lives Matter protests, the lawsuit alleges.
The night of the protest, Devore was persecuted while others engaged in the same acts were not, the lawsuit alleges. She was singled out after police recognized her from other protests and associated her with a vehicle that was plastered with Black Lives Matter messages.
The charges against Devore were eventually dismissed.
“Metro’s response was substantially more aggressive than its response to other protests that did not involve messages criticizing law enforcement,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit lays out seven civil rights violations:
- Excessive force (First and Fourth Amendment rights)
- Free speech and expression (First and 14th Amendment rights)
- Right to free speech and expression (chilling) (First and 14th Amendment rights)
- Free speech and expression (retaliation) (First and 14th Amendment rights)
- Equal protection (14th Amendment rights)
- Right to assembly (First and 14th Amendment rights)
- Substantive due process (14th Amendment rights)
The lawsuit also alleges state violations including false imprisonment, excessive force, violating Devore’s right to free speech and expression, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Devore’s interaction with police included her efforts to get equipment moved out of a substation parking lot that Metro had blocked after protesters arrived. Friends overheard officers saying they were going to “get the girl in the yellow shirt” and shortly after that, officers threatened to detain her, “they charged her, threw her against the police car and handcuffed her,” according to the lawsuit.
She also was threatened for calling out officers’ conduct as they dealt with other protesters.
In addition to harsh treatment on the street, the lawsuit details several incidents at the Clark County Detention Center.
Devore was groped by another inmate after CCDC officers failed to respond to reports that the other inmate was picking fights and exhibiting signs of psychosis. Other women in the cell had demanded that the inmate be removed, and guards said they had no other place to put her, according to the lawsuit.
It was the other inmates who came to Devore’s defense after the attack in the jail cell, and guards eventually took the abusive inmate out.
Lombardo is included in the lawsuit in his capacity as the leader of the police department, and Lt. McKenzie is named as the officer responsible for supervising police during the July 4 protest. The unnamed officers were directly involved in interactions with Devore.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, court costs and any further relief the court deems appropriate. It also requests “a declaration that defendants Metro and Lombardo’s failures to make or enforce policies and practices.”
The lawsuit states that Devore abandoned her involvement with organizing protests after July 4, choosing instead to teach classes about police reform.