Elderly black couple arrested by police looking for teen suspects: lawsuit

  • An elderly black couple is suing a Texas police department after they were arrested at gunpoint.
  • Officers said they were searching for the suspected teens when they arrested the couple, in the lawsuit.
  • The suit alleges the use of excessive force, unlawful search and seizure, and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

An elderly black couple sued the Texas Police Department after they said police violently arrested them at gunpoint while searching for teen suspects.

Lawyers for 67-year-old Michael Lewis and his girlfriend, 57-year-old Regina Armstead, said the Rosenberg Police Department used excessive force during the November 2020 arrest.

“What they went through was incredibly humiliating, inhumane and unconstitutional,” attorney Lauren Bonds told Insider.

The lawsuit said five Refugee Protection Police officers were searching for a group of black teenagers suspected of brandishing guns and assault when they stopped Lewis and Armstead.

“The Department of Refugee Protection incorrectly identified Ms Armstead’s vehicle as that used by the group of teens to flee the scene of the alleged assault, even though the plaintiffs are elderly and do not remotely match the description of the teen suspects,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said that while stopping, officers ordered Armstead to throw her keys out the window, get on her knees outside the car, and then walk backwards to the police car with her hands in the air. The lawsuit said one of the officers arrested Armstead “while two other officers kept their guns on her.”

The lawsuit said that during her arrest, Armstead told officers that Lewis was on dialysis with a task in hand and that there could be nothing taut, such as handcuffs, around his arm or wrist.

“I stood up telling them, ‘My boyfriend is on dialysis,'” Lewis recalls to Insider. “He can’t put any handcuffs on his arms at all. He’s on dialysis, but they wouldn’t listen to that.”

“We both fear for our lives”

After placing Armstead in the back of a police car, “four armed officers – one carrying an assault rifle – ordered Mr. Lewis out of the car and ordered him to get off the ground,” the lawsuit said.

“I’ve been praying to God that guns don’t go off on us because when you point guns at someone like that, you never know,” Lewis told Insider.

The lawsuit said that officers handcuffed Lewis despite his medical objections, put him in a separate police car while they searched Armstead’s car and confiscated her cell phone without explanation, which charges RPD with unlawful search and seizure, unlawful detention and false arrest.

“That was really scary,” said Lewis. “I’m telling you it was really. I was afraid for my life. I really did, and Regina did too.” “We both feared for our lives. Because, like I said, a gun could have gone off.”

The lawsuit said that after officers found “no weapons, no contraband, and no other evidence of illegal activity” in Armstead’s car, she and Louis were unshackled. Armstead asked why they were arrested and searched, and an officer said they were looking for teen suspects, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said Armstead later realized she did not have her cell phone or keys. They returned to the scene to take Armstead’s phone from an officer and discover that their master key, which had been thrown out the window on the instructions of the police, had been broken. The suit said RPD said they would compensate Armstead for the keychain, but they did not.

The lawsuit, alleging that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act, said both Armstead and Lewis “felt fear, humiliation, embarrassment, and persecution for being black, and suffered severe psychological pain from arrest and detention.”

“As a result of his hands being tied during his arrest, Mr. Lewis’s medical device malfunctioned in his wrist. This resulted in three separate medical procedures to replace the fistula. These procedures caused prolonged pain and suffering to Mr. Lewis,” the lawsuit said.

Bonds, an attorney for Lewis and Armstead, said she hopes “we’ll see if we can get them some accountability and justice.”

An RPD spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.