On Tuesday (June 9), Devin Whitaker, a 23-year-old African-American with dreadlocks, filed suit against the county, sheriff William Gore, three sheriff's deputies, and others for unlawful arrest, excessive force, battery, negligence, and other alleged offenses.
On August 15 of last year, Whitaker was waiting to catch a trolley at the Lemon Grove trolley station. That day, the sheriff's department was participating in "Operation Lemon Drop," a dragnet operation in Lemon Grove. Whitaker charges that the sheriff's deputies illegally seized, detained, and searched him, looking for drugs or drug paraphernalia.
According to the suit, the deputies found a meth pipe at the trolley station and claimed it was Whitaker's. However, says the suit, there were no fingerprints indicating it was his. Whitaker says the deputies claimed that he was acting nervous, which Whitaker denied. After a bit of a scuffle, Whitaker was jailed. He claimed that his face received permanent scars as a result of the rough treatment.
The district attorney's office attempted to get Whitaker to plead guilty. He would not. On the morning of the trial, the D.A. dropped all charges. Now Whitaker is suing.
The sheriff's office refused comment and the county did not answer queries.
There appear to be similarities with this case and Kolender vs Lawson from 1983. A black youth in dreadlocks was arrested 15 times by San Diego police in 18 months. The young man, Edward Lawson, went to court to challenge a law requiring persons who loiter to identify themselves. The United States Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the statute used against Lawson was vague.