Firm Client Sues LAPD for Racial Profiling and Assault

Police Car Traffic Stop

Following Larson’s press release on March 17 announcing that client Ernest Simon, Jr. filed a $20 million lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and others alleging a racially motivated traffic stop and assault by Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers while he was on the job as a driver for the production of “Grey’s Anatomy,” multiple news outlets reported on the case.

Mr. Simon, a Black man, was driving back to the lot that the show was using as a “basecamp” in the predominately white neighborhood of Tarzana after dropping crewmembers off at the “Grey’s Anatomy” set on March 18, 2021. After stopping at a stop sign, he was followed by two LAPD officers to the basecamp, where a security guard told the officers that Mr. Simon was an employee. The officers ignored him and approached Mr. Simon with their guns drawn.

The reason for the stop, according to LAPD, was that the officers’ automated license plate reader mistakenly alerted that the van Mr. Simon was driving matched a BMW sedan that had been reported stolen, despite the fact that he was driving a Ford van. The Hollywood Reporter noted from the complaint that “the LAPD has been criticized for failing to implement proper policies and practices regarding the use of automated license plate readers. In February 2020, the California State Auditor found that ‘Los Angeles was the most lax in its approach to authorizing ALPR user accounts’ and that it doesn’t require training for users to access the system.”

Although Mr. Simon alleges he calmly tried to explain that he was a crew member driving a production vehicle, the officers called for backup—which included “seven speeding LAPD squad cars” and a helicopter circling overhead, according to the complaint—and told other crew members to “get out of the line of fire” when they tried to intervene on Mr. Simon’s behalf.

“Multiple LAPD police officers then forced Mr. Simon to lie prone on an asphalt lot at gunpoint for over 20 minutes, using an overwhelming and unjustified show of force against Mr. Simon that caused him to legitimately (and understandably) fear that he was going to be shot at his workplace in front of his co-workers for simply being a Black man in the wrong neighborhood,” the complaint states.

In covering the case, Los Angeles Times reported that “investigations by The Times and the LAPD’s own inspector general in recent years have found that the LAPD stops Black and Latino drivers at disproportionate rates, despite their being less likely to have contraband on them. The civilian Police Commission recently revised the department’s policies on traffic stops based in part on concerns of bias.” Furthermore, “other drivers have also sued the LAPD in recent years for officers holding them at gunpoint after wrongfully assuming the vehicles they were driving—including rented U-Haul trailers—were stolen.”

LAPD spokesperson Captain Stacy Spell noted to Los Angeles Times that “the department does not have a specific policy on officers drawing their guns on drivers ‘based solely on information in a database of stolen vehicles,’ like those that license plate readers use. The department does have a policy that states officers ‘shall not draw or exhibit a firearm unless the circumstances surrounding the incident create a reasonable belief that it may be necessary to use the firearm’ . . . Officers are also meant to holster their weapons immediately upon determining that such deadly force is not necessary, according to the policy.”

Mr. Simon “seeks $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages, listing causes of action that include unreasonable search and seizure, de facto arrest without probable cause, racial profiling, excessive force, false arrest and imprisonment, and assault,” Daily Journal explained based on the lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, the LAPD chief, and individual LAPD officers.

ABC Signature, the Disney-owned production company of “Grey’s Anatomy,” issued a statement to Deadline Hollywood: “On March 18 of last year, Mr. Simon, a member of our transportation team, was pulled over by Los Angeles police officers while he was working, removed roughly from his vehicle and treated in a manner that was overly aggressive and inappropriate. We filed a formal request then with the LAPD for an immediate investigation into this matter and for the appropriate action to be taken promptly. We were disappointed to learn that no action was taken and support Mr. Simon in his complaint.”

“Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes also voiced her support of Mr. Simon, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood shared. “What happened to Mr. Simon was beyond unacceptable,” Ms. Rhimes stated. “It was another example of a broken system that puts valuable lives in danger and damages spirits. Shondaland stands with Mr. Simon and his family in this complaint.”

Partners Stephen G. Larson, Jonathan E. Phillips, and Alex Lowder are representing Mr. Simon. Several publications, including Daily Journal, shared Stephen’s statement from the firm’s press release: “This lawsuit seeks to right those severe wrongs inflicted upon our client. But it also addresses a larger issue—accountability for the persistent and systematic mistreatment of Black people at the hands of police in Los Angeles and across the country.”

Read the full article by Winston Cho of The Hollywood Reporter here, the full article by Dominic Patten of Deadline Hollywood here, the full article by Kevin Rector of Los Angeles Times here (subscription required), and the full article by Federico Lo Giudice of Daily Journal here (subscription required) covering the lawsuit. Other media coverage on the developing story includes:


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