A Black dentist in Manhattan was accused of breaking into his own office and now, he has a lawsuit against the city.
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The New York Post reports Dr. Benjamin Shirley said he was racially profiled back in March when NYPD officers stopped him around midnight. The 41-year-old was allegedly taking out the trash at his medical office when police accused him of breaking into the building. Law enforcement reportedly approached the entrance, shining their lights and demanding that Shirley identify himself. Using their loudspeaker, they threatened to break in after the dentist identified himself as the owner.
A $5 million notice of claim against the city said the two police officers “attempted to unlawfully gain entry to the building by force and repeatedly called [Shirley] threatening to destroy his property and enter with force if he did not come outside despite the fact that at all times, they lacked any probable cause or reasonable belief that [Shirley] had committed any crime,” according to The Post.
The claim is the first step to filing a lawsuit. According to the Post, Dr. Shirley included negligence, false arrest, unlawful detainment, illegal search and seizure, and trespass.
NYPD spokesman Edward Riley said, “We will review the lawsuit if and when it is filed.”
Dr. Shirley says he called 911 while police were outside.
“I’m actually being harassed by the cops here,” Shirley said in the 911 call. “I’m pretty scared here. I’m working in my office and they shine the flashlight in my face.”
“I’m trying to ask them why they are bothering me, and he said he saw me walking in here,” he told the 911 operator. “They are asking me for my ID and I’m not doing anything … I don’t know if it’s because I’m African American.”
Dr. Shirley’s lawyer, Reza Rezvani, described the incident to the news outlet.
“They were threatening to break in, they were threatening to break down the security equipment, they were threatening to break down the door and go inside,” said Rezvani. “Imagine how terrifying it is to have to call the police on the police and then to be met with no help.”
The lawyer told the Post that his client did not immediately go outside and engage with the officers because he was scared.
“It’s midnight, he’s Black, they are shining flashlights inside — that’s how you set up all kinds of bad things happening,” Rezvani said. “To casually walk out, it’s not possible in that scenario.”
After a half-hour passed, two more police officers arrived and the dentist eventually came to the door and displayed his identification, the Post reported. Only then did the cops exit the property.
“Despite the fact that [Shirley’s] state-issued identification lists the address of the location of incident, [Shirley] was forced to provide his identification to [the police officers] multiple times before they would agree to leave,” read the claim, according to the report.
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