Updated January 11, 2022 - 10:04 pm
Shane Lee Brown spent six days in jail in 2020 because he shared a name with a man with an active arrest warrant, according to a lawsuit filed last week.
Although Brown, who is Black, was 23 years old and 5 feet, 7 inches tall, the subject of the arrest warrant was a 5-foot-11, 49-year-old white man with a “bushy white beard” and blue eyes. Brown spent days in the Henderson Detention Center, and then the Clark County Detention Center, after both Las Vegas and Henderson police officers failed to properly check records comparing the two men, according to the federal civil rights lawsuit.
“It’s pretty hard to make a mistake of that magnitude when you have such different characteristics and races of a suspect,” said attorney Brent Bryson, who wrote the lawsuit.
The suit named the Metropolitan Police Department, Henderson Police Department, the city of Henderson, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Henderson Police Department Chief Thedrick Andres as defendants.
Brown, now 25, was driving after finishing work on Jan. 8, 2020, when Henderson officers pulled him over. He didn’t have his driver’s license with him, but he gave officers his name, Social Security number and Social Security card, the lawsuit said.
During a records check, the officers confused Brown with the 49-year-old man wanted on a bench warrant, the lawsuit said. The older man faced a charge of ownership or possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, court records show.
The weapons charge is typical when someone with a prior felony conviction is arrested with a gun. But 49-year-old Shane Brown had first been convicted of a felony in 1994, before Shane Lee Brown was born, the lawsuit said.
Shane Lee Brown was held in the Henderson Detention Center for two days, although he “repeatedly explained” that he was not the same Shane Brown as the man with the bench warrant.
“Upon information and belief, the unknown Henderson police officers and supervisors failed to perform even a cursory review of the warrant to determine if Shane Lee Brown was the person named in the warrant,” the lawsuit said.
On Jan. 10, Las Vegas police transferred the 23-year-old to the Clark County Detention Center, where his correct date of birth, race and height was recorded, the lawsuit said. He was also given an identification number different from the number assigned to the older Shane Brown.
An “agent of LVMPD” filed court records ordering Shane Lee Brown to appear in front of a judge for the bench warrant, the lawsuit said. The document filed Jan. 10 listed the younger man’s correct race and date of birth, court records show.
“Despite being informed of this mistaken identity, none of the unknown LVMPD police or LVMPD corrections officers bothered to review its own records to determine whether Shane Lee Brown was the subject of the warrant,” the lawsuit said.
The 23-year-old was in the Clark County Detention Center for four days before he appeared in front of District Judge Joe Hardy. After Shane Lee Brown’s public defender showed the judge the two men’s booking photos, Hardy ordered the younger man to be released from jail.
Metro on Tuesday declined to comment on the lawsuit. City of Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said once city attorneys are served with the lawsuit, they will “address the claims in their response to the court.”
Bryson said Tuesday that if officers have a reason to believe they arrested the wrong person, they’re required to investigate.
“This happens much more frequently then what the public hears about,” he said. “It’s a result of either intentional or unintentional conduct by the officers.”
The suit is asking for compensatory damages of $500,000 under federal law, as well as at least $50,000 under state law, in addition to punitive damages.
Eight days after Shane Lee Brown was released from jail, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office contacted Las Vegas police with the location of the 49-year-old Shane Brown, court records show.
He was in jail in Needles, California, the Sheriff’s Office told Metro. It was unclear Tuesday if the older Shane Brown was in the jail when the 23-year-old was arrested.