A music producer and recording studio owner from Hollywood said he was thrown to the ground and arrested by Los Angeles Police Department officers in a case of mistaken identity, and said he thinks it happened because he's Black.
"They pushed me up against this gate, boom!" Antone Austin showed NBC4's I-Team during an interview at the arrest scene on Fountain Avenue.
He was stopped and grabbed by Hollywood Division patrol officers on May 24, 2019.
He didn't know at the time that one of his neighbors had called 911 to report that an ex-boyfriend was back and she needed help. Her call disconnected before she provided a complete description of the ex.
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Austin said he overheard the officers when they pulled up.
"And the one officer at one point says, 'Is that the guy?' And the other officer says, 'Probably.' And after he gets out of the car, the driver says, 'Yeah, that's the guy,'" Austin said.
It turns out the ex-boyfriend that was the subject of the emergency call is shorter than Austin.
"I'm like, 'Wait a minute, man. I live here.' And I turn around and I say, 'Hey, man, I live here,'" Austin said, which is when he said officers used more force to push him into a garage door, then on to the sidewalk, where he said he was held down and handcuffed by more officers.
"I started yelling for help."
Austin's girlfriend Michelle Michlewicz said she ran to try to intervene, knowing that Austin wasn't the subject of the police call, and said she was pushed down by officers, which caused her robe to open. She was exposed and recorded by police body-worn video cameras.
Both Austin and Michlewicz were arrested and held in jail for hours.
Austin was accused of resisting arrest, though nearly two years after the incident neither Austin nor Michlewicz have been charged with a crime.
During an interview with the I-Team's Eric Leonard, Austin said he thought none of it would have happened if a white person had been on the sidewalk that day.
"If they thought you were the guy, I feel like they would have had a conversation with you," Austin said.
"They wouldn't just immediately thought about slapping cuffs on your body and then pushing you up against a dirty garage, slamming you on the concrete," he said.
Austin and Michlewicz have filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles in federal court, accusing the arresting LAPD officers of using excessive force, other officers of failing to intervene to stop the arrest, violations of the Unruh and Tom Bane Civil Rights Acts, and battery and negligence.
"It is a big deal, a person's dignity is a big deal," said their attorney Faisal Gill, who said it was important to hold officers accountable for misconduct, almost like the popular police theory of broken windows, in which small crimes are aggressively enforced in order to prevent low level criminals from graduating to more serious offenses.
"A person should not have to go through what he had to go through just because he's an African American male," Gill said.
The LAPD declined to comment on the allegations because a civil lawsuit is pending.
In court filings the LA City Attorney's Office said the couple's claim is without merit and should be dismissed. It argued that Austin and Michlewicz are themselves to blame for the force used against them, and said that police should be immune from liability.
Much of the incident was recorded by body-worn video cameras carried by the officers involved, Gill said.
"What amazes me is that they're still fighting me," he said. "They have no case. We have the body cam footage; we have the 911 recording. Everything bears out the facts as we say it."
A hearing has been set for later this month in which Gill will ask a federal judge to remove a protective order that bars the public from seeing the recordings. The city of LA has opposed the release of the video in court filings.
Austin and Michlewicz moved to a new home after the incident.
Austin told the I-Team he believes the confrontation with the officers could have ended much differently if he hadn't called out for help, which led to his neighbors calling police, unaware Austin was being detained by officers on the sidewalk outside.
"I just know that these are the situations that people that look like me die in," Austin said.
"The neighbors that saved my life are also white folks. So it's like, you know, without them, and no telling what would have happened to me.”