Harlem Restaurant Owner Sues NYPD Over False Arrest After Trying to Help White Woman In Distress
A New York restaurant owner’s efforts to aid a drunk, unconscious patron landed him and his employees in jail on a slew of bogus charges by police, according to a federal lawsuit.
Clyde Pemberton, the owner of MIST Harlem, and two workers filed a complaint against the NYPD last week accusing officers of false arrest and civil rights violations, The New York Times reported. In the suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, lawyers claim the arrest was racially motivated and say Pemberton was arrested simply “for being a conscientious business owner while Black.”
This incident is “an example of the kinds of interactions with law enforcement that often strain the department’s relationship with minority communities,” the lawsuit states.
The drama unfolded June 1, 2017, when Pemberton said he was having a business meeting at his restaurant around 10:30 that evening. Suddenly, there was a ruckus and Pemberton spotted two ladies leaving the restroom, dragging a third woman who was unconscious and clearly in need of medical attention.
According to the complaint, Pemberton, who’s also a neurologist, approached the women to see what was wrong and suggested their ailing friend be placed in a chair. That’s when he says one of the women jabbed him in the chest and called him a racial slur.
“Go back to Africa, you n—-r!” the woman reportedly yelled.
Pemberton’s employee, Christian Baptiste, was also struck in the head with the second woman’s purse, the lawsuit alleges.
Other workers scrambled to call 911 as the women continued kicking and fighting the men and things only escalated from there.
NYPD officers, who were all white, soon arrived at the restaurant and only bothered to question one of the women before arresting Pemberton, Baptiste and another employee, Thomas Debnam. All were charged with unlawful imprisonment, according to the New York Post.
The complaint alleges that at least one of the officers, Anthony Sengco, “testilyed” or gave false statements, in his complaint claiming he witnessed Pemberton, Baptiste and Debnam blocking the exit to the restaurant and said the men stated that they were trying to keep the ladies from leaving. All three denied making such statements, however.
Baptiste and his employees were released after spending six hours in police custody, the newspaper reported. The charges against them were also dropped in November.
The men “did nothing wrong, and no reasonable police officer would have believed they did anything wrong,” the complaint states. “The NYPD arrested Dr. Pemberton, Mr. Baptiste, and Mr. Debnam not because of their conduct, but because they were there and they are black. Neither their side of the story nor their freedom mattered to the police.”
Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, said the agency would review the case and “respond accordingly.”
Though the gentlemen’s charges were ultimately tossed, their arrests left them $15,000 in the hole, according to the suit.
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