Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
The Albuquerque Police Department officer who pulled over mixed martial arts
fighter Jon “Bones” Jones on suspicion of drag racing last month has been the subject of three civilian complaints over traffic stops or arrests of black men and has a lawsuit pending against him filed by another black man.
None of the allegations in the complaints was sustained by the Police Oversight Commission, and Celina Espinoza, a police spokeswoman, says there is no pattern of racist policing in Officer Jason Brown’s history. She said that, as a DWI unit officer, Brown arrests many people unhappy about facing DWI charges.
“None of the allegations so far show he has any pattern or practice of biased-based policing,” said Espinoza. DWI stops are “not your run-of-the-mill traffic stop. (DWI stops) are more frequently complained upon,” she said.
Still, Vincent Ward, Jones’ attorney, said he’ll delve into Brown’s history with the department to see if he has a history of biased-based policing.
“The officer who happened to pull him over is a guy who has a history of being accused of racial profiling. It is concerning to me that Jon spent three days in jail after being stopped by a guy who may in fact be a racist,” Ward said in an interview Saturday. “Of course, I plan to look into it. And if there’s merit, I’m going to file something in court unless the officer dismisses the tickets.”
Brown issued Jones, who is black, a series of citations last month that landed Jones in jail for 54 hours because he was on probation for a prior hit-and-run case and didn’t report the traffic tickets to authorities.
The incident went viral after Brown’s lapel camera showed Jones exchanging insults with Brown.
Jones accused Brown of lying and said the officer was “ridiculous” and a “pig.” He cursed at the officer multiple times. “I’m sworn to protect the citizens from people like you, Mr. Jones,” Brown said.
“You’re despicable,” Jones responded.
“I feel the same way about you, sir,” Brown said.
“Pig, you’re disgusting.”
“Once again, the feeling’s mutual,” Brown said.
Jones, who was on probation for a April 2015 hit-and-run case that left the other driver, a pregnant woman, with a broken arm, was booked into jail March 29 because he failed to report the citations, according to court records.
The complaints were made in 2009, 2013 and 2014, according to city documents.
In 2009, Rozel Minter said in a complaint that Brown and another officer stopped Minter and his passenger near Central and Yucca SW because they were “black males in a nice car with rims.”
The officers said Minter was stopped because his temporary tags were hard to read. Minter’s complaint appears to be more directed at the other officer, but it names both that officer and Brown.
Minter said he and his passenger were forced to keep their hands up throughout the traffic stop, and the incident scared his young son, who was in the back seat.
William Deaton, an independent review officer at the time, said there was no evidence to support Minter’s allegation, according to city documents.
In 2013, a complaint was filed on behalf of Ivory Soto, whom Brown arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. The complaint only accused Brown of not using his lapel camera when he arrested Soto.
Brown said in a police report that he arrested Soto because Soto was asleep at the wheel in a lane of traffic near Fourth and Gold in Downtown Albuquerque and there was a puddle of vomit outside his car.
The drunken driving charge against Soto was ultimately dismissed, according to court records.
Robin Hammer, a former independent review officer, didn’t investigate the complaint because it was filed 90 days after the incident occurred and a city policy in place at the time prevented her from reviewing the case.
In 2014, Terrance Saunders filed a complaint against Brown because he said Brown stopped him for running a stop sign that Saunders said he didn’t run. The stop happened near Eighth and Gold SW after Saunders had parked at his apartment complex.
Hammer said in a letter to Saunders that she found no evidence that he was racially profiled.
In addition to the complaints, Kevin Kenney brought a lawsuit against Brown and the city that accused Brown of violating his Constitutional rights by arresting him without cause.
Kenney was stopped by Brown in a Wal-Mart parking lot in August 2013.
The complaint says that Kenney refused to allow Brown to test his blood-alcohol content and was arrested for aggravated DWI.
The man spent 17 months in jail before the case was dismissed. He has at least five drunken driving convictions, according to a state courts website.
Kenney’s lawsuit is pending in state District Court.
Meanwhile, Brown is named in two other lawsuits not tied to racial allegations.
A suit filed last week in federal court alleges a wrongful arrest in a suspected drunken driving case.
The plaintiff, Gary Martinez, said Brown arrested him on suspicion of DWI after he had a medical episode while driving, and that the ordeal forced him to spend two months behind bars.
Martinez was on parole at the time of his arrest and driving a vehicle with a court-ordered ignition interlock – a breath-testing device that prevents a car from starting if alcohol is detected in a driver’s system. Martinez has a seizure disorder, according to the lawsuit.
His attorney on Friday told The Associated Press the interlock device should have indicated to police that Martinez could not have been intoxicated.
According to the lawsuit, officers ordered Martinez to undergo several field sobriety tests while dealing with his medical condition and Brown had Martinez arrested and booked at the Metropolitan Detention Center. Martinez later passed breath and blood alcohol tests, and the charges were dropped. But Martinez remained jailed for roughly two months awaiting a parole violation hearing.
Brown was also sued in 2014 by a deputy U.S. marshal whom Brown arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and had the man’s vehicle towed to the city’s DWI seizure lot. The marshal passed a blood-alcohol content test later that night and was released from custody. But his vehicle wasn’t immediately returned, according to his complaint.
The lawsuit the marshal brought against Brown and the city is pending in state court.
Brown stopped Jones, 28, on March 24 on Central near Oak on suspicion of drag racing.
Jones denied the allegation and said he only revved his Corvette’s engine at a stoplight. Ward said his client was acknowledging a fan who had also stopped at the light.
Brown cited Jones for drag racing, exhibition driving, use of modification of exhaust systems, failure to maintain a traffic lane and improper display of a registration plate.
Ward pointed out that Jones wasn’t cited for speeding, despite being stopped for suspected drag racing on a street with a 30 mph speed limit.
As a result of the probation violation, a judge has ordered Jones to complete an additional 60 hours of community service and anger management and driver improvement courses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report