The assault occurred with his young children watching from the back seat of the car
Gregg Kelley, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org, 202-319-1070
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Michael Rowe filed suit against PChange Protective Services LLC, Vesta Corporation (Vesta) and seven Special Police Officers (SPOs) for unlawfully stopping, searching, and assaulting him outside his mother’s and sister’s homes at Park Southern Apartments. After bringing his mother and sister to Park Southern Apartments, Mr. Rowe was grabbed by the SPOs, who choked him, forced him from his car, and handcuffed him. While in handcuffs, the SPOs pepper-sprayed Mr. Rowe in the face and slammed into a fence and on the ground. This was all done without any justification. This brutal attacked occurred in the presence of his young children as they watched in terror. The SPOs also threatened to put them all “in the system.” Mr. Rowe’s mother implored the property manager at Park Southern to intervene. But the property manager, an employee of Vesta, refused to do so. Eventually, members of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) were called to Park Southern Apartments to take Mr. Rowe into custody for formal charges.
Upon arriving at Park Southern Apartments, MPD officers assessed the situation and quickly informed the SPOs that there was no basis for stopping or arresting Mr. Rowe, and released him.
As a result of the incident, Mr. Rowe required medical attention for his wrist, leg, neck and back, and missed work. Mr. Rowe’s also experienced emotional distress and now struggles to bring his family back to Park Southern Apartments, despite having partially grew up in those apartments and still wishing to visit his mother and sister.
Mr. Rowe is represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.
“I would like to seek justice for the unlawful arrest and attack on me and hope that in the future no one else has to go through the embarrassment and harassment that I had to endure,” Mr. Rowe said about the lawsuit.
Special Police Officers are private officers empowered under DC law to carry guns, make arrests, and protect private property. They are only required to have a minimal amount of training and there is little to no oversight of their actions by District Officials. Though employed by non-public entities, SPOs are still required to uphold the Constitution when carrying out their policing functions.
“The Special Police Officers’ treatment of Mr. Rowe was less than human. The Special Police Officers savagely attacked Mr. Rowe despite him being no threat to them, says Carlos Andino, associate counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “The property management company’s condoning of this behavior highlights the larger unthinkable pattern of abuse occurring to residents at this property.”
“The lawsuit, filed in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, includes claims for violations of Mr. Rowe’s federal civil rights for the unlawful arrest, search, and use of force, and claims for violations of D.C. law, including assault and battery. The lawsuit seeks damages and an injunction to cause Vesta and PChange to improve their practices so that such violations do not happen to Mr. Rowe or anyone else in the future.”