Los Angeles, CA – A federal jury on Thursday sided with the city and found that Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers had probable cause to arrest Black Lives Matter Los Angeles founder Melina Abdullah at a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting in 2018.
After less than two hours of deliberation on March 24, the jury decided that Abdullah was not wrongfully arrested by then-LAPD Detective Jason Curtis, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“I’m in shock,” Abdullah said after the verdict was announced. “Just like the shock I felt when I was arrested.”
The Black Lives Matter LA founder alleged in her lawsuit that she was singled out for her activism after she attended hundreds of police commission meetings to criticize the department’s policies, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The incident cited in the lawsuit occurred on May 8, 2018 after a woman named Sheila Hines-Brim threw a powdery substance at now-former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck during a police commission meeting.
Hines-Brim claimed she had thrown the ashes of her niece, who died in police custody in 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported.
She was arrested immediately and taken from the room.
Cell phone video showed Abdullah followed Hines-Brim and the officers escorting her from the room, the Los Angeles Times reported.
An officer can be heard in the video saying “Detain Melina” and “Melina needs to be in custody.”
Cell phone video showed an officer put Abdullah’s hands behind her back and handcuffed her, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I didn’t understand why I was being grabbed,” Abdullah testified on March 24.
Former Det. Curtis said Abdullah had grabbed his arm to try and stop him from arresting Hines-Brim, the Los Angeles Times reported.
He said Abdullah held his arm in a “c-grip,” but other officers testified they didn’t see her grab him or Det. Curtis pulling away.
Deputy City Atty. Christian Bojorquez told the jury that Det. Curtis had seen Abdullah hundreds of times at commission meetings and wouldn’t have arrested her without probable cause, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Former Det. Curtis testified that he arrested Abdullah because she assaulted an officer, not because she was an activist.
“Someone took hold of my arm,” he told the jury and said he was certain it had been Abdullah.
Abdullah was arrested that day for suspicion of battery on an officer, but the charges were eventually dropped by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Black Lives Matter activist was furious that the jury believed the testimony of the former detective and found her lawsuit without merit.
“I don’t know how a jury could come back with that verdict with all the evidence that was presented at trial,” she complained. “I did not willfully or harmfully grab the officer. The jury allowed themselves to be distracted.”
“It just reminds us justice doesn’t come from systems that were meant to harm us. We have to constantly usher in justice for ourselves,” Abdullah added.
She still has at least one more lawsuit pending against Los Angeles police.
Attorneys for the Black Lives Matter leader filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court on Sept. 21, 2021 that LAPD officers who responded to her home for a “swatting” call had made an intimidating show of force in retaliation for her leading protests in the city, KCAL reported.
That incident occurred on Aug. 12, 2020, when Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers responded to her home after a 911 caller claimed a man was holding hostages inside it, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Abdullah streamed live on Instagram as she came out of her house with her hands up to more than 20 LAPD officers, many in SWAT gear, who had her surrounded, KCAL reported.
Police determined that the activist had been the target of a swatting incident, when someone makes a fake 911 call that prompts an armed response to the home of an unsuspecting person, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But Abdullah was furious about the LAPD’s handling of the emergency call to her home which occurred amidst nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police, KCAL reported.
Her lawsuit said that the officers’ actions constituted unlawful seizure, false imprisonment, excessive force, assault, and negligence, among other violations of her rights, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The city and the police department said they could not comment on pending litigation, but union leaders issued a statement, according to KCAL.
“We have no doubt that if LAPD officers would have been delayed in their response or did not take the threat to kill hostages seriously, Ms. Abdullah would be suing the City for not providing an adequate police response,” the union that represents LAPD officers said in a statement.