A federal lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that members of a Bay Area police department in California “engaged in a repeated pattern and practice of civil rights violations and other misconduct” against residents.
The complaint, which names the City of Antioch, nine current and former Antioch Police Department officers, and an undetermined number of unnamed officers was filed in the Northern District of California by attorneys for five state residents and a family member on behalf of a decedent.
The plaintiffs claim a recent investigation into police behavior by the Contra Costa County District Attorney (CCCDA) “highlights a pattern and practice of discriminatory law enforcement based on race and gender” by members of the police department.
The report from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office was issued in two parts late last month and was publicly released last week. It named 17 officers in the Antioch Police Department who, per the report, sent or received racist text messages in 2020 and 2021, including use of the n-word and sharing pictures of gorillas in reference to Black people.
The partially redacted report is part of an investigation the prosecutor’s office conducted with the FBI “regarding crimes of moral turpitude and criminal offenses” among current and former officers, the released documents said without detailing what spurred the probe.
The suit – seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial – alleges the plaintiffs “experienced malicious treatment by Antioch Police Department officers during the time frame in which officers exchanged these text messages” and that with the publication of the CCCDA report they “recently discovered that the method with which officers interacted with them was based in racial animus, misogyny, homophobia, and other offensive conduct.”
The lawsuit comes amid nationwide scrutiny of police use of force, sparked in part by the release of bodycam footage in several cases where an interaction with police resulted in death or injury, including the fatal February shooting of Alonzo Bagley in Shreveport, Louisiana, and the beating death of Tyre Nichols by officers in Memphis, Tennessee.
Lawsuit alleges officers bragged about beating, made racist remarks
Six of officers named in the complaint are also identified in the CCCDA report as having exchanged racist text messages.
In the lawsuit, plaintiff Trent Allen claims he was brutally beaten in 2021 by officer Eric Rombough, one of the defendants.
The CCCDA’s report alleges Rombough bragged about beating Allen in text messages sent to other members of the police force.
In one exchange, Rombough stated that he gave Allen, who is Black, “6 muzzle thumps” and tried to “kick his head over the fence.” Rombough also stated, “I tried to knock him unconscious” and referred to Allen as the n-word and a homophobic slur, according to the complaint.
Plaintiff Shagoofa Khan was arrested in 2021 for arson after burning a “Blue Lives Matter” flag at a protest, according to the complaint. Officer Josh Evans referred to her in text messages to other Antioch Police officers as a racist slur against Arabs, according to the complaint.
Plaintiff Adam Carpenter said he was arrested without cause in 2020 by four Antioch Police officers for possession of a firearm charges, which were later dropped, according to the complaint. Leading up to the arrest, Carpenter said he was pulled over nearly ten times in 11 months. The lawsuit alleges he was the victim of racism, pointing to the number of times the police officers used racial slurs against Black people in their text messages. He is not specifically named in text messages shared in the report.
Plaintiff Diego Savala is suing on behalf of his now deceased father, Guadalupe Savala.
Savala states officer Rombough and officer Scott Duggar shot and killed Guadalupe in his home, shooting him 19 times, according to the complaint. The complaint further states Guadalupe Savala was involved in a seven-hour standoff with police after firing his rifle at his car and neighbor’s home.
Diego Savala is filing the lawsuit because the officers involved in his father’s case are implicated in the text message scandal. Guadalupe Savala is not named in specific text messages shared in the report.
Joshua Butler claims he was arrested without cause in 2022, stating he was arrested for discharging a firearm but said multiple officers never found a weapon, the complaint alleges.
The complaint also states since then, officers have pulled him over nearly 10 times, “verbally accosting him with racist obscenities.” He was not specifically named text messages from the investigative reports.
“I’ve never seen the pervasive form of racial bigotry that was communicated amongst these officers as if it were a cup of coffee […] it made me cringe to think that these were the very people that were supposed to be serving the people of this community.” the plaintiff’s lawyer, John Burris, said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
CNN attempted to contact the current and former officers named in the suit and the additional police personnel listed in the CCDA’s investigative reports but received no comment.
The Antioch Police Department, the city attorney for Antioch and the Antioch Police Officer’s Association did not return calls for comment on the suit.