71-Year-Old Black Man Sues Police in South Carolina For Holding Him Naked Outside His Home at Gunpoint


Jethro DeVane (left) and his lawyer Justin Bamberg
Jethro DeVane (left) and his lawyer Justin Bamberg
Screenshot: WCBD News 2

More evidence continues to be revealed that police regularly practice cruelty against Black people in America.

Jethro DeVane, a 71-year-old man in Rock Hill, South Carolina has filed a lawsuit against that city for a June 2019 incident in which police ordered him out of his home and held him at gun point with his hands up—all while he was completely naked.

DeVane says he was sleeping on the night of the incident in question, when he saw light shining through his window and got up to investigate by opening his back , according to a report from CNN based on his legal complaint.

The light was from a flashlight being shone by officers, who were searching for four juveniles. But upon seeing DeVane’s door open, they descended upon the elderly man with all of the aggression that we have come to expect from police officers.

From CNN:

In body cam footage, officers can be heard saying “Rock Hill police, let me see your hands! Let me see your f**cking hands! Get out! Get out! Don’t f**cking shut that door!”

According to the complaint, the officer was “aggressively pointing his department-issued firearm” at DeVane and “cussing him, was about to shoot him.” DeVane told the officer he lived in the house.

The complaint adds DeVane was “aggressively” ordered out of the home and into his backyard “completely naked.” Officers searched his home while the officer who approached him first held him at gunpoint, forcing the elderly man to “keep his hands on the outside wall of the home,” the complaint says.

Following the house search, the officer who held DeVane told him they were looking for a group of juveniles “running around trying to break into cars,” the complaint says.

 Body camera footage of the incident, obtained by DeVane’s lawyer and shared by WCBD News 2 in South Carolina, show an officer identified as Vincent Mentesana indeed ordering the naked elderly man outside of his house and directing a gun at him—for 90 seconds, according to DeVane’s lawsuit.

“I won’t get over it for the rest of my life,” DeVane said at a press conference with his lawyer Justin Bamberg earlier this week. He added that a citizens complaint he filed against the officer was dismissed, and that a police chief spoke to him a month after the incident and told him that he shouldn’t sleep naked.

“Why do we have to be here advocating for human decency and human dignity? It is utterly ridiculous and it is unacceptable,” Bamberg said. “It needs to stop before there is a death.”

Bamberg also said his client was treated less than human, which is an accurate and depressingly common description of police interactions with Black people.

This latest disturbing story echoes that of Anjanette Young, the social worker who was accosted in her home by officers in Chicago while naked even though she wasn’t the subject of their search. The video in that incident was unearthed after two years as part of Young’s lawsuit against the city.

Body camera footage has certainly helped validate the lived experiences of dehumanization and brutality at the hand of police that Black people in America have spoken out about for generations, but we clearly haven’t gotten to the point where police behavior is changing in response to the threat of being captured on video.

DeVane is suing Rock Hill for gross negligence, civil assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and outrage, false imprisonment, abuse of process, civil conspiracy and state constitutional violations. He is also seeking a formal apology from Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys.

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