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Police body camera footage from a 2019 incident in which a Black music producer was confronted and arrested outside his Hollywood home was unsealed by a federal judge this week as part of an ongoing civil rights lawsuit.
Antone Austin, a producer also known as Tone Stackz, was bringing in his trash bins in front of his Fountain Avenue apartment in broad daylight on May 24, 2019, when he was suddenly approached by two LAPD officers, who were responding to a 911 call from a woman who said she'd just seen the man she'd taken out a restraining order against in her vicinity. She didn't give a specific address or description of the man.
The now-unsealed body camera footage of the incident opens with the responding officers doubling back in their patrol when they see Austin. “This the dude?” asks one of the officers. "Probably," the other responds.
As they approach without giving any explanation, the officers are immediately heard telling Austin to turn around; he is heard asking them why.
“Because I told you to,” an officer replies. Austin, 42, then tells them that he lives in the building, to which the same officer replies, “OK, man, I don’t know who I'm looking for.”
Within seconds, the officers become aggressive with Austin and yank his arms behind his back, slamming him face-first against a wall and attempting to handcuff him. He then begins to yell to his girlfriend, Michelle Michlewiz, and screams “Help!” repeatedly.
“You’re looking for the people upstairs,” he shouts.
Michlewiz, 30, then appears in the footage as she tries to intervene. Her robe blows open, and her naked body is exposed on the street before she's pushed to the ground. Court documents note a request to have the nudity redacted or blurred.
“I just got tackled to the ground,” she is heard saying, as Austin says that his rights have been violated.
The 911 caller appeared on the scene and told the officers that Austin was not the suspect, who is now confirmed to have been a white man, but they continued with the arrest.
Austin and Michlewiz were arrested and held for several hours. He was charged with resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, though the latter charge was dropped, KABC reported; Michlewiz was charged with interfering in the arrest, which could lead to a four-year prison sentence.
The couple paid a total of $57,000 in bail, according to a lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles last year, with Michlewiz's being set at $50,000. Jasmyne Cannick, a spokesperson for the couple, told Oxygen.com on Friday that the City Attorney’s Office won’t respond to their requests for a status update on the charges.
"The name of Michelle’s charge is lynching and it’s a felony," Cannick said via email.
The couple's lawyer, Faisal Gill — who recently entered the race for Los Angeles city attorney — said the incident was racial profiling.
"No question about it and to add injury to insult they arrest my clients, put them in jail ... Even the woman who called 911 tried to tell the officers that they had the wrong person," the civil rights lawyer said.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has sought to dismiss the suit, stating in court papers that Austin and Michlewicz hold the blame for the force used against them by the two officers and that the police should be immune from liability, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The lawsuit is set for a jury trial in October, according to KABC.
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