Music producer Antone Austin says his life was turned upside down about two years ago when police officers arrested him and his girlfriend outside his California home in what a federal lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles claims was a case of racial profiling, excessive force and unlawful arrest.
With a trial date set for October, Austin, known professionally as Tone Stackz, hopes that a pretrial effort to make public the Los Angeles Police Department’s body cam footage of the incident will shed light on his lawsuit’s pending civil rights claims and help with what attorney Faisal Gill described as a “black hole”: their effort to get the criminal charges from that date dropped.
“The police had zero justification to arrest my client,” Austin’s attorney, Faisal Gill, said Wednesday. “He never took a swing, he never acted inappropriately, he never hit them, he never attacked them — he did nothing.”
In a Thursday interview with NBC News, Austin, 42, said he hoped the public would get the opportunity to view the multiple angles of body-worn camera footage that he and his legal team have already viewed.
The LAPD told NBC News that it does not comment on pending litigation.
The federal lawsuit, filed last year, alleges that the couple were wrongly arrested by LAPD officers in front of Austin’s duplex apartment on May 24, 2019 shortly after his upstairs neighbor called the police to enforce a restraining order in a domestic dispute.
When LAPD officers arrived at his Hollywood address, the suit alleges, Austin happened to be taking the trash to the curb.
“When I first saw the cops I looked at them with more of a smile, ‘hey, how are you doing,’ type of vibe, and when I realized that they were coming at me, and I could see the anger in these cops’ eyes while they were approaching me, it was like, ‘what is happening?'” Austin said.
The officers approached Austin, who is Black and 6’5″, and he raised his hands, but officers immediately began to apply excessive force to him, without asking him for his name, identification, or whether he lived there, the suit alleges.
“Even after the caller of the initial complaint informed officers that Mr. Austin was not the perpetrator, they continued to unlawfully seize Mr. Austin, placing him in a choke hold and tackling him to the ground and twisting his arms in positions causing extreme pain,” the suit alleges.
“They didn’t care,” Mr. Austin said in a press release. “The officer just said, ‘We got a call,’ as he started to put his hands on me.”
His girlfriend, singer Michelle Michlewicz, 30, rushed from the shower and attempted to intervene before she was pushed by an officer into the street, where her clothing came undone, exposing her body to the public, the suit alleges.
Austin and Michlewicz’s lawsuit alleges that 10 unnamed LAPD officers used excessive force, failed to intervene, violated civil rights laws and committed battery and negligence during their arrest.
The couple were taken to jail and held before posting bail after midnight, the suit says.
Austin was charged with felony resisting arrest and assault on a police officer and his bail was set at $7,000. Michlewicz was charged with felony lynching, a California law against “the taking by means of a riot of another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer” that carries a maximum of four years in prison, and her bail was set at $50,000.
All charges from the May 2019 incident have not been dropped and have not been prosecuted, Gill said.
Austin said the pending charges loom over him.
“Has the case been dismissed, or is this something I have to worry about popping up five years from now when I’m driving down the street and a cop pulls me over for taking a left turn, and he says, ‘hey, there’s a warrant out for your arrest because there is a charge you didn’t get to deal with’?” Austin asked.
“I just want to find out what’s going on, I want it to be resolved.”
Austin said he knows the interaction with LAPD could have gone better because later it did: officers returned to his block later that week after his neighbor again called the police to enforce her restraining order; the original suspect — a much shorter white man — had escaped when police wrongly arrested Austin, he said.
On the second visit, different officers asked Austin for his name, whether he lived there, and acted “professionally,” he said.
“They asked me, ‘hey, how are you doing sir, have you seen anything suspicious?'” Austin said. “They were real respectful.”