‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Crewmember Says LAPD Racially Profiled Him During Gunpoint Arrest
Ernest Simon Jr., a driver for Grey’s Anatomy, is suing the Los Angeles Police Department, claiming he was racially profiled when he was held at gunpoint for no good reason during a March 2021 incident at work.
The suit claims that LAPD officers “initiated an unwarranted, unjustified, and unlawful ‘high risk’ traffic stop at [Simon’s] place of work — with no reasonable suspicion or probable cause — and then forced him to lie spread eagle on an asphalt lot, at gunpoint, for over 20 minutes despite being unarmed and completely cooperative.” The “unjustified show of force,” the suit adds, caused Simon to “legitimately (and understandably) fear that he was going to be shot at his workplace in front of his co-workers for simply being a Black man in the wrong neighborhood.”
While the suit notes that the LAPD has been investigating the conduct of the officers involved for the past year, it argues the police department has “failed to take any meaningful action” to hold them accountable. The suit — which names the LAPD, the City of Los Angeles, and unidentified LAPD officers as defendants — is seeking damages on several causes of action, including unreasonable search and seizure, de facto arrest without probable cause, racial profiling, excessive force, assault, and false arrest and false imprisonment.
A representative for the Los Angeles City Attorney said the office is reviewing the complaint and declined to comment further. A rep for the LAPD did not immediately return a request for comment.
As the suit explains, Simon’s work as a driver on Grey’s Anatomy involved him driving cast and crew between the show’s filming locations and the “basecamp” for the production, which in this case was a fenced-in playground and parking lot in Tarzana, California. While returning to basecamp after dropping crewmembers off at set, the suit claims two cops began following him after “clearly observing Mr. Simon’s race and appearance” when he came to a stop at an intersection with his window down. Driving a company vehicle and aware that a squad car was behind him, the suit claims that Simon was careful not to break any traffic laws as he continued his drive.
As the LAPD has said, the automated license plate reader in the officers’ squad car alerted them that the van Simon was driving had a license plate that matched a BMW sedan that had been reported stolen. But not only does the suit claim that the officers made no effort to verify the reading, they ostensibly did not take into account that Simon wasn’t driving a BMW sedan, but a Ford Transit van. Ultimately, the suit claims, with no reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or obvious criminal activity, the cops decided to initiate a “high risk” traffic stop against Simon after he pulled into the Grey’s basecamp.
After making the stop, the basecamp’s hired security team allegedly told the officers that Simon was authorized to be there, but the police nevertheless approached Simon with their guns drawn. The suit states Simon was “respectful and fully cooperative” as he tried to explain, but the officers “forcibly removed” him from the van, ordered him to “lay face down and spread eagle on the hot asphalt,” and kept him there for over 20 minutes. The cops reportedly called for back-up as well, prompting seven more squad cars and an LAPD helicopter to arrive at the scene.
While Simon was on the asphalt, the suit claims the officers disregarded pleas and additional explanations from his coworkers, including another Black person who was allegedly rebuffed. The cops also allegedly told people at the scene to “get out of the line of fire,” which heightened Simon’s “legitimate fear for his life as he lay surrounded by at least eight LAPD officers pointing their guns in his direction.”
The cops also allegedly searched the van Simon was driving, but despite finding nothing picked him off the ground, double handcuffed him, and held him for about 10 more minutes. It was only after one of Simon’s white coworkers told the cops that he was an authorized employee that Simon was finally released.
“The only conceivable reason that Doe Officer Defendants had to draw their firearms was based on their racial profiling of Mr. Simon,” the suit reads. “Given that Mr. Simon was unarmed and fully cooperative, there simply were no facts to support a reasonable belief that deadly force may be justified.”