Former Windermere officer brings suit against police department
Officer Jason Darnell accused of racially profiling
WINDERMERE, Fla. – A former Windermere police officer is suing the department he once worked for.
In 2013, Officer Jason Darnell was arrested and accused of racially profiling people he pulled over.
Darnell has since hired two well-known attorneys, Jose Baez and Benjamin Crump, to represent him after charges against him were dropped. Thursday morning, Darnell, his wife, Katlyn, along with Baez and Crump, appeared together at a news conference to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit.
"I was young, I had my wife, we had a baby on the way. It all could have been taken away from me for one person's false allegations against me," Darnell said.
Darnell was arrested on 5 felony charges. He was facing up to 55 years in prison.
"This incident has done nothing but destroy this family. And the reason myself and Mr. Crump have taken this case, this cause on, is because we think falsely accusing someone of racism does more harm to the cause of fighting discrimination than possibly anything can," said Attorney Jose Baez.
Darnell says he is looking to clear his name. He says he's been unable to continue his dream of serving as a police officer since his arrest.
"You Google my name, it comes up as officer arrested for racial profiling. The general public doesn't know the ins and outs of the entire story until now," Darnell said.
Details from the lawsuit, which were revealed Thursday morning, say certain Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators and members of the police department "conspired against" Darnell and ruined his reputation.
He's suing for undisclosed damages.
Darnell was arrested in 2013 for racially profiling black drivers and allegedly instructing other officers to do the same.
Officer Alejandro Rivera was interviewed by FDLE investigators in November 2013. He said Darnell told him to use a code word to pull black people over.
"I was being told to stop vehicles based on the color of the driver's skin," Rivera said in a recorded interview with FDLE investigators. "I remember, I asked him what a bravo vehicle was, and he said, 'Bravo stands for black -- stop it,' so I said, 'OK, no, I'm not doing it.'"
State Attorney Jeff Ashton dropped the charges. The state said Darnell was being investigated on three separate occasions, one of which he was not on duty and could not have done the acts or made the statements attributed to him. They also said Rivera made inconsistent statements under oath.
"The allegations made to officer to Darnell were false and they could've been proven easily with a competent investigation ," Crump. said.
Baez and Crump achieved national fame during the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin cases.
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