African American male, Lee Brown, 21, misidentified and jailed in place of a White felon, 49

Brown, 25, had finished work on January 8, 2020, and was driving in Henderson, Nevada -- 14 miles outside of Las Vegas -- when Henderson City Police officers pulled him over, the lawsuit, filed in US District Court of Nevada, details.

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Shane Lee Brown, an African American man, spent six days in jail in Nevada because police misidentified him as a convicted White felon who is more than twice his age, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the police departments of Henderson and Las Vegas.

Shane Lee Brown, an African American man, spent six days in jail in Nevada because police misidentified him as a convicted White felon who is more than twice his age, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the police departments of Henderson and Las Vegas.

Shane Lee Brown is now asking for at least $500,000 in damages.

Brown, 25, had finished work on January 8, 2020, and was driving in Henderson, Nevada — 14 miles outside of Las Vegas — when Henderson City Police officers pulled him over, the lawsuit, filed in US District Court of Nevada, details.

Brown did not have his driver’s license but instead gave police his name, Social Security number and Social Security card, the lawsuit said. He acknowledged to police he had a traffic violation-related warrant, his attorney later told CNN, and had a court date scheduled for the following day.

But after a records check under Brown’s name, a felony warrant for another man named Shane Brown appeared, the lawsuit said. Though the two shared the same first and last name, police did not check for their middle names, the color of their skin and date of birth, according to the lawsuit. Shane Neal Brown, 49, had an outstanding felony bench warrant for ownership or possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, records show.

Despite the differences, Lee Brown was arrested and spent six days in jails at two Las Vegas-area jurisdictions — Henderson Detention Center and Clark County Detention Center, the lawsuit said.

Neal Brown, meanwhile, was arrested two days after the traffic stop that put Lee Brown in jail. According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Neal Brown was arrested in Needles, California, on January 10, 2020, and released to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police on January 22, 2020.

Shannon Phenix, the public defender assigned to Neal Brown’s case, said Lee Brown was released on January 14, 2020.

For four days, both men were in jail at the same time, across state lines.

Henderson Police maintain Lee Brown was “correctly arrested by Henderson Police for driving with a suspended license and for a contempt of court, failure to pay warrant issued by Henderson Municipal Court,” according to statement to CNN.

“Mr. Brown admitted to the arresting officers that he knew his driver license was suspended and that he had traffic warrants in Henderson,” the statement continued.

“That might have been true,” Phenix, the public defender, told CNN. “But he would have only been held at the jail on his traffic warrants and he would have been out of custody in two days, and he would have bail set on those warrants.”

Lee Brown did not get to see a judge within 48 hours as the law requires, since the man he was mistaken for had an ongoing case, and police and jail believed they had the correct person. In fact, he didn’t get to see a judge at all, Phenix told CNN.

Phenix said she wasn’t even notified that an arrest had been made under her case with Neal Brown, because Lee Brown was booked under a separate ID number — “which is a concern because that means the jail knew it wasn’t the same person, because they took fingerprints, but they still had him held on the warrant.”

Instead, she got a call from the panicked mother of Lee Brown, who contacted her and asked for her help getting her son out of jail.

In the meantime, while in custody, Lee Brown repeatedly tried to explain to Henderson Police officers that he was not the 49-year-old Shane Neal Brown who was wanted on a felony warrant.

“It felt like every word I said was falling on deaf ears. No one gave me the time of day, or even listened to what I was trying to explain to them,” Lee Brown told CNN.

Since she couldn’t show the judge her client, Phenix brought mug shots of both men to the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, and pointed out Shane Lee Brown’s didn’t match the original photo of the elder Brown, telling the judge police had arrested the wrong person. Judge Joe Hardy Jr. then ordered Lee Brown to be released immediately.

Once he was released, Lee Brown looked up Shane Neal Brown, and found a booking photo that looked nothing like him.

The attorney now representing Lee Brown in the suit, E. Brent Bryson, said the police failed his client when they did not further investigate his claim of mistaken identity.

“You have a records department at every facility that’s double-checking and making sure the records line up,” He said. “Those people would have potentially had access to paperwork to determine whether this the right guy.”

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