Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai partners Brian Olney and Dan Stormer represent Shibani Balsaver and Sheilanee Sen, two young women of South Asian descent, in a lawsuit against the LAPD and its officers filed March 16, 2021 in federal court. Ms. Balsaver and Ms. Sen are suing the department for using illegal and violent “high risk” tactics during what should have been a routine traffic stop that was not in any way high risk, and for failing to train LAPD officers not to pull over drivers of formerly stolen vehicles that have since been reported as recovered.
Attorney Brian Olney stated, “The LAPD is sworn to uphold the law, not break it. The Courts have made it absolutely clear that this behavior is unconstitutional. This truck was not stolen. It is the LAPD’s failure to properly train its officers that created this life-threatening situation.”
On February 8, 2020, LAPD officers pulled the women over in a rented U-Haul truck while they were moving Ms. Balsaver into her new apartment east of Hollywood. At least 11 LAPD officers surrounded them while a police helicopter hovered overhead. LAPD officers aimed their weapons at Ms. Balsaver and Ms. Sen and forced them to lie “proned out” face down in the street while large male officers jammed their knees into the women’s backs and into Ms. Balsaver’s neck and handcuffed them. The shocking incident was recorded on a bystander’s cell phone.
Shibani Balsaver said, “I was so terrified that my body was shaking. I thought the officers were going to shoot and kill me right then and there. I thought this might be the end.”
Sheilanee Sen said, “I saw the officer pointing his gun at me. I thought he might shoot and kill me. I was panicking. My heart was beating so hard that it felt like it was going to jump out of my chest.”
The officers were following LAPD’s official policy of using so-called “high risk” procedures during low risk traffic stops for non-violent potential property crimes such as a suspected stolen vehicle. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal declared such policies unconstitutional in 2014, but the LAPD has defied the Court and continues to terrify innocent Angelenos with its unlawful practices.
In addition, officers were mistaken in their belief that the truck was stolen. Although it had been stolen and subsequently recovered and rented out several times, the LAPD had failed to train its officers on new computer codes distinguishing formerly stolen vehicles from currently stolen ones.
Dan Stormer said, “It is no surprise that the LAPD continues to shoot and kill innocent, unarmed people. Their fear based confrontational and gun-oriented tactics repeatedly lead to death and violence. It is a complete and utter failure of leadership and training.”
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