A 71-year-old black man in South Carolina was forced to stand naked in his yard as police held him at gunpoint after he peeked outside his door when he heard the officers searching for teenagers suspected of breaking into cars.
Jethro DeVane is now suing the city of Rock Hill and its police department over the June 2019 ordeal that he says left him embarrassed and fearing for his life.
Body camera video of the incident, which was released by DeVane’s lawyer on Tuesday, showed the elderly man peering out of the door of his Rock Hill home at about 4am on June 3 last year.
One of the officers cursed at him, told him not to close the door and then ordered DeVane out of his home, the lawsuit says.
The footage shows a naked DeVane coming out with his hands up before being made to face the wall of his home.
Jethro DeVane, 71, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Rock Hill in South Carolina over the June 2019 incident at his home when police who were searching for teens held him at gunpoint outside his home while he was naked
When DeVane asked what was going on, one of the officers, identified as Vincent Mentesana, told him ‘I don’t want to talk to you’.
The officer held the gun to DeVane’s head for 90 seconds as other officers looked through his home.
Once he got the all clear, Mentesana then asked DeVane his name and told him why police were in the neighborhood, according to the video.
‘I did what the man said. He had the weapon. He could have took my life in a minute,’ DeVane said.
DeVane said he was embarrassed because there was at least one woman among the officers at his home.
He said watching the body camera footage again made him fear for his life all over again because he felt if he tried to close the door, grab some clothes or argued, the officer with the gun to his head would fire.
‘I won’t get over it the rest of my life,’ DeVane said.
DeVane said some people have asked why he came to the door nude. He said he was in his own house, saw bright flashlights coming toward it and didn’t think.
‘I didn’t have my clothes on that night. Why? I’m in my house,’ he said.
Body camera video of the incident, which was released by DeVane’s lawyer on Tuesday, showed the elderly man peering out of the door of his Rock Hill home at about 4am on June 3 last year. Police ordered him out of his home despite him being naked
The officer held the gun to DeVane’s head for 90 seconds as other officers looked through his home. DeVane said he was embarrassed because there was at least one woman among the officers at his home
DeVane said the police chief came to his home later that month to discuss what happened and said he probably shouldn’t sleep naked.
‘Like I told him, if you had let me know you were coming, I would have put my clothes on,’ DeVane said.
No one saw teens in DeVane’s yard and police did not have a search warrant for his house, according to the lawsuit which claims gross negligence, emotional distress and false imprisonment.
The suit does not ask for a specific dollar amount.
In a news release shortly after the incident, police said officers who saw the teens running noticed DeVane’s house with tall grass, no lights and open door and a dirty swimming pool.
They thought it might be abandoned and the teens could be inside.
The officers saw DeVane who was ‘detained by officers for safety’ and searched his home in the interest of public safety, the news release said.
DeVane said watching the body camera footage again made him fear for his life all over again because he felt if he tried to close the door, grab some clothes or argued, the officer with the gun to his head would fire
DeVane’s lawsuit said the Rock Hill police chief found officer Mentesana was discourteous but acted properly, along with the officers who went inside his home and searched it without a warrant.
Rock Hill Police spokesman Lt. Michael Chavis said the department does not comment on pending lawsuits.
He referred questions about whether Mentesana was still employed with the department or disciplined to the city’s human relations, which did not respond to an email.
DeVane’s attorney, Justin Bamberg, said police were running around with guns drawn, cursing and barking orders just to find teens who might have broken in a car before making the black man stand naked in his yard.
He said that would have never happened in a rich, white neighborhood.
‘Why do we have to be here advocating for human decency and human dignity? It is utterly ridiculous and it is unacceptable,’ Bamberg said.
‘And it needs to stop before there is a death. God forbid, if Mr DeVane had panicked like a lot of people would and tried to close that door.’