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Fox 5 DC: Man files lawsuit claiming Laurel police officer strip searched him in parking lot

Reprint from Fox 5 DC

It is a bizarre and troubling claim. Allan Sergeant said he was strip searched by a Laurel police officer in the middle of a parking lot in front of a CVS pharmacy.

It started as a traffic stop.

“He said with or without your permission, he put his hand on his weapon, and said, ‘I have to search this car,’” said Sergeant.

The stop happened one evening in March of 2014 when the store and parking lot were still full of people. After being told to get out of the car, Sergeant said the situation became truly alarming.

“I put my hands up and he started to pat me down,” he said. “When he pat me down, he went to my groin area two times … He opened my pants, pulled my pants, pulled my boxers down, looked at my private, then he told me, ‘Okay, you can go.’”

Sergeant said he was publically exposed and humiliated and feels he was stopped for no other reason than for being black.

On Thursday, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against the officer he claims was responsible, Officer Alfie Acol, as well as a second unidentified officer, the Laurel Police Department, its police chief and the city of Laurel.

“He was subjected to blatantly unconstitutional conduct,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, who is representing Sergeant. “There is no set of circumstances that can legitimize, justify or legalize this officer’s conduct.”

A spokesperson for Laurel police and the city released the following statement:

“The City of Laurel has been notified of a lawsuit that was allegedly filed on July 30, 2015 in Federal Court. This lawsuit is based on a traffic stop that was conducted by a Laurel police officer in March 2014.

“As of now, the City has not been served with any paperwork regarding a lawsuit or intent to sue, and we are only aware of the allegations contained in a press release from the attorneys representing the plaintiff in this case.

“The City is restrained from further comment because of the due process afforded to the involved officers as well as the City’s personnel policies. However, the City unequivocally denies that the traffic stop, which was initiated by a call about a suspicious vehicle, was the result of any racial profiling, or that racism of any type was involved. The City of Laurel and the Laurel Police Department also adamantly deny that the victim in this incident was strip searched, and his body exposed to public view by our officers. An Internal Investigation was conducted and appropriate action was taken, including additional departmental wide training in the area of Search and Seizure. At no time did the Laurel Police Department attempt to imply that there was no wrong doing by the officers. The City is confident that as the case moves through the legal system the outrageous claims made by the attorneys in the press release will be shown to be just that—outrageous.”

Sergeant said, “I don’t think I’ve got justice. He’s still a cop. He can do this to anyone. He can do it to me again because he did and he got away.”