LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Somehow, a Black man wound up in jail for six days on a warrant meant for a white man nearly twice his age, and 13 Investigates has learned this isn't an isolated case.
During his arrest and the week he spent behind bars, Shane Lee Brown just wanted someone to hear him. He says he was "begging and pleading with everyone to just listen to me, that I'm not this guy that you think I am."
When Brown was pulled over by Henderson police in January of 2020, he figured it was just an ordinary traffic stop. He knew he had an issue with his driver's license.
"I just didn't have the physical license," Brown said. "I only had the paper license that you get issued, because I lost my wallet."
Another issue: his car registration was expired, resulting in a misdemeanor traffic warrant.
"I told officers I did have a court date to get everything settled," he said. "I had proof of it as well."
But when officers ran his name through their database, Brown says they came back and told him he was a felon.
Shane Lee Brown is 25-years old and Black. Shane Neal Brown is 50-years old, a convicted felon, and he's white. But according to a federal lawsuit alleging mistaken identity, that didn't stop police from arresting the younger Black man and keeping him in jail for nearly a week.
"I was in disbelief," Brown said. "It felt like there's no way they're taking me to jail for a felony charge when I'm not a felon."
He was never charged with any crime, despite the initial arrest on a misdemeanor traffic warrant. He first sat in Henderson jail, then the Clark County Detention Center until a judge ordered him freed.
"What's really egregious is that when Shane got out, he Googled this individual on a regular Google search and was able to determine that this gentleman was white, with a beard, blue eyes..." said Brown's attorney, Brent Bryson.
That brought on a torrent of emotions for Brown.
"Frustration, anger, disappointment," he said. "It was just an overflow of emotions."
The City of Henderson says Brown's initial arrest on the traffic charges was legal and proper. Bryson says even if it was, keeping Brown in jail was not.
"I don't know whether the mistake was intentional. I don't know whether it was negligent. I don't know if race played a factor. All those things are possible," Bryson said. "What we do know is we're looking for someone to be held accountable."
Arrests based on mistaken identity happen more often than you might think, Bryson points out.
In April of 2020, Keyherra Green filed a federal lawsuit against Las Vegas Metro Police and individual officers, claiming she was wrongfully arrested for the murder of a 73-year-old man whose body was found wrapped in plastic in a closet, months after his death. In that case, both women were similar in age.
But in this case, "I don't know how you confuse a young, African American man with a middle-aged white man, when the descriptions are so readily available to you," Bryson said. "I mean, it's inexcusable."
Brown says his experience with police sends an unsettling message to the community.
"They could do whatever they want, pretty much, and say they're acting under the law," he said.
13 Action News requested comment from LVMPD on this lawsuit. Department officials said they do not comment on pending litigation.