LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A young Black man is suing police in Las Vegas and Henderson after he was mistaken for an older white man nearly twice his age, arrested and held in jail for six days.
Shane Lee Brown, 25, spoke with 13 Investigates reporter Darcy Spears to share his story, which started when he was stopped by Henderson police in January of 2020.
"I figured it was just an ordinary traffic stop," he said. "A fix-it ticket, you know, just talk to the officers and that'll be it."
But Brown says he was shocked when the officer who pulled him over came back and told him he was a felon.
"There's no way I'm a felon," he said. "I know everything I've done. It's my life."
FULL INTERVIEW: Shane Lee Brown tells Darcy Spears his story:
Brown's vehicle registration was expired at the time, he admits. He'd also lost his wallet and license, but provided the police with documentation that could confirm his identity, according to his lawsuit.
"I told the officers I did have a court date to get everything settled," he said. "It was actually the very next day. I had taken time off work to go get everything settled. I had proof of it as well, and I was told if everything checks out...'we'll just let you go about your day.'"
That's not what happened. Officers returned, told Brown he was being arrested on a felony warrant, and called for a squad car to transport him to jail.
"I was in disbelief. It felt like, there's no way they're taking me to jail for a felony warrant when I'm not a felon," Brown said.
According to his lawsuit, Brown was booked into jail on a warrant issued for another man, Shane Neal Brown. That Shane Brown is nearly twice his age, white, and a felon.
He said he asked the officers to double check — something he would continue to do for two days in Henderson and four more days once he was transferred to jail in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's jurisdiction, according to his lawsuit.
"I'm begging and pleading with everyone to just listen to me — that I'm not this guy that you think I am," he said. "Once I got transferred, every officer that walked by, 'hey, can you double check into what's going on, I'm not who you guys think I am, there's a mix-up somewhere, something's going on.' And it just fell on deaf ears."
Regardless, Henderson City officials argued Brown's arrest was lawful and proper. In a statement to 13 Action News, they said warrants had been issued for Brown's arrest, and he was driving with a suspended license.
"Mr. Brown admitted to the arresting officers that he knew his driver license was suspended and that he had traffic warrants in Henderson," according to city officials. "The plaintiff in this lawsuit has not presented all the facts and circumstances behind his lawful and proper arrest by Henderson Police..."
Brown said he doesn't believe his license was actually suspended at the time, but he's not sure.
"I don't remember if it was, but I don't believe so," he told Darcy Spears.
Six days after his arrest, Brown's public defender went before a judge to prove the Shane Brown police had in custody was not the Shane Brown sought by the felony warrant, and he was released.
Once he got out, Brown says he did some research on the Shane Neal Brown for whom he'd been mistaken.
"I found out he was quite older than I am, not even the same race — just polar opposite of me, if you want to be honest," he said.
He doesn't believe he was treated fairly by police. Frustrated and angry over what happened to him, Brown is now suing Las Vegas and Henderson police and seeking at least $50,000 in damages.
"I feel like it's their duty to know who the person is that they're detaining, pretty much, and it wasn't me," he said.
Henderson City's full statement in response to Brown's lawsuit is as follows:
"During a routine traffic stop for driving an unregistered vehicle, Shane 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. Mr. Brown admitted to the arresting officers that he knew his driver license was suspended and that he had traffic warrants in Henderson. The plaintiff in this lawsuit has not presented all the facts and circumstances behind his lawful and proper arrest by Henderson Police, which will be further addressed in the City Attorney’s response to the court."