A young Black man is suing two police departments in Nevada after he says he spent six days in jail—simply for having nearly the same name as a wanted felon, who is white and twice his age. Shane Lee Brown, a 25-year-old with dark hair, says police were actually looking for Shane Neal Brown, a 51-year-old white man with a prominent white beard. Henderson police officers had pulled over the younger man on Jan. 8, 2020. As Brown didn't have his license, he provided his name and Social Security number, per NPR. According to the lawsuit, officers assumed he was the same Shane Brown who was subject of a felony bench warrant for a weapons charge out of Las Vegas and threw him in jail.
Two days later, Brown—now seeking $500,000 in damages for negligence, emotional distress, false imprisonment, and violation of civil rights—says he was transferred to the custody of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, despite his repeatedly explaining that he was not the man sought. "Had any of the LVMPD or any corrections officers performed any due diligence," such as comparing Brown’s booking photo with a mug shot of the taller felon, "they would have easily determined that Shane Lee Brown has been misidentified as the subject of the warrant," the lawsuit reads, per ABC News. It adds he was only released when a Clark County District Court judge confirmed Brown's identity at a Jan. 14 hearing.
Henderson police say Brown was lawfully arrested for driving with a suspended license and failing to pay a warrant issued by Henderson Municipal Court, per ABC. But Brown's attorney E. Brent Bryson counters that, claiming his client told officers that he had a court date to address the violations. "They were going to let him go, except for the fact that when they ran [his name], it pulled up the wrongful bench warrant for the white Shane Brown," he says. Therefore, "he was wrongfully detained." Police later learned Shane Neal Brown, who'd skipped out on a court hearing after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm, had been arrested in California, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Read more mistaken identity stories.)