A Miami Gardens store owner and employee are planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and its police department alleging officers are illegally stopping and searching citizens and racial profiling.
Alex Saleh, the proprietor at the 207 Quickstop on Northwest 207 Street in Miami Gardens, said he had more than two dozen surveillance videos to support his case
In three separate instances, police can be seen questioning the same man at the same location.
The man in the clips is 28-year-old Earl Sampson.
“They’re always stopping me, going in my pockets, asking me for my ID, running my name,” Sampson told CBS4′s Lauren Pastrana.
Sampson said he’s been stopped by Miami Gardens officers more times than he can count.
His attorney said that number is above 200.
Sampson’s lengthy rap sheet is filled with minor infractions, including more than 60 citations for trespassing, mostly at the 207 Quickstop.
But owner Alex Saleh said Sampson is not trespassing. In fact, he has permission to be there, because he’s a store employee.
“The same one stop me 2 and 3 times a day,” Sampson said. “I feel like I can’t even be in my own neighborhood anymore.”
Saleh said officers routinely harass his workers and customers.
He said he installed 16 security cameras, not because he was worried about crime, but to catch the cops in action.
“I seen the outrageous police abusing people in the community. They’ve been treating the people wrong,” Saleh said.
Saleh, Sampson and their attorney Steve Lopez plan to file a federal civil rights lawsuit soon against the police department.
The complaint will allege officers have been instructed to illegally stop and search citizens via racial profiling.
“They’re stopping people for no reason in front of the business. Anywhere. Illegally search people,” Saleh said.
In a text message, Mayor Oliver Gilbert said he would not comment on pending litigation.
Just two weeks ago, following a string of recent shootings, Gilbert explained the city’s crime-reduction strategy.
“The line is zero tolerance,” Gilbert explained to Pastrana. “So if you break a law, you’re going to jail.”
But Sampson argues he has not broken the law the times he was stopped for trespassing at his place of employment.
CBS4 also obtained police reports that go along with Sampson’s arrest.
In some instances, the events described in the report don’t match what is seen on video.
“It says they’re supposed to protect and serve. But really, they’re just harassing,” Sampson said.
Mayor Gilbert referenced a recent murder outside the Quickstop, but Saleh said the pattern and practice of profiling people was in place long before that shooting.
“There is violence in Miami Gardens, but that doesn’t give them a right to violate people’s rights,” Saleh explained.
A police department spokesman could not be reached for comment Thursday.