A Boston man has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Town of Brookline, its police department, and three officers, alleging that police racially profiled him, made racist jokes at his expense, and wrongfully arrested him, according to court documents.
Chiuba E. Obele, who is Black, filed the suit in US District Court in Boston on Thursday, also naming the tenant of Obele’s girlfriend, a Brookline resident at whose condominium the incidents allegedly took place, according to court documents.
Obele alleges that the tenant filed a false police report claiming Obele assaulted him in a Nov. 18, 2017, incident “to implicate Mr. Obele for a crime he did not commit,” documents show.
Obele also claims that Brookline police and the Town of Brookline, which settled two civil rights lawsuits from Black former police officers in 2017 and 2018, have a “de facto policy” of inadequately addressing “citizen and other complaints of police misconduct,” according to the suit, in which Obele is acting as his own attorney.
“The Brookline Police Department is a department besieged by allegations of racism,” Obele said in a statement.
In a statement Friday, Brookline Town Administrator Mel Kleckner said the town and the police department had received no formal complaints from Obele prior to the lawsuit, which officials are reviewing.
“The allegations in his complaint will be taken very seriously, and will be reviewed in accordance with appropriate legal process for all parties who are involved,” Kleckner said.
In the suit, Obele alleges that on Oct. 30, 2017, a Brookline officer questioned him aggressively, patted him down, and searched his backpack without permission after Obele accidentally set off a security alarm at his girlfriend’s home.
In a separate incident six days later, another officer allegedly refused to arrest a tenant living in the home of Obele’s girlfriend who allegedly made threats against Obele and the woman , according to the court filing.
The officer allegedly made disapproving comments about the age difference between Obele, who was then 27, and his girlfriend, who was then 73, and accused Obele of being a “gold digger.”
In a third incident on Nov. 18, 2017, another officer allegedly arrested Obele for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, resisting arrest, and witness intimidation, after the tenant allegedly claimed falsely that Obele had attacked him, documents show.
Obele was arrested despite his girlfriend’s eyewitness account supporting his version of events and Obele’s request to show officers surveillance video that “would corroborate parts of his story,” according to court documents.
The 65-page suit describes minor domestic issues of cleanliness and hospitality between the tenant and Obele’s girlfriend that allegedly escalated into aggressive confrontations over the summer and fall of 2017 before the police incidents.
At one point, the tenant allegedly threatened physical violence over a disagreement about a favorite plate, documents show.
Obele was delayed in filing this suit because he was involved in separate lawsuits against his employer and against Brookline’s Zoning Board of Appeals and building commissioner, according to court filings.
He filed this week because the three-year statute of limitations is approaching in the fall and because he was influenced “by the protests against police brutality and misconduct, inspired by the murder of George Floyd,” Obele wrote in the suit, referring to the Minneapolis man killed by a police officer on Memorial Day.