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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Bingo Hunting’ Blamed for Wrongful Arrest

(CN) - A Wake Forest, N.C., man says he was wrongfully arrested, stripped naked and subjected to a full body and cavity searches after a patrolman randomly pulled him over after "Bingo Hunting," a federal lawsuit claims.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Raleigh, Larry McLean, a 57-year-old black man, said he has no criminal record and does not have a reputation in the community for involvement with criminal conduct.

He said on the night of February 7, 2014, he and his fiancee, Susan Porter, dined out at the Carolina Ale House in Raleigh and were on their way home, when observed a Town of Wake Forest patrol vehicle closely following another vehicle travelling in the same direction on the boulevard.

Eventually, McLean said, the police vehicle stopped following the other car and began following his instead. Moments later, Officer T.C. Webb activated his blue lights and initiated a traffic stop.

McLean claimed that at the time, Webb was engaged in the law enforcement practice of "Bingo Hunting."

An outgrowth of the proliferation of wireless technology, "Bingo Hunting" involves officers randomly observing license plates while on routine patrol, inputting the data from the license plate, and -"Bingo!" - finding out the vehicle has been stolen, is unregistered, or have been involved in some criminal activity.

According to the Police Link website, critics of the practice question whether an officer needs to have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before he can run the observable data from a license plate.

McLean said Webb asked for his license and registration, and then radioed for back up before returning to the car and placing him under arrest. A short time later, Officer J.J. Jefferson arrived at the scene.

McLean said he had no idea why he was being arrested until Webb told him it was because of an outstanding order of arrest from a neighboring county.

"Hearing the basis for his arrest, Mr. McLean immediately notified the defendants that the case was dismissed in 2012. Responding to Mr. McLean's protestations, Defendants Webb and Jefferson huddled together to speak amongst themselves. During the defendants' impromptu meeting, Defendant Webb was informed by immediate supervisor, defendant Jefferson, that the OFA was issued with a 'Do Not Arrest' order and there was conflicting information," the complaint says.

"Incredulously, while fully aware Franklin County had likely misfiled the OFA and a "Do Not Arrest" order was attached, the defendants made no effort to insure they we re not arresting an innocent person," the complaint continues.

McLean said instead of contacting Franklin County's magistrate, which would have promptly settled the matter, the officers instead brought him before the Wake County Magistrate, who ordered him photographed, fingerprinted and "placed in jail under an excessive $100,000 secured bond."

McLean said he was in jail for six days before his fiancee was able to contact an attorney, who brought the erroneous order of arrests to the attention for the district attorney's office, a sequence of events that resulted in McLean's unconditional release.

"Upon entering the Wake County Detention Center, Mr. McLean had all of his personal property seized, stripped naked and subjected to full body and cavity searches; following his strip search, Mr. McLean was placed in a holding cell with only a steel bench for approximately seven hours before being house in a 'pod' with approximately seventy-five to eighty other prisoners," the complaint says.

All the while, McLean said, judicial and law enforcement officials refused to contact Franklin County to inquire whether the order of arrest was valid.

"The defendants' marginalization of Mr. McLean's personal liberty and safety coupled with their absolute failure to undertake any reasonable measures to ascertain the validity of the OFA or to comply with the 'Do Not Arrest' order ... resulted in Mr. McLean's wrongful arrest and prolonged imprisonment," the complaint says.

McLean added that the acts of all involved were "needless, without legal justification, provocation or excuse, and constituted an abuse and misapplication of their governmental authority."

He seeks $20 million in compensatory, general and punitive damages on claims Officers Webb and Jefferson, Chief of Police Jeffrey Leonard, Sheriff Donnie Harrison, and the Town of Wake Forest violated his constitutional and state rights, failed to prevent his erroneous events, committed assault and battery on him, and finally, that they are guilty of false arrest.McLean is represented by Ira Braswell of Louisburg, N.C.

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