Two innocent residents of Washington, D.C., stop by police and find out their freedom is restricted because they walk on the sidewalk

The Washington Post and ProPublica provided an interesting chronology of the police force’s perceptions of the city’s “constitutionally protected right to walk on the sidewalk.” Disturbingly, this dynamic was played out in two such…

Two innocent residents of Washington, D.C., stop by police and find out their freedom is restricted because they walk on the sidewalk

The Washington Post and ProPublica provided an interesting chronology of the police force’s perceptions of the city’s “constitutionally protected right to walk on the sidewalk.”

Disturbingly, this dynamic was played out in two such stops that occurred in March of this year. On March 27, Daniel Smith was walking on the sidewalk without a light on in the 2100 block of Connecticut Avenue NW when Officer Jason Tenpenny made a traffic stop.

Officer Tenpenny claims to have seen Smith’s wife lying on the street. According to Tenpenny, Smith’s wife is “possibly deceased” and he was “searching for evidence in reference to those that may have committed this crime.”

After questioning Smith, Tenpenny wrote, “If you walk on the sidewalk, go back on it,” noting that Smith “ran a red light and the driver of a Lincoln [sic] made a turn in front of him.” Tenpenny claimed that Smith was “strong-armed” by the Lincoln driver for not having his turn signal on.

Officer Tenpenny spent five minutes at the scene, while Smith was detained and questioned for an additional one hour. The fact that the stop took place after Officer Tenpenny arrived suggests that he was the only officer to make contact with Smith. After contacting Smith’s attorney at the scene, Officer Tenpenny responded, “If you walk on the sidewalk, go back on it.”

Officer Tenpenny was not charged with any wrongdoing.

The second incident happened on March 17, when Officer David Takyani noticed citizen Scott Boyce walking down Rhode Island Avenue NW without the light on. The Post and ProPublica report that “Boyce’s attorney, George Burrill, was initially reluctant to press charges in the case. But on Friday, he brought a lawsuit against Takyani and the District police.”

The Washington Post and ProPublica say that Boyce’s attorney, George Burrill, filed the suit because “he said that Boyce suffered ‘emotional harm and humiliation’ from the excessive use of force.”

Burrill recalls that Takyani “grabbed [Boyce] by the neck and pushed him face-first into the asphalt.” Burrill adds that it was “a serious beating, about a minute and a half. I can’t put a number on it.”

At the time of the stop, Takyani claims that Boyce threatened to “shoot” him and that “this threat was in violation of Takyani’s departmental training.”

Boyce and his attorney, George Burrill, have produced a “trigger” device that they say shows that Boyce was handcuffed without being read his Miranda rights.

According to Boyce’s lawsuit, Takyani visited the scene and shouted, “Don’t move. Don’t say a word. Just face him up.” Shortly after the stop, Boyce’s attorney, George Burrill, visits the scene and the image shows Takyani surrounded by several spectators.

Officer Tenpenny continues to make false claims of what happened in the encounter after meeting with Boyce’s attorney and Boyce’s family. As documented in Boyce’s suit, Tenpenny advised Burrill, “We are not supposed to discuss this case in public.”

Officer Tenpenny reportedly also denies that Takyani assaulted Boyce but concedes that Tenpenny felt threatened by Boyce.

Officer Tenpenny remains on the job. The District Police Department claims that it is unable to comment on pending litigation but as the legal case proceeds, we are likely to see Officer Tenpenny make similar false claims in his next interactions with law-abiding citizens.

Have an interesting story of street harassment or your own tales of police abuse? Contact me at [email protected]

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