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U.S. Judge Dismisses Racial Profiling Lawsuit

July 25, 2001|OFELIA CASILLAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A federal district judge Tuesday dismissed a suit filed by a computer systems analyst who claimed he was stopped by a Redondo Beach police officer for "driving while black."

Firpo Carr, a Lawndale civilian who was providing computer training and support to the Los Angeles Police Department at the time of the incident, alleged that the Redondo Beach officer violated his civil rights by pulling Carr over and detaining him for nearly 30 minutes without probable cause.

According to Carr's lawsuit, about 4:30 p.m. on June 30, 2000, he was pulling away from a parking space at the South Bay Galleria when Officer Walter Sawall, who is white, pulled up behind him and requested that he stop. Sawall has said he was investigating a fraud complaint at the mall.

Redondo Beach City Atty. Jerry Goddard said the dismissal vindicates the officer and the department.

"The department's policies were found to not . . . constitute racial profiling," Goddard said. "Mr. Carr created a lot of adverse publicity . . . when in fact, his legal case was failing."

Carr's attorney, Andrew Edward Smyth, said they would appeal. He said the incident was "a bad stop."

"It wasn't severe. They didn't treat him terrible," Smyth said. "But it was, 'Check out the black guy that looks like he's out of place.' "

Last month, Carr agreed to dismiss the portion of his complaint that named the city of Redondo Beach and Chief Melvin Nichols as defendants.

Tuesday's dismissal eliminated from the suit its remaining defendant, Sawall.

Redondo Beach Police Capt. Jeff Cameron said the department supported Sawall. "We didn't believe there was any wrongdoing on his part," Cameron said. "We feel the lawsuit was unfounded and frivolous. The court apparently agreed."

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