Jesse Thornton was previously arrested 10 times for driving while black in Surprise, AZ. Now he is taking action after his latest arrest.
WXYZ.com reports that Thornton, a 64-year-old retired firefighter hadn’t been drinking when he was pulled over by police one recent night.
“I can tell you’re driving DUI by looking in your eyes,” Thornton said the cop told him.
“I take my glasses off and he says, ‘You’ve got bloodshot eyes. I think you’re DUI,’” said Thornton.
Thornton said he told the cop his eyes were red because he was swimming earlier in the evening. Thornton was ordered to take a sobriety test and sit on the curb, despite having a bad hip and knee.
“I couldn’t even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up ’cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,” said Thornton.
Later, down at the police precinct, a breath analyzer test confirmed that Thornton’s blood alcohol level was 0.00. Additionally Thornton said a drug recognition expert told him “I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment.”
“It was driving while black,” said Thornton, whose car was impounded Friday and not released to him until Monday. This latest incident has prompted Thornton to hire an attorney. He plans to sue the Arizona police department for $500,000.
The DUI charge was eventually dropped, but that’s not enough said Thornton’s attorney Marc Victor. “This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter,” said Victor.
“It’s not totally about the money, although I’m already out more than $5,000, that’s $5,000 that I don’t have,” said Thornton.