After a police officer held a Marine veteran at gunpoint and handcuffed him while moving into his own house, the Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested that the Kansas Office of the Attorney General investigate the incident. In addition to officers repeatedly harassing the victim and surveilling his home afterwards, the police chief also denied his request to file a racial bias complaint with the department.
Around 10 p.m. on August 18, 2018, Karle Robinson, a 61-year-old Marine veteran, was reportedly pulled over by a Tonganoxie police officer for failing to turn on his rental van’s headlights. After receiving a warning citation, Robinson arrived at his new home at midnight and began unloading his personal items from the van.
Over the course of two hours, Robinson recalled Tonganoxie Police Officer Brady Adams passing his house several times while clearly observing him move items into the home. According to Officer Adams’ body cam video, the officer approached Robinson before immediately holding him at gunpoint and ordering him to put down the television in his hands.
Robinson complied with the officer’s commands and was placed in handcuffs while Adams waited for backup units to arrive. According to the incident report written by Adams, Robinson “did state that he had just bought the house, but due to the time of night and the recent burglaries we have had in the area I was not going to take his word for it.”
But according to the ACLU and Robinson, who researched the area’s crime rate before moving in, public records show no reported burglaries in the area. Upon finding proof of ownership, the officers released Robinson from custody.
After reportedly enduring weeks of blatant police surveillance at his home and while driving, Robinson attempted to file an internal affairs complaint with the Tonganoxie Police Department in October 2018. Instead, Police Chief Greg Lawson met with Robinson in person and refused to accept any complaint against Officer Adams for racial bias or improper conduct.
After Chief Lawson personally interfered with the investigation, Robinson initially told his story to the Kansas City Star. Robinson recalled that the police surveillance finally ceased when his story became public.
“I’d like to see those cops and that chief lose their jobs because this was uncalled for — this is strictly racial profiling,” Robinson told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.
He added that if he were white “we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.”
On Thursday, the Kansas chapter of the ACLU asked Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to investigate the matter or refer the group’s complaint to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training. The attorney general’s office said in an emailed statement that it has reviewed the ACLU’s letter and forwarded it to the commission in accordance with Kansas law.
“Mr. Robinson believes his detention was motivated by his race rather than a reasonable suspicion that he was committing a burglary,” Lauren Bonds, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas, said in the group’s release. “It also appears that the Chief of Police prevented Mr. Robinson from filing a credible, legitimate complaint and that is not in compliance with reporting and intake standards. He must not interfere with citizens registering complaints.”
According to the ACLU’s letter to the Kansas Officer of the Attorney General, Officer Adams had ample time to determine whether Robinson was robbing the house or moving his personal items into his home before detaining the innocent Marine veteran at gunpoint. The ACLU also addressed the issue of racial bias due to the fact that Robinson is a black man who was moving into a predominantly white neighborhood and detained by white officers for no justifiable reason.