Longtime transgender activist Lourdes Ashley Hunter on Wednesday sued four D.C. police officers and the D.C. government in federal court on grounds that the officers improperly arrested her at her apartment in Northwest Washington last November without a warrant on a charge of misdemeanor simple assault.
In a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the ACLU of the National Capital Area, Hunter charges that the officers’ actions violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and amounted to a false arrest under the laws of the District of Columbia.
“Ms. Hunter accordingly seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the officers and the District, as well as attorneys’ fees, costs, and other appropriate relief,” the lawsuit states.
Hunter is co-founder and executive director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, a national group that advocates for transgender rights.
The lawsuit says the alleged improper action by the four police officers took place on Nov. 16 while she was hosting a dinner and reception in her apartment for people from throughout the country who would be attending a White House briefing on transgender issues the next day.
According to the lawsuit, neighbors in her apartment building came to her door to complain that her guests were making too much noise. It says Hunter and some of her guests and the neighbors “engaged in a verbal disagreement regarding whether Ms. Hunter and her guests were in fact being too loud.”
A short time later, the lawsuit says, the four police officers named in the lawsuit knocked on her apartment door. When Hunter opened the door they said they were investigating a possible assault, and asked her questions about a possible altercation with her neighbors, the lawsuit says. At one point, an officer asked one of the neighbors who came to the door if he could identify someone who pushed him, the lawsuit says.
“He pointed to Ms. Hunter and stated that she had pushed him,” the lawsuit says. “Ms. Hunter asked in disbelief, “I pushed you? I pushed you?’ She then began to explain that there had been no assault and that there had been no excessive noise coming from her apartment,” the lawsuit states.
One of the officers then entered her apartment, grabbed her by her arm and neck and placed her under arrest on a charge of assault, according to the lawsuit. It says the officers handcuffed her and escorted her to the courtyard of her building and held her there for about 45 minutes before taking her to the Third Police District for booking.
An arrest report prepared by one of the officers said Hunter had been charged with simple assault and resisting arrest. She was held at the police station from about 11 p.m. on Nov. 16 to 3 a.m. on Nov. 17, just hours before she was scheduled to attend the White House briefing.
The lawsuit says the United States Attorney’s office, which serves as prosecutor for criminal cases in D.C., declined to prosecute her case and the charges were dropped.
“Ms. Hunter suffered the deprivation of her liberty for several hours as a result of defendants’ unlawful actions,” the lawsuit says. “Ms. Hunter suffered physical injury and pain as a result of defendants’ unlawful action, including a pinched nerve in her arm from the tight handcuffs, exacerbated osteoarthritis in her knee, and back pain.”
In addition, it says she suffered “emotional distress and humiliation at being arrested in front of her friends and colleagues from around the nation…”
It says the four officers, whom it names, “are jointly and severally liable to Ms. Hunter for this violation of her rights.” The District of Columbia is also liable for the damages inflicted upon Hunter, the lawsuit concludes.
The Office of the D.C. Attorney General, which defends the city against lawsuits, is expected to file the city’s response to the lawsuit within the next several weeks.