On June 3, 2019, Rock Hill, South Carolina police officers woke up a sleeping 71-year-old man and held him at gunpoint naked while they illegally searched his home for teenagers accused in a crime that had nothing to do with the elderly man, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
Now, 71-year-old Jethro DeVane is suing the City of Rock Hill for irreversible damage done that night — and he’s sharing his story with the world. Since his lawsuit was filed last week, its made headlines in Fox News, the Washington Post, and ABC News. It even landed a mention in the Merriam Webster dictionary.
DeVane is being represented by state representative Justin Bamberg, who has recently emerged as the go-to lawyer for Americans across the country wronged by police officers. Bamberg, the son of the sheriff-elect in Bamberg County, brings a different perspective to criminal justice reform.
“I come from a family of law enforcement,” Bamberg recently told The Hill. “I support them. We need them. But what we’re not going to stand for is law enforcement trampling on the rights of American citizens.”
Body cam footage shows the terrifying incident unravel on June 3, 2019 at DeVane’s home on Douglas Street in Rock Hill.
A citizen called Rock Hill Police that night to report four teenagers in hoodies acting suspiciously and entering the citizen’s car illegally. This happened down the street from DeVane’s home.
DeVane, asleep in his bedroom naked, awoke to a bright light shining in his window, according to the lawsuit. He walked to his back door and peaked out to see what was going on.
Then, he was startled by a police officer who slowly approached him with his gun drawn.
“Rock Hill police.. let me see your f*cking hands,” officer Vincent Mentesana yelled. “Get out. Get out. Don’t f*cking shut that door.”
DeVane, who is elderly, clearly did not fit the description of the four teenagers. He was “naked and afraid” as he held his hands up and the officer continued to curse at him, the lawsuit said. He was worried that the officer was going to shoot him.
“I live here, I live here,” he pleaded.
The cops then ordered DeVane to his back yard while they searched the home, the lawsuit said. He was still naked as the gun was pointed at him. At one point, Mentesana pointed it at his head.
“Face the house right now, I don’t want to talk to you,” Mentesana yelled.
At this point, the officers weren’t even sure the teenagers had committed a crime, the lawsuit said. There weren’t any reports of violent crimes in the area.
After Rock Hill Police completed the search, Mentesana finally told DeVane what was going on.
“The reason we did that is because we got a group of four juveniles – what we think – four males running around trying to break into cars,” Mentesana explained.
DeVane stayed calm throughout the terrifying encounter, body cam video showed.
“He did so in an attempt to ensure he would make it through the interaction alive given the extreme hostility, profanity, and action of Officer Mentesana,” the lawsuit said. “He also felt it would help let the Officers know he was truly an innocent citizen.”
Mentesana didn’t bother apologizing and continued to act hostile after the search was over, according to the lawsuit
“I don’t care if it’s private property – you think I care?” the Rock Hill Police officer asked.
The lawsuit alleges that the police officers actions were illegal for several reasons. They did not have a warrant to search the property and they effectively kidnapped the 71-year-old man “against his will when he was forced out of his house at gunpoint under the duress that he would be shot.” Also, the officers did not have legal permission to do the search.
However, Rock Hill Police officials found nothing wrong with the way officers handled the incident, aside from Mentesana’s “discourteous” behavior, according to the lawsuit.
“Procedurally, Officer (Vincent) Mentesana and Officer (Jessica) Maggio acted within established policies and standard operating procedures of the Rock Hill Police Department,” Rock Hill Chief Of Police Chris Watts wrote in a review of the incident after DeVane filed a citizen complaint.
The lawsuit emphasized that there was no reason for officers to suspect DeVane committed a crime. Officers had not seen the four teenagers on his property and had no reason to be there in the first place, the lawsuit said.
DeVane is suing the City of Rock Hill for gross negligence, civil assault and battery, false imprisonment, abuse of process, civil conspiracy, and state constitution violations.
At a recent press conference, Bamberg said DeVane was treated “less than human” and “without any ounce of decency.”
“The Constitution in America only means something if goverment respects it,” Bamberg said.”If the policy, as the chief says, authorizes this kind of conduct, there is apparently a problem in the Rock Hill police department, where the Constitution doesn’t mean anything to them.”
DeVane said he was embarrassed and forever scarred from the incident.
“I won’t get over it for the rest of my life,” he said.
While DeVane’s case is gaining national attention, it is among many lawsuits filed in South Carolina this year accusing law enforcement officers of abusing their power and illegally mistreating citizens.
Here are a few of those stories:
- Richland County Cops Illegally Entered Home, Woke Up Family At Gunpoint For Traffic Arrest, Lawsuit Says
- SC Parole Officer Raped And Sexually Abused Women He Supervised, Lawsuit Says
- Father Of Lexington County Man Who Died After Police Tasing, ‘Chokehold Takedown’ Sues Sheriff’s Dept., SLED
- Friend Of SC Man Who Died After Tasing, Chokehold Sues Sheriff’s Office, Fire Dept
- ‘The Video Doesn’t Lie’: Richland County Cop Fired And Charged With Assault In January Incident
- Richland County Cop Accused Of Coercing 2 Black Teens In Rape Case Exchanged Racist Texts, Affidavit Says
- SC Man Tased, Jailed For 32 Days After Throwing Litter At Off-Duty Cop’s Car, Lawsuit Says
We will continue to report on these important stories in 2021. Stay tuned…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].
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