‘Unreasonable searches’: Albemarle cop sued for targeting blacks

Attorney Jeff Fogel is representing Rodney and Savannah Hubbard, as well as four other plaintiffs, in three lawsuits that accuse an Albemarle police officer of unlawfully targeting African-American males for stops and intrusive searches. Staff photo Attorney Jeff Fogel is representing Rodney and Savannah Hubbard, as well as four other plaintiffs, in three lawsuits that accuse an Albemarle police officer of unlawfully targeting African-American males for stops and intrusive searches. Staff photo

Local attorney Jeff Fogel filed three lawsuits February 11, accusing Albemarle County Police officer Andrew Holmes of unlawfully targeting African-American males in stops and intrusive searches.

One plaintiff, Rodney Hubbard, details a September 11, 2015, interaction with Holmes in which he was stopped in his black Denali driving north on Route 29 from Lynchburg. Officer Holmes insisted he smelled marijuana and ordered Hubbard out of the car and searched him, specifically reaching down the back of Hubbard’s pants and searching around the groin area, Hubbard says.

“It’s humiliating to be pulled over and basically you’re being accused of traveling with your mother with drugs in your car,” Hubbard says, adding that his mother, Savannah, was in the front seat of his car.

Holmes then handcuffed Hubbard and forced him into the back of the police car, head first. He searched the elder Hubbard’s purse and instructed her to wait in the back of the patrol car while he searched the Denali for several hours, ultimately finding no drugs, says Hubbard.

The officer then gave Hubbard a summons for driving with a suspended license and let him go.

Hubbard calls the experience “mentally tormenting” and says he still has “bad dreams” about it and feels uncomfortable around police officers.

AndrewHolmes2_HawesSpencer
In 2011, Holmes rear-ended a stopped car and was charged with reckless driving and convicted of improper driving. Photo by Hawes Spencer

Savannah Hubbard says black people shouldn’t be targeted by cops. “We are not all drug dealers or drug pushers or drug users,” she says. “We are hardworking people. We work for what we have.”

Leon Polk and UVA football player Malcolm Cook allege in their suit that Holmes ordered them out of Polk’s car at gunpoint last June, accusing the two of smoking marijuana and searching the car for several hours with no probable cause while they sat on a curb in the Kmart parking lot. When Holmes didn’t find anything illegal in the car, he ticketed Polk for not having a front license plate, excess window tinting and not having his registration, the lawsuit alleges.

In the case of plaintiffs Bianca Johnson and Delmar Canada, Holmes gave Canada a summons for driving with a suspended license in April 2014. He then obtained a search warrant for their home to look for the DMV’s suspension notification form, which was issued more than a year earlier, according to the suit, and showed up at their house with several other Albemarle police officers to search it on a Friday at midnight.

“It was totally unexpected and unnecessary to be woken out of your sleep and to look through your peephole and see three police officers,” says Johnson, who is the retail advertising manager at C-VILLE Weekly. “You know that you’re not a criminal and you’re not involved in any illegal activity and you’ve been asleep for a couple hours so what in the world could have taken place for police to be banging at your door at midnight?”

Johnson believes Holmes thought he was going to make a big bust when he saw her black fiancé driving a BMW. She says she feels unsafe in her own home, and adds, “Someone could just knock down the door at any time.”

After the officers raided their house, Johnson and Canada filed a complaint with the police department, but never learned if any disciplinary action had been taken. Albemarle police spokesperson Madeline Curott says she cannot comment on Holmes’ personnel record.

Fogel says the officers lacked probable cause to search the home for the “supposed paper.”

He met with other potential plaintiffs who were not willing to file suit against Holmes. “Many people are afraid to come forward,” he says. “They’re worried about retaliation.”

The day after his press conference, Fogel said 14 people called to say they had similar experiences with Holmes and he plans to interview each person before deciding how to proceed.

Holmes has been an officer with Albemarle police since August 2004. In 2011, he rear-ended a stopped car on Barracks Road. He was charged with reckless driving and convicted of improper driving.

The Albemarle County Police Department says in a statement it takes claims of alleged misconduct involving officers very seriously and the department “has well-established mechanisms in place to determine if there has been any violations of our policies and procedures.”

Fogel has subpoenaed the Albemarle Police Department to produce all of Holmes’ tickets, which include a person’s race, warrants, criminal complaints and search warrant affidavits over the last several years. His next step will be to analyze the documentation to see if he has a strong case against the officer, who is white.

View the complaints here:

Rodney Hubbard and Savannah Hubbard vs. Andrew Holmes

Bianca Johnson and Delmar Canada vs. Andrew Holmes

Leon Polk and Malcolm Cook vs. Andrew Holmes

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