On Aug. 19, Keaira Booker pulled over near the side of the road to record a traffic stop being performed on a Black male driver by a White North Braddock police officer, which is within her civil rights.
But it was Booker that became the victim, according to a federal complaint filed on Dec. 20.
The lawsuit claims that Booker was falsely arrested, including the use of excessive force.
Booker’s video captured Sgt. Larry Butler approaching her for what he said was Booker parking illegally and blocking traffic.
On the video, Sgt. Butler can be heard asking Booker for identification, to the surprise of Booker, who, after debating why she needed to show him I.D., agreed to park closer to the curb, even though she felt she was already parked legally. Right before the video ends, the officer can be heard attempting to remove Booker from her vehicle.
Booker, 23, of North Braddock, was eventually charged with disorderly conduct blocking a roadway, refusing to provide I.D., and resisting arrest.
But on Nov. 7, the citations were dismissed. Booker’s attorney, Todd J. Hollis, at a Dec. 20 press conference announcing the suit, said he believes the charges were dismissed because Booker’s video recording proved she did nothing wrong.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million, and in this case, that video tells the entire story from our perspective,” Hollis said.
“The fact of the matter is that we value our civil servants,” Hollis added. “The job that they do in our community is admirable and rightly so. However, when our civil servants use their authority under the color of law to harass and falsely penalize our citizens, they, too, must be held accountable. It is in that realm that we have filed this lawsuit.”
In addition to Sgt. Booker, the suit names the North Braddock police chief, Isaac Daniele, for signing off on the citations.
“If the chief allowed this citation to go through, then clearly the chief needs some training as well,” Hollis said.
Booker thought her father was the person who was in the vehicle that was stopped by Sgt. Booker. Even though it turned out the man was not her father, Booker, as a self-described community activist, continued to record the encounter. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred at the traffic stop between Sgt. Booker and the unidentified Black male who was stopped—but Booker couldn’t believe that she would be the one being accosted and arrested.
She said she felt “violated” and “embarrassed” by Sgt. Booker’s actions on that Aug. 19 night.
“He (Sgt. Booker) violated her fourth amendment right against search and seizure, he violated her first amendment right to properly record a police officer interaction,” Hollis said at the news conference. “When is the last time that any of you who got a parking ticket was arrested because of it? What police officer needs your identification in order to ticket your car? What police officer needs to pull you out of your car to give you a citation? So clearly, that was retaliation.”
Hollis said retaliation and abuse of power claims are also part of the suit.
“No matter how well-trained a person is, when they just want to abuse their power, when they need to be authoritative in a sense of control, that’s just the way they’re going to operate,” said Brandi Fisher, president and CEO of the Alliance for Police Accountability. “And I think Sgt. Butler clearly showed that he just wanted to exert his power.”
Fisher added: “We cannot intimidate citizens not to record us, and I think that is what he (Sgt. Booker) did. He intimidated her.”
LOCAL ACTIVIST KEAIRA BOOKER has filed a lawsuit against members of the North Braddock police force. (Photos by J.L. Martello) (Feature Photo)
by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer