10News.com - February 26, 2012
Timothy Newell Says He Was Repeatedly Questioned By Sgt. Elizabeth Palmer
CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- A retired San Diego police officer claims he was the victim of racial profiling, police misconduct and unlawful search and seizure after he was detained outside the Chula Vista Courthouse on Nov. 29. Timothy Newell filed a complaint against the deputies involved and said he plans to file a civil suit after the incident that he called a "public humiliation" and a violation of his 4th Amendment rights. Newell – who now operates a private security firm – said he had gone to the courthouse parking lot to check on a used police vehicle to use for patrols. He parked in a handicapped spot and took a picture of what he believed was the white Crown Victoria he wanted to buy when he says a woman walked up to him and challenged his right to park there. Newell claims he showed her his handicap placard and told her the reason for his visit. He identified himself to the woman, telling her that he is a retired police officer. According to Newell, the woman – who still had not identified herself – called him a liar and took both his keys and his cell phone. When Newell told the woman his wallet containing both his driver's license and retired police badge was on the front seat of his car, she ordered him to, "Sit your ass on the back of your bumper and don't move." At that point, Newell said she dialed a number on her own cell phone, telling someone, "I need help out here now." Seconds later, Newell saw three sheriff's deputies running from the courthouse to the parking lot, surrounding him. "She never identified herself," Newell told 10News reporter Allison Ash. "I didn't know who she was." Newell said one of the responding deputies told him she was his supervisor. Newell claims he was questioned repeatedly over the next three hours by the woman, who was identified as Sgt. Elizabeth Palmer. Newell said Palmer went through his wallet, glove compartment and even looked at his mail. He said it was when she scrolled through the names of contacts on his cell phone that she became especially accusatory. Among the names in his phone were some that sounded Middle-Eastern. "She wanted to know where they're from… what ethnicity," said Newell. "I got the impression as if she was treating me like I was a terrorist." Throughout the confrontation, Newell said Palmer called him a liar. "I felt like I was a suspect, like on parole," said Newell, who called Palmer's behavior both unprofessional and unethical. Newell claims his picture was taken and then Palmer told him there was a warrant for his arrest and that he was driving on a suspended license. Neither accusation was true, said Newell. Newell told Ash he believed Palmer was trying to "set him up" and baiting him to react in a negative way so she could have a reason to arrest him. He said he did not take the bait and stayed calm. However, he admitted he was becoming increasingly nervous and fearful. Newell said Palmer finally let him go but refused to give back his keys or his driver's license. The next day, Newell returned to the courthouse to get the names of all four deputies involved. Newell said as one of the deputies wrote the names on the back of a business card, Palmer – now in uniform – pulled him close, saying, "Please don't do this. I am old school and I did you a favor and did not tow your car." Newell believes she was asking him not to file a complaint. The internal affairs bureau of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department is now investigating the complaint but a spokesperson for the department told 10News she is very limited in the kind of information she can release in a personnel action. According to Newell's attorney, the department has 45 days to accept or deny Newell's claim against Palmer. Newell claims he has also spoken with the FBI, which is forwarding his case to the California Attorney General's Office for possible charges. Another man, 24-year-old Lee Lacy, told 10News he was beaten up an arrested outside the same courthouse in November of 2010. He claims Sgt. Palmer was involved in that incident as well. Lacy was trying to take care of a fix-it ticket, and claims the woman behind the counter was unhelpful. After making a rude comment to the female deputy, he was ordered to leave. Outside the courthouse, Lacy claims he was beaten up by a swarm of deputies and arrested for four felonies. All four felonies were dropped to a single misdemeanor. When Newell saw Lacy's story on 10News, he said he was shocked. "I thought it was just one incident, but it seems like to me that there's some issues here," he said. When asked if he thought there was a pattern, Newell said yes. "I think it needs to be dealt with before it gets out of hand," he said.