News & Politics

64-Year-Old Black Man Arrested For Drunk Driving Even Though He Had 0 Percent Alcohol in System

Jessie Thornton says his night-time driving has attracted the attention of the police, even though he's done nothing wrong.

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A Black man in Arizona says he has been harassed by the police and is now planning to file a lawsuit over the harassment, the local ABC News affiliate reports. The man, 64-year-oldJessie Thornton, goes out at night to run errands and work out because his wife, a nurse, has a night work schedule.

Thornton, a retired fire fighter, says his night-time driving has attracted the attention of the police--and he says his skin color has something to do with it. He has been given four tickets and has been stopped 10 times in Surprise, Arizona.

“This is a case of D-W-B, driving while black," Thornton’s attorney told ABC.

The most recent incident started when Thornton was pulled over at 11 PM after the police said he crossed the white line in his lane. Thornton had been swimming, and his eyes were bloodshot as a result. But the police thought he was driving under the influence.

Two other police officers arrived and conducted a sobriety test. He was then placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the curb, even though he told the police he had a hip and knee problem.

“I couldn't even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up 'cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,” he said.

Thornton was also taken to police headquarters where a breathalyzer test was conducted. The result was that he had zero alcohol in his system.  Thornton says a drug recognition expert told him that “‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment.’”

Despite the fact that Thornton was found to have no alcohol in his system, his license has been suspended and he has been ordered to take a drinking class.

Now, Thornton is fed up. He’s suing the city for $500,000. His daughter, who works in law enforcement, has also filed an official complaint with the city of Surprise.

One of his lawyers said: “Here he (Jessie) is being harassed for no other reason than the color of his skin. It's frustrating that somebody had to go through this type of experience, they poke and prod him and arrest him for nothing.”


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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