Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office target of civil rights lawsuit in case of mistaken identity

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A 67-year-old man has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office accusing the agency of excessive force and malicious prosecution after a confrontation with deputies in 2020.

Michael Torrey-White was handcuffed, tackled, and detained outside his apartment in Falcon Heights while deputies were looking for a man described as a Black male in his late 30s.

Authorities charged Torrey-White with obstructing the legal process and disorderly conduct ten days after he filed a complaint about the incident with Ramsey County’s internal affairs unit.

A judge dismissed the charges in July after prosecutors were unable to produce body camera video evidence in court.

“This is not the end. It’s going to continue, and we’ve got to continue to fight,” Torrey-White said at the time.

Now he is suing the Sheriff’s Office in federal court with the assistance of the nonprofit Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) and attorney Paul Bosman.

“What it’s about is violating his civil rights,” Bosman said. “We want some accountability for what the police officers have done.”

The lawsuit also accuses the Sheriff’s Office of charging Torrey-White with obstruction “without probable cause and without reasonable belief that the prosecution will succeed.”

Such misdemeanor charges have become the target of increasing scrutiny for their disproportionate use against people of color.

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office declined requests for comment, but in a July memo to the court, it denied that Torrey-White was charged because of his complaint to Internal Affairs.

The same memo also insisted that the Sheriff’s Office did provide prosecutors access to body camera video in the case, despite statements to the contrary made in court.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office says the agency is still processing a 5 INVESTIGATES data request for the video.

Michelle Gross, President of CUAPB, says she and Bosman are still working to obtain body camera video as well.

“It’s not enough to just say, ‘well justice was served because the sheriff’s never showed up with a video so they drop the charges,” Gross said. “That’s not enough justice. This man needs actual justice.”