Disclaimer: We’re not against the police. We’re not against the police department, but we are against police who commit misconduct (and those who help cover it up).
A 911 call ended with a horrible and preventable case of mistaken identity and now the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office is working to cover up the LAPD’s bad behavior…again.
Two years ago, a white woman made a vague call to 911 to say that her ex-boyfriend had violated a restraining order.
Operator: 911 emergency. Operator 493.
Caller: Hi. Yeah, I have a suspect that is actually–he has–I have a restraining order against.
Operator: And he’s at your house right now?
Caller: Um, I believe he is. Um, he is down the street.
Operator: Are you at the house?
Operator: What is the address?
Caller: The address is by Fat Sal’s?
Operator: But you don’t know what the actual address is?
Operator: Are you still there?
Operator: Ma’am are you still there?
Operator: I’m sorry?
Caller: I’m going to come to the police station right now.
Operator: Where are you?
Operator: What is the address of where you think this person is?
Caller: By Fat Sal’s.
Operator: You don’t know the address there or the–
Operator: Can you tell me what address you’re at?
Caller: Um, in a car.
Operator: Can you give me an intersection or an address of where you are?
Caller: No. I think it’s okay I’m coming into the station right now.
The caller hung up without ever identifying herself, her location, or the person she was calling about.
The 911 operator called her back but was unable to reach her. Meanwhile, the LAPD was notified of the address associated with the phone that made the 911 call. It was in Hollywood on Fountain Blvd. just off of Highland Avenue–walking distance from Fat Sal’s, a popular California sandwich chain.
Around the same time, 42-year-old music producer Antone Austin had stepped outside to bring in the trash cans. It was trash day in his neighborhood, and for the year or so he’d live at his current apartment, it was a part of his usual routine to bring them in from the street after they were emptied.
“I’m at home chillin’. I had on sweats with no drawstrings, chillin’ out,” he explains.
“This cop made a u-turn in the middle of the street, and when they did that, they turned their siren off. So I was like–whatever was happening must be over.”
At the same time, he saw his neighbor Catarina standing outside at the bottom of the stairs outside of the gate but had no idea that she had called 911 just moments earlier.
As he brings in the trash cans, an officer approaches him and tells a startled Antone to turn around.
“So I’m like, what? Why? The officer then tells me, ‘Because I told you to.’”
Antone said he tried to explain to the officer that he lived there and that whoever they were looking for, he wasn’t the guy.
“They didn’t care,” Antone said. “The officer just said, ‘We got a call,’ as he started to put his hands on me.”
From there, things went left very quickly. What Antone recounted was similar to that of a kidnapping gone bad, and he didn’t go willingly. And why should he? All he had done was get up and go outside to bring the in the trashcan.
Antone says he was forced into handcuffs while an officer kept repeating, “What is your problem?”
“So I kept telling them, ‘Bro, I’m not him.’”
Antone didn’t know who the person was the LAPD officers were looking for. He just knew for sure that it wasn’t him.
Later it was discovered that the LAPD officers didn’t even know who they were looking for.
More officers arrived, including an officer, Antone recounted, who jumped out of the car and started running like a football player before pouncing on him.
Coincidentally, that officer says that his body camera fell off, so there’s no footage of his encounter with Antone.
According to Faisal Gill, Antone’s attorney, other body camera footage shows the initial responding officers spotting Antone bringing in his trash can.
Mr. Gill explains, “One officer says, ‘Is it this dude,’ to which his partner responds, ‘Probably.’”
The attorney explains that the footage also shows officers discussing the fact that they had no information on what the suspect looked like and that they just got a call.
But the LAPD didn’t stop with Antone.
“As this is happening, my client begins to scream for help,” the attorney continues. “Eventually, his girlfriend, who was in the shower, comes running outside in a parka jacket to see her boyfriend being thrown to the ground by police officers. As she tries to intervene and help them, they throw her to the ground exposing her naked body to their entire neighborhood. It’s all on the body camera footage that the City of Los Angeles has blocked the public from having access to.”
“I just kept screaming, why are you doing this,” said 30-year-old singer Michelle Michlewicz. “I wanted to help him. I knew he hadn’t done anything wrong for the LAPD to be doing this to him.”
For Michelle’s troubles, she was arrested, put in jail, and charged with lynching. Her bail? $50,000.
Felony lynching is a technical term in California penal code that refers to “the taking by means of a riot of another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer” The charge carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
Antone was arrested, jailed, and forced to post $7,000 bail for assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. Eventually, the assault charge was dropped.
Antone said, “When I got to the station, I was asked if I knew why I was there, and I remember replying, ‘No, I don’t know why I’m here.’”
Antone says that while he was at the Hollywood Division police station, he witnessed police officers laughing and snickering while replaying the body camera footage of his naked girlfriend.
“They did this right in front of me,” Antone continued. “They played it over and over.”
Cops using body camera footage to laugh at people in compromising positions is not what taxpayers had in mind when they championed the use of the cameras in police departments.
Antone said that he was released around 3 a.m. the following morning in downtown Los Angeles. Michelle had been released a few minutes earlier in downtown as well.
You would think after the death of Mitrice Richardson, law enforcement agencies throughout L.A. County would know better than to release a woman from jail at 3 a.m. in downtown Los Angeles, of all places, with no clothes on except for a jacket.
“I was worried about Michelle because the last time I saw her, she had a blue parka on with no clothes underneath.”
Both Antone and Michelle later found out that various neighbors of theirs had called the police on the police to report what they had seen.
One of those neighbors, Anne, a white woman, said that she called 911 twice after hearing Antone screaming for help.
Anne explained, “I called 911 just to say that I hear my neighbor being attacked and screaming, ‘help, help, help’ so somebody come and help him fast because he’s a really good guy and he needs help. I don’t know what happened but then I see the police outside and I call 911 back and say no, no, no, you have the wrong guy. You have my neighbor. I called the police to help my neighbor. You have the wrong person. I thought it was off my call that they did this to him.”
Catarina, the original 911 caller, said that she was in shock after she saw what was happening and felt guilty.
To Catarina’s credit, she did try and tell the officers on the scene that Antone was not the man she called 911 on. She says at the time, the cops pushed her out of the way and didn’t want to hear what she had to say. It was much later, after Antone and his girlfriend were in handcuffs, she says that the officers paid her any attention but that it didn’t change their situation at all.
Then Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey referred both cases to Los Angeles City Attorney and 2022 mayoral candidate Mike Feuer’s office. Since then, there’s been no movement to dismiss the charges or to prosecute Antone and Michelle.
They are both currently suing the City of Los Angeles for a violation of their civil rights (as they should).
Los Angeles City Attorney (and 2022 mayoral candidate) Mike Feuer is fighting the public release of the body camera footage. Because of this, the footage is currently under a judge’s protective order.
So for clarity, while it’s okay for cops to sit around and laugh at body camera footage of a naked woman trying to help her innocent boyfriend, it is not okay for the public to see that same footage.
Antone and Michelle’s attorney Faisal Gill has filed a motion requesting the judge to unseal the body camera footage. A judge will make a decision later this month.
The couple has since moved from that apartment to get a fresh start.
And just in case you’re wondering, the original suspect was a stocky white male who stands about 5’7″. Antone Austin weighs 195 pounds and stands 6’5″.
Jasmyne Cannick writes about race, politics, and social issues.