A man who turned out to be completely sober was pulled over and arrested, his car impounded, and his license suspended after police accused him of driving under the influence.
64-year old Jessie Thornton was pulled over in Surprise, Arizona over the weekend after he crossed the white line. After being told his eyes were red, Thornton said it could have been because he'd just been swimming in a chlorinated pool. The officer wasn't buying it.
"He (the officer) goes, 'Well we're going to do a sobriety test.' I said, 'OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days," Thornton said.
Despite his assurances that a field sobriety test would be painful for him, Thornton says officers made him comply and then handcuffed him on the curb before shoving him into their car to have a Breathalyzer test done at the station. Incredibly, after blowing all zeroes, the attending officer told him he shouldn't have been arrested on a DUI charge.
"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," said Thornton. It was all for suspicion of DUI, according to the officers, but Thornton says there was another reason. "It was driving while black."
Thornton says his wife is a nurse who works a hectic overnight schedule, so he changed his own schedule to match hers. The results have been rather irritating.
"I've been stopped 10 times in Surprise and given four tickets, it's amazing," said Thornton.
Thornton has filed a claim against the city of Surprise for $500,000 after losing more than $5,000 for being pulled over so many times. The former firefighter says he used to work with police officers and has nothing against law enforcement, but feels that he's being targeted because of his race.
"Here he (Jessie) is being harassed for no other reason than the color of his skin," said Attorney Charity Clark. "It's frustrating that somebody had to go through this type of experience, they poke and prod him and arrest him for nothing."