NORTH HIGHLANDS (CBS13) — A man is suing the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department after he was stopped and searched while filming another man being detained.
Orlando Truitt was recording officers detain his neighbor, who was shouting, “I can’t breathe.” Minutes later, he found himself in handcuffs. He says when deputies saw him filming, they went after him.
The man in the video can be heard saying, “Help, help, help.” Truitt, 66, called it traumatizing to see his neighbor pinned to the ground last February, watching several sheriff’s deputies on top of him.
“I didn’t want to see the guy die. He didn’t want to die, I hope the officers didn’t want him to die,” Truitt said.
He pulled out his cell phone and started recording.
“I hear about it, but when it gets close to home it becomes personal. That could be my son, that could be me,” he said.
But then a deputy came for him. On Truitt’s video, the deputy says, “You mind if we take a look at the video and see what happened?”
Truitt declines and says “You’re not searching me.”
He was then placed handcuffed, searched, and his cell phone was taken while deputies ran a background check. He was eventually released.
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Truitt says he was worried for his life.
“I thought I could be the next victim by questioning their authority and asserting my rights,” he said.
He’s now suing in federal court for unlawful search and seizure, excessive force and interference of his first amendment rights.
His Attorney, Paul Masuhara said, “When Mr. Truitt asserted his rights to refuse, that officer said ‘you’re violating the law.'”
In the video, the deputy says he had the right to search Truitt because he was standing in the street, taking that video.
Constitutional attorney John Myers with the University of the Pacific said the deputy did have the right to stop Truitt and ask questions, but in this case, likely didn’t have grounds to search him.
“A lot of people think the cops can stop you and automatically search you, that’s not the law. An officer can lawfully stop a citizen but cannot search them cannot touch them unless the officer has what’s called, “reasonable suspicion” that the person is armed or dangerous,” Myers said.
Myers goes on to say that will be the question in court, whether the officer had the right to search Truitt and take his property.
CBS13 reached out to the Sheriff’s Department about what is seen in the video, both the suspect held to the ground and the search of Truitt. They said they had no comment over the pending litigation.