Jessie Thornton is a 64-year-old retired firefighter who resides in the retirement community of Surprise, Arizona. After being pulled over for what he claims is the 10th time, Mr. Thornton is sick and tired of the law enforcement “surprises” he’s been receiving and has filed suit after he was arrested and charged with DUI even though he blew a 0.00 on a breathalyzer test.
The notice of claim for $500,000 was filed against the Sunrise Police Department for emotional distress and violating his civil rights. In the notice he asserts that racial profiling fueled his arrest in a four-year pattern of harassment by local police.
So what crime did Thornton confess to being guilty of after his run-ins with law enforcement? “Driving while black,” he said.
In December, Thornton was pulled over for crossing a white line marker. His suit papers claim that the officer noted bloodshot eyes and insisted he was drunk.
Thornton told ABC15 that his wife is an ER nurse so he’s adjusted his schedule to be more like hers. On the evening in question he had recently left an area fitness center where he had been swimming. He warned the first officer on the scene that his eyes may have had the noted bloodshot appearance because he had recently been swimming. He also warned the two additional officers that arrived to administer his field sobriety test that he did not move that well because he had bad hips and knees and was due for surgery in two days.
In spite of this heads up from Thornton, the officers placed him in handcuffs and required him to sit on the curb. He was unable to sit upright and stated that he had to just lay on the ground to bear the force on his knees and hips. He was arrested and placed into the back of an SUV. During the ride he asked the officer in front of him to move her seat up and he claims she told him “to quit his whining.”
Medical documents show Thornton was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery two days after the incident. Furthermore, he did follow through with the procedures as he stated.
According to the police report, the officer did note that Thornton has a hip and knee problem.
Documents obtained from the City of Surprise indicate that Thornton was then administered a breathalyzer test and that he registered a 0.00. In spite of this, Thornton remained in custody where a drug recognition expert was called in to further test him. What were the results of these additional findings? “I conducted an evaluation of Jessie, in my opinion Jessie was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the DRE noted. Also, a blood analysis showed no drugs were detected in Thornton’s system.
By this point Thornton’s car had been impounded and his DUI charge had been forwarded to the MVD. This caused his license to be suspended and he was informed he would have to take a mandatory drinking education class. Finally, the retired firefighter was released to his wife. He said:
“She was at work and had to come get me, it was a mess, I couldn’t believe it. On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn’t get it until Monday..”
The DUI charge from that December arrest has been dropped but that isn’t enough for Jessie or his daughter, who just so happens to be in law enforcement, as she has filed an official complaint on her own. Mr. Thornton wanted to make it clear that his suit was not about money or any previous ill will towards law enforcement:
“Listen, I was a firefighter and firefighters work hand in hand with police officers, I have nothing against police officers, this just wasn’t right.”
Multiple news agencies have reached out to Sunrise for an official statement but they’ve refused to respond, citing that no comment is their standard operating procedure while legal action is pending.