Christopher Owens, a 10-year-veteran of the Providence Police Department, and his son Tyler Owens, have filed a $1 million lawsuit over their violent arrests in 2012 after they chased down a fleeing suspect.
On September 19, 2012, the father and son witnessed a tow truck smash into a car.
It turned out that the driver, Sean Sparfven, was fleeing from officers who were pursuing him for an auto theft. He had previously tried to run over detectives and smashed his vehicle into a cruiser. The confrontation had escalated to a point where he was shot at six times, and his sister was wounded.
Christopher, who was a school resource officer at the time, did not know about the prior confrontation, yet immediately rushed to help the injured woman inside the vehicle, who happened to be a federal law enforcement officer. Once he deemed she was okay, he then took off and chased down Sparfven, heroically tackling him before police arrived, despite the fact that he was off-duty.
When officers arrived, several were Owens’ former colleagues — yet he was assaulted, handcuffed, and arrested.
He had repeatedly informed the arresting officers that he was an cop in their very same department.
Owens then watched as his son, who had also previously worked on undercover operations with the department, was punched in the face and beaten before being placed in a police cruiser, The Providence Journal reports.
“They were assaulted, arrested, handcuffed and placed in the rear of police cars due to the color of their skin and because they are African Americans. One officer remarked that all he saw was a big black guy,” the suit claims.
Officer Owens was so badly injured during the arrest that he was granted “injured in the line of duty” benefits and approved for a disability pension. He did not return to the department, who later credited him for the apprehension of Sparfven.
According to the lawsuit, the department acknowledged that the assault was due to the men’s race, however, they also ruled that the officers were not at fault for the vicious assaults.
“It’s unfortunate he was injured. It was a dynamic scene, but he has some responsibility for what transpired in that back yard,” Col. Steven G. O’Donnell, state police superintendent, told The Providence Journal — blaming Owens for his beating, claiming he did not follow procedures for identifying himself.
Owens, who was a peer, and even a hero in this situation, posed no threat to the police officers — yet he and his son were beaten anyway. Even if Owens did not properly identify himself as a police officer — he was on the scene trying to help, and the officers who assaulted him have no excuse for their behavior.
This is not an isolated incident, and had Owens not been a police officer, we may have never heard a word about it.