City of Antioch and Police Department Facing Civil Rights Lawsuit Over Racist Text Messages

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The City of Antioch, California, and at least nine police officers are facing a federal lawsuit over alleged civil rights violations after text messages emerged showing law enforcement officers engaging in racist, sexually explicit, and homophobic text message conversations.

The lawsuit was announced by civil rights attorney John Burris shortly after the text messages were made public on April 13. The text messages were released by the DA's office in a 14-page report. According to the lawsuit, the claims come after the Contra Costa County District Attorney (CCCDA) in tandem with the FBI investigated police behavior throughout the city. The report detailed that officers engaged in a “pattern and practice of discriminatory law enforcement based on race and gender.” There were at least 17 police officers involved in the disgraceful text message exchanges, including the president of the Antioch police union.

The report contains partially redacted information but details some of the discriminatory and ill-intentioned texts shared between officers. The report highlights that at least 17 police officers had sent or received derogatory texts between 2020 and 2021. Some of the texts contained usage of the n-word, while other texts showed that officers reacted with certain individuals in a manner “based in racial animus, misogyny, homophobia, and other offensive conduct.” Other text messages show officers using terms including “gorilla” and “monkey” to describe interactions they have had with minority community members.

The lawsuit names five state residents as plaintiffs as well as one family member on behalf of a decedent. One of the plaintiffs, Trent Allen, claims that some of the text messages relate to an encounter he had with police in 2021.

Allen was brutally beaten by Officer Eric Rombough, one of the officers named in the lawsuit. Text messages associated with Rombough detail how he gave Allen “6 muzzle thumps” and tried to “kick his head over the fence.” Another text message from Rombough details that he “tried to knock him unconscious” and that he called him the n-word and a homophobic slur.

Another plaintiff, Adam Carpenter, who is also a Black resident, details that he was arrested in November 2022. He alleges that prior to his arrest, he was frequently stopped by officers and even had his money and cell phones taken away by officers without law enforcement ever documenting his confiscated belongings. Carpenter spent nearly half a year behind bars before the state eventually dropped the charges against him in early April.

Carpenter shared, “I have not been able to get a job or obtain any type of employment,” adding, “Basically, the system is set for us to fail.”

Another plaintiff, community organizer Shagoofa Khan, also alleges that she was the subject of disparaging text messages between the officers. She shared with local outlets that when she read the report and the exchanged text messages, she found it “was extremely traumatizing, not just for myself, but the entire community of Antioch. I dropped my phone reading those text messages. They were so vile and disgusting."

During a news conference, the plaintiffs’ representing attorney Burris explained, “I’ve never seen the pervasive form of racial bigotry that was communicated amongst these officers as if it were a cup of coffee it made me cringe to think that these were the very people that were supposed to be serving the people of this community.” Burris added, “This conduct itself was so horrible that it was more than just locker room talk, it was a state of mind.”

The released report comes amid a surge in national protest over police brutality against minorities and unarmed African American men.

Although current and former Antioch police officers, including Police Chief Steven Ford, were named as defendants, none of them have been charged with any crimes.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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