A business owner in San Bernardino says he was the victim of racial profiling after what he and his lawyer are calling an unlawful search and seizure by a San Bernardino police officer. They now plan to take legal action.
Micaiah Barber owns L-7 Auto Group, an auto repair and used car shop in San Bernardino.
He said that he and his employees often park their personal vehicles and some of the rotation vehicles at Bryce Hanes Park across the street.
Barber said that on Jan. 31, one of his employees was removing the dealer license plates from a vehicle of theirs at the park when a San Bernardino police officer, who was already at the location, began inspecting the vehicle.
After the officer told an L-7 Auto Group employee that the car would be towed, Barber said he decided to talk to the officer himself.
“He asked if he could search the vehicle, which I informed him absolutely not,” Barber said.
Barber alleges that the officer was aggressive and asked if he needed to get anything out of the car before it was towed. That’s when he says he left to get a box to collect his things. However, when he returned, Barber says the officer handcuffed him and searched the vehicle.
“A police officer can search someone’s vehicle when the person gives consent for them to search, when the police officer has a warrant, when the search is incident to a lawful arrest and, lastly, when the officer believes he has probable cause that there is incriminating or criminal evidence in that vehicle,” KTLA legal analyst Allison Triessl explains.
Barber and his lawyer, Joseph Richardson, believe none of these applied to that search and seizure of his car.
In a Thursday press conference, Barber and Richardson announced they are filing a claim against the department, which serves as a precursor to suing a government entity.
“There was no arrest, there was no probable cause,” Richardson said. “They should not be humiliated just because they’re Black. They should not have their civil rights trampled on just because they’re Black, and, yes, we believe that that is what happened.
“I was harassed and I was disrespected, and I believe I was racially profiled by the San Bernardino Police Department,” Barber said.
Officials with the San Bernardino Police Department released a statement Thursday night stating that officers, on Jan. 31, observed an unoccupied vehicle at Bryce Hanes Park with no license plates. A registration check of the vehicle’s identification number revealed that it had been expired since 2020.
The release stated that as officers were filling out paperwork, which requires them to tow vehicles with expired registration over six months, they were approached by Barber.
“Barber seemed agitated and was argumentative explaining that he used the public park as overflow parking for his automotive business across the street,” the release stated.
Authorities said that Barber was informed the vehicle was being towed because of its expired registration.
Barber can be seen in body-worn camera footage of the incident, posted to Twitter by SBPD, saying, “No, you’re not,” and “You want to bet?” when advised that his vehicle was being towed for expired registration.
“The officers continued to speak with Barber to explain the situation however, he refused to accept that he was improperly storing his business vehicles on public property,” the release noted.
SBPD said that before officers allowed Barber to gather his belongings, they first needed to search the vehicle. Police say Barber’s response was, “You can do it after I grab what I’m getting.”
“Fearing he may grab a weapon; the officers immediately grabbed ahold of Barber and placed him in handcuffs without incident,” the release stated.
During an inventory search, SBPD says ammunition was located in the trunk of the vehicle, which alerted officers that a gun may have been inside the vehicle, “however none was found.”
Barber was released and allowed to gather his belongings. The vehicle was then towed from the location.