The Washington, D.C., wing of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-DC) is suing a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer for conducting an invasive body cavity search.
Mbalaminwe Mwimanzi was watching sports at a friend's apartment on the evening of January 15, 2019. It was there that he endured the "baseless probes of his genitals and anus by government agents," alleges the complaint filed by ACLU-DC at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
According to the complaint, MPD officers stormed the apartment with a warrant allowing them to search for drugs and drug paraphernalia. The occupants were ordered to get on the ground.
Officers searched Mwimanzi three separate times, even though the warrant did not authorize any searches of the apartment's occupants. During the first search, Mwimanzi was allegedly pulled to his feet, handcuffed, and patted down. The officers didn't find any evidence of a crime. During the second search, an officer allegedly yanked Mwimanzi by his shirt, unzipped his jacket, and patted him down. Once again, the officer found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Officer Joshua Wilson, who is being sued by Mwimanzi and the ACLU-DC, conducted the third search. He allegedly asked another officer if Mwimanzi was searched. The officer confirmed that he was. Wilson then allegedly told Mwimanzi to spread his legs.
The complaint alleges that Wilson ordered Mwimanzi, who was still handcuffed, to spread his legs even wider than the previous officers had ordered. Wilson then allegedly placed his hands over Mwimanzi's backside and pressed hard enough to cause severe pain in Mwimanzi's anus. Wilson also allegedly pressed Mwimanzi's testicles against his leg, rubbed them, and placed pressure on them.
Mwimanzi protested that he was being fondled but Wilson allegedly continued his behavior. Once again, the search turned up zero evidence.
Following the search, Mwimanzi told other officers that Wilson had sexually assaulted him. Mwimanzi also asked to be taken to a hospital as he was experiencing pain. He was transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center and received treatment.
The ACLU-DC is suing Wilson for violating Mwimanzi's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and for committing battery against Mwimanzi, which is defined by D.C. law as "an intentional act that causes a harmful or offensive bodily contact."
MPD declined to comment for this story.
"They had already searched me twice before and found nothing, so to search me a third time and to humiliate me like that in front of everyone was dehumanizing," Mwimanzi said in a press release.
"Officer Wilson's search of Mr. Mwimanzi was reprehensible and degrading, and as we now know from our previous cases, it's far from an isolated incident," ACLU-DC attorney Michael Perloff added. "This appears to be an all-too-common tactic MPD officers have used against countless individuals, and it must stop now."
This is not the first allegation of sexual misconduct brought against MPD. The ACLU-DC has already filed three previous lawsuits over similar actions. One case was settled in 2017 after an MPD officer allegedly told a man to drop his pants and "probed [the man] repeatedly in his rectum with a finger" under the guise of a drug search, according to the lawsuit. In 2018, another D.C. man agreed to settle his lawsuit with MPD over what the suit called an "exceedingly invasive" anal search conducted by Officer Sean Lojacono. This particular stop-and-frisk incident was captured on a cell phone.
The third lawsuit, alleging intrusive searches of demonstrators during President Trump's 2017 inauguration, is still pending.