Judge agrees Kentucky cop who cuffed teen during traffic stop violated his rights

Published 1:37 pm Friday, September 16, 2022

A federal judge has ruled that a Louisville police officer violated a Black teenager’s constitutional rights during a 2018 traffic stop when the teen was handcuffed and frisked for weapons.

The teen, Tae-Ahn Lea, was pulled over by former Louisville Detective Kevin Crawford for allegedly making a wide right turn. Lea, who was 18 at the time, filed a federal lawsuit over the traffic stop.

U.S. District Court Judge Greg Stivers wrote in a summary judgment ruling Thursday that Crawford violated Lea’s right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Crawford, who is white, had believed Lea looked nervous and lied about a weapon in the car, according to Stivers’ ruling. The “weapon” was a miniature souvenir Louisville Slugger bat that was tucked between the front car seat and the console.

“Crawford’s consideration of the miniature bat was not sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion that Lea was armed and dangerous and nervousness is not a reliable indicator of criminal activity,” Stivers wrote.

Crawford patted Lea down and handcuffed the teen before a K9 dog was called in to search the vehicle. Lea was eventually released and given a citation.

Stivers ruled in favor of Lea in a summary judgment, meaning a jury will decide how much in damages will be awarded to Lea. Crawford is no longer on the Louisville police department.

Stivers also dismissed Lea’s claims against Louisville’s former police chief and three other officers.