CLAIM: Boca Raton Police Officer, Dressed In All Black In Dark Of Night, Fails To Identify Himself While Homeowner Lawfully Investigated Prowler On Property.
PROSECUTORS DROP CHARGE. WRONGFUL ARREST SUIT FILED.
BY: ANDREW COLTON | Editor and Publisher
BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Copyright © 2021 MetroDesk Media, LLC) — The Boca Raton Police Department is facing a civil lawsuit filed by a man who says he was wrongfully arrested by an overly aggressive officer trespassing on his property.
Richard Townsend, seen in the booking photo above, was charged with “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon” on May 16th, 2020. But according to a lawsuit just filed by Townsend, the arrest was wrong and the police officer failed to identify himself or fully investigate what was happening.
The suit claims that Mr. Townsend and his wife were awoken in the middle of the night by their Ring doorbell alerting to a prowler. There had been thefts and criminal mischief in the area of Coventry Street in the days prior to the incident. While his wife called 911, Mr. Townsend exited his home — with his handgun for which he has a concealed weapons permit — and found a black Chevy Tahoe nearby with a man dressed in black looking in car windows.
That man, according to the lawsuit, was Boca Raton Police Officer Adam Keniston. Keniston, according to the suit, was part of Boca Raton’s tactical team — dressed in black, driving an unmarked car, and displaying no visible police identification. The suit alleges Keniston entered Townsend’s property, pulled a gun on Townsend, arrested him, and misrepresented reality on his official affidavit.
From the suit: “Although not included in this affidavit, Keniston actually walked onto Plaintiff’s property, looked into vehicles, and was wearing an all black tactical uniform with minimal if no police Insignia. As Plaintiff approached Keniston, he never announced to Plaintiff that he was a law enforcement officer. At no time did Plaintiff admit that he pointed a firearm at Keniston. Plaintiff had the constitutional right to bear arms as he investigated who was trespassing on his property.”
There is no indication that the police dispatcher told Mr. Townsend’s wife that the man — dressed in black in the dark of night and looking in their vehicle — was a police officer.
Claims the suit: “At the time of the commencement of the prosecution, there was no basis for a reasonable
person to believe that Plaintiff had committed such offenses because, in fact, Defendant Keniston acted improperly by entering Plaintiff’s property, looking into his vehicle, all while dressed in a black tactical uniform, in an unmarked police car, and failing to announce that he was a police officer as Plaintiff, a homeowner, approached him.”
The lawsuit claims that this narrative, written by Keniston, is disproven by his own police body cam:
“On Saturday 5-16-2020, at approximately 0245 hours, I responded to the area of Coventry St in reference to a
suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood possibly burglarizing vehicles. I was in my duty uniform that consisted of black BDU, black polo, and black tactical vest (marked with Boca Police). I drove down the street and got out of my unmarked black Chevrolet Tahoe and physically went to multiple vehicles (in) driveways to see if they had been victims to any car burglaries. I checked the driveways on both the north and south sides of the roadway and as I came out to the driveway of 798 Coventry St, I observed a white male walking westbound towards my location. The white male later identified as Richard Townsend was shirtless, wearing blue jeans yelling “hey” and appeared to be intoxicated. I got back into my vehicle and when I looked in the side-view mirror, he was still walking westbound towards me and I observed him raise a dark object in his hand towards my vehicle which appeared to be a handgun. At that point I had a well-rounded fear he would possibly fire into my vehicle. I drove up the road to create some distance and turned around and activated my lights, I gave him verbal commands through my loudspeaker to put the gun on the ground and step away from the firearm.”
Townsend’s suit claims that report is a lie, and that Keniston added the “appeared intoxicated” line with no factual evidence to back it up. Most importantly, claims Townsend’s attorney: there’s no way Officer Keniston could have seen what he claimed to see.
“Keniston stated in his Probable Cause Affidavit, under oath, that as he was driving away from Plaintiff, he “looked in the side view mirror. and observed [Plaintiff) raise a dark object in his hands toward my vehicle which appeared to be a handgun.” This observation was impossible, given the lighting conditions and distance between Plaintiff and Keniston.”
“Defendant Keniston acted with malice in causing this criminal prosecution,” wrote Townsend’s attorney. “Malice is implied by the lack of probable cause in the underlying arrest, the reckless disregard for the rights of Plaintiff by entering his property and then later arresting him, and Defendant Keniston’s material misstatements of fact made in support of the criminal prosecution against Plaintiff – such as his assertion that Plaintiff appeared intoxicated and that Plaintiff admitted that he had pointed a firearm at him, when in fact Plaintiff never made any such admission as evidenced from Keniston’s body cam recordings.”
The suit seeks in excess of $30,000 — the statutory minimum for filing in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. The suit names Keniston and the City of Boca Raton as defendants. Keniston does have certain protections as an employee of the City of Boca Raton.
Prosecutors dropped the charge against Townsend, but his record was never expunged from the Palm Beach County arrest database.
We are publishing the complete lawsuit, below, as well as the original affidavit of probable cause filed by Officer Keniston. If the documents do not appear, access them here.
Townsend is represented by West Palm Beach Attorney Valentin Rodriguez.
This is the original police report filed by Boca Raton Police Officer Adam Keniston. Richard Townsend claims it is fabricated.
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