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African American dentist sues NYC for $5M after police accuse him of breaking into own office

An African American dentist based in Manhattan is suing the City of New York for $5 million, alleging multiple civil rights violations, according to a June 23 Law Firm Newswire release.

Benjamin Shirley, DDS, said New York City Police Department officers racially profiled him when they accused him of breaking into his own office while working late March 9, 2020.

Dr. Shirley worked late hours regularly, keeping his practice open until 10 p.m. to accommodate patients who couldn't attend day appointments.

On March 9, 2020, the dentist briefly left his office building around midnight to take out the trash. Surveillance videos show police officers approaching the door with flashlights, using the intercom to demand Dr. Shirley provide identification, according to the news release. The lawsuit claims two officers tried to unlawfully enter the property and threatened to break into the office if the dentist failed to come outside even though there was no "probable cause or reasonable belief" he had committed a crime.

The dentist said he called 911 because he was fearful for his life. His attorney told the media that Dr. Shirley didn't immediately go outside to cooperate because he was afraid.

Two more officers arrived and allegedly refused to leave until Dr. Shirley came outside and presented his driver's license. The lawsuit claimed he had to show his identification multiple times even though the dental office address was visible.

The lawsuit alleges unlawful detainment, false arrest, illegal search and seizure, trespass, and negligence.

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