Only a few hours after allegedly being shot with rubber bullets by the Long Beach Police Department on Sunday, May 31, Brandon Smith returned home to Santa Monica hoping to settle down after a long day’s work of documenting history. But the local resident instead found himself in a jail cell, accused of brandishing an assault rifle while driving.
Smith recently filed a complaint with the Santa Monica Police Department detailing why he believes he was wrongfully detained, searched, and stripped of his second amendment rights by officers only a few hours after attending a protest held in response to the killing of George Floyd.
“I was able to get from Long Beach back to Santa Monica sometime around 11:15 (p.m.) that Sunday and I remember passing a Walgreens, CVS or something like that on a corner,” Smith said in an interview Thursday.
He said he looked into the side-view mirror and saw several police vehicles, approximately 100 yards behind him on Sixth Street. They weren’t displaying lights or sirens, according to Smith. He said he assumed they needed to pass and he pulled over. They still were not displaying any police lights or sirens but all of the vehicles stopped at a standstill on the road.
There was no communication over the loudspeaker, Smith remembers, “so I assumed I was mistaken in thinking they needed to pass me … I literally pull out, and then they hit me with all of the lights and sirens.”
After pulling over once again, Smith said he heard, “‘Get out of the f*cking car now. Get out of the f*cking car. Put your hands out the window now.’ And I have a backup camera on my car so I can see the cops, the lights and everything behind me.”
After peacefully complying, he said he was handcuffed and placed on the curb in a manner that allowed him to see his SUV, which was being ripped apart by officers at the time.
“Long story short,” Smith said, “we’re sitting there and they’re accusing me of brandishing a weapon at somebody. An officer said a motorist back there accused me of brandishing a weapon at them and essentially asked, ‘Why would they lie?’”
Shortly after explaining how it’d be impossible for him to drive, unlock his gun case that’s located in the trunk of his SUV, point an assault rifle at somebody and then perfectly toss a 25-pound weapon back into the trunk and its box all while the police are tailing him, Smith said, a member of the National Guard approached him to ask for the combination to his digital safe, which is a lot more complex to break into but is still relatively easy if you know what you’re doing.
Smith added, “The (soldier) finally says, ‘Okay, well, I’m just gonna break into the case since you’re not going to give me the combination,’” and around midnight, Smith found himself in the backseat of a squad car.
“I realized I still had my Apple Watch on my wrist so I used it to call my mother’s phone. She picked up and I was able to tell her that I was being wrongfully arrested in Santa Monica and what streets I was on.”
He said a detective came to the back of the car to remove the Apple Watch that would later break while being tossed in the trunk of the police car, Smith said.
“I’m then taken to the Santa Monica jail on Fourth Street by City Hall… At about 5:30-6 a.m., they still hadn’t told me what I’m being charged with and I never heard my Miranda Rights or anything like that. Luckily, my mother was finally able to make it to the jail and I was released at approximately 9:30 a.m.”
When he later returned to pick up his work tools and weapons from the station, Smith said he talked about filing a complaint, which has now been referred to the city attorney’s office.
“I would need three hands, essentially, to be able to maneuver an AR while driving,” Smith said, “but nobody wanted to use common sense at the scene and I paid the price.
I have the ability to defend myself, thankfully, but I can’t imagine this happening to a 22-year-old without resources. This is not okay.”
The Santa Monica Police Department said it could not comment on the complaint.