A Hawthorne resident and college student named Charles Samuel Couch says that he was wrongly ensnared in a Manhattan Beach sex sting at a public bathroom near the water, and he's suing the city, the police chief, and 16 other cops, including five detectives, for what he says were federal civil rights violations and more:
The federal suit, obtained by the Weekly, is a doozy. It asks for $5 million for alleged distress, aggravation and loss of work. It was filed over the weekend.
We reached out to the Manhattan Beach Police Department for its response but did not hear back.
Here's what Couch alleges:
On March 9, 2012 he was at the beach as a Cambrian Homecare of Long Beach employee, chaperoning a boy with mental challenges.
The boy tended to spend extra long times using the restroom, and on that day he had to go, the suit says: Couch took him to a public facility on the Strand at Marine Avenue, where an apparent undercover sex sting targeting gay cruisers was underway, the plaintiff alleges.
The kid headed to a stall, which had a hole cut into it that led to an adjacent stall, the suit says. Couch used the urinal and washed his hands.
An undercover detective entered the restroom, said hello to Couch, and entered a stall next to the kid's, the suit says. The child bolted from the stall, according to the filing.
"There is a man looking at me in the stall," the kid said, according to the document. Couch replied, "Lets get out of here."
The two fled, but the detective asked why they were leaving "so quickly," and soon the duo was surrounded by cops, the suit says.
Couch was "tackled, choked and handcuffed" because the officers thought he was trying to kidnap the child, the filing alleges.
The plaintiff was interrogated for "several hours," his car was ransacked during a search, and the parents of the child, who vouched for Couch, were called, the suit says.
Detectives also took Couch's laptop from his backpack and kept it for more than a month, the filing claims.
Though the plaintiff was never charged or even formally arrested, an officer swore under oath that the laptop had been used "as the means of committing a felony," a claim the suit says constitutes perjury on the cop's part.
The suit states the plaintiff had to withdraw from El Camino Junior College because all his class work was on that laptop.
The cherry on top, the filing says, was the day when the Daily Breeze published Couch's photo as one of "18 arrested in sex sting." But wait, there's more:
Eleven months later Couch received a letter from the chief of police saying he was wanted based on a warrant connected to charges of resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer, the suit says. The charges were soon dismissed in Superior Court, according to the filing.
The suit alleges the plaintiff was subjected to false arrest, unreasonable search and seizure, discrimination, and much more.
We'd love to hear the department's side of things, because this is almost too good to be true.