The founder of a Los Angeles youth group is seeking damages from sheriffs after they dragged him from his bed semi-naked at 4am and arrested him on suspicion of burglary – only to realize they had the wrong address.
Derrick Cooper, 54, was detained at his home in the Compton district on April 18, after deputies were sent to investigate an attempted burglary.
Cooper, who begun the LA Wildcats group 27 years ago, said he was asleep when the sheriffs’ team opened his front door, and was woken by officers in his bedroom, guns drawn.
They refused to let him put on underwear, pants, socks or shoes and so he was led half naked out of his house into the street.
Cooper told a press conference on Tuesday he felt ‘less than human’ and ‘humiliated.’
Derrick Cooper, 54, was arrested in the early hours of April 18, with sheriffs reaching through a mailbox to open his door then awake him at 4am with guns drawn
The officers entered the building, which also serves as the home of the LA Wildcats youth organization that Cooper founded 27 years ago, and went to his apartment behind
They detained Cooper, who was in his bed at the time, and did not allow him to put on underwear or pants before they handcuffed him and led him outside
‘I was not valued as a human being,’ he said.
‘To just come in and blatantly take me out of my safe place and put me in a place that I’m helpless and afraid for my life —it’s one of the worst things imaginable.’
He said he has been left deeply traumatized by the event, and is unable to sleep at night.
Cooper, who is well known in the district, said that when he awoke to find the sheriffs in his bedroom, ‘I just went into survival mode.’
Surveillance camera footage, obtained by NBC, shows the sheriffs entering his building.
He added: ‘I’m like, they’re either here to kill me or I’ve done something that I don’t know about.
‘I said, ‘I’m unarmed, I live alone, please do not shoot me.”
He said the officers told him to get out of bed and walk towards them, and he told them he would comply but he was naked below the waist and wanted permission to put on clothes. They refused.
‘As much as I wanted to reach for something to cover up, I just knew if I did that, it was not going to be good for me. So as embarrassed as I was, I chose being embarrassed to live another day,’ he said.
He was handcuffed, and marched out of the building where he lives, which also serves as the Wildcats headquarters – with the officers refusing to tell Cooper why he was arrested.
‘I thought [a deputy] was going to say, ‘Sit down, cover up, let me tell you why we’re here.’ That didn’t happen,’ Cooper said.
‘This is not right. He walked me out of my building onto Compton Boulevard with no shoes, no socks on.’
Cooper founded the youth group in Compton to keep kids off the streets. He coaches basketball, soccer, cheer, dance and drumline
He was put in a patrol car for about 20 minutes and said he heard the dispatch radio say: ‘You guys are at the wrong building. Let him go.’
Cooper said they apologized and let him go back into his building.
Sheriffs have not confirmed that they got the wrong address, but said: ‘Compton Station is thoroughly investigating the incident.’
Cooper and his lawyer, Jaaye Person-Lynn, reviewed footage from security cameras but did not see anyone outside, which they argued made the reason for the arrest all the more bizarre.
Person-Lynn, who filed the wrongful detention suit on Monday, said: ‘We haven’t been given any information, like any 911 calls or any other information related to that call.
‘So as of right now, we are still quite unsure what actually led to the officers’ showing up.’
Person-Lynn’s case says Cooper’s civil rights were violated, and accuses the sheriffs’ office of negligent training, negligent supervision, battery, false imprisonment and false arrest.
A visibly-distressed Cooper says he has been traumatized by the arrest, and is seeking damages from the sheriffs
Jaaye Person-Lynn, Cooper’s attorney (pictured), filed their suit against the sheriffs office on Monday
Cooper said that he has been left traumatized by the arrest.
‘It’s just hard to sleep at night. I’m taking it day by day. Some days are good. Some days are not,’ he said.
He said his work with young people has also been affected.
Cooper’s organization sees him coach basketball, soccer, cheer, dance and drumline.
‘The biggest disappointment that I’m dealing with right now is that I cannot be involved with the kids in the community that I serve,’ he said.
‘Mentally I can’t give them that service right now. This is so unfair to me.
‘Because all I ever wanted to do in life was do what someone did for me, give me the chance to be a kid, give me a chance to make memories and give me a chance to be a productive citizen.’
He said he was disappointed no one from the sheriff’s office had been in touch to explain what went wrong.
‘It’s been a week that this happened to me, and nobody’s reached out and even showed any type of empathy or sympathy for what has happened to me from their department. That’s just unacceptable,’ he said.
He is now asking the local community to join him on May 7 to march to the Compton sheriff’s office to demand accountability.
Cooper’s Facebook page states: ‘Please MARCH with me, my family, my friends, the L.A. City Wildcats Youth Academy Kids, my community and our village as we demand L.A. County Sheriff and all law enforcement in this country to STOP! violating our Constitution Rights, our Civil Rights and most of all, OUR HUMAN RIGHTS! ‘
He said on Tuesday: ‘I’m not going to rest until justice is served with this. It’s so much bigger than me.
‘I want to speak for those that were actually killed in their homes by law enforcement and weren’t able to speak.
‘If God’s going to use me in that capacity, so be it. I accept it.’