Moreno Valley, CA — Several African American barbershop owners recently expressed their outrage over a string of racially targeted raids that occurred at their places of business on April 2, 2008 by Moreno Valley Police.
Barbers Kevon Gordon, Ronald Jones and Raymond Barnes held a press conference on April 8 with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Seyfarth Shaw LLP law firm. The barbers have filed a lawsuit in United States District Court.
Owner Ray Barnes of Fades Unlimited and Kevon Gordon and Ronald Jones of the Hair Shack said they were stunned and surprised by the unannounced raids, which also involved local and state inspectors.
According to the lawsuit, police raided six barbershops on April 2, five of which were owned and operated by African Americans. No warrant was produced by the Moreno Valley Police.
Owners of the Hair Shack and Fades Unlimited said that police armed with handguns and wearing bulletproof vests rushed into the barbershops, questioning customers and conducting extensive searches.
The owners believe that the police were searching for drugs, but all deny that there were drugs in their establishments.
The barbershop owners said that since the raids, customers have shunned patronizing the barbershops and that business has dropped significantly. They also claim that they have suffered from emotional and economic distress.
The owners said the lawsuit is also being filed because Moreno Valley Police violated their constitutional rights and that they were denied their right to equal protection under the law.
Jones described the raid that still leaves him shaken and emotional. “On April 2 of last year, five Moreno Valley police officers, three code enforcement officers and three state board inspectors rushed into the Hair Shack,” said Jones. “I went into shock. When you see 11 people run into your shop, it’s unreal. I was looking around like, what’s going on?”
Jones believes that the officers and inspectors were searching for drugs. “They went through every cabinet and every drawer. It was definitely an illegal search. But I don’t have any drugs in my shop,” Jones insisted. “The personnel at the state board asked to see my license and identification and then the police ran a warrant check on me. Then they started running warrant checks on my customers. I felt violated and very angry. The customers said they had never seen anything like it.”
Pausing, Jones added, “I’ve been in business for 22 years and we’ve never had a problem with the police. I don’t understand why they ran in here and conducted this raid. We even have Moreno Valley police officers come in here to get their haircuts.”
According to Item 21 of the lawsuit, Moreno Valley police officers, accompanied by code enforcement and board inspectors, rushed into Fades Unlimited and questioned employees and customers, collected their driver’s licenses and ran warrant checks on them.
The lawsuit also stated that when one of the barbers expressed his objections to the search, “an officer handcuffed him, took him to a police car in the parking lot, placed him in handcuffs in the back of the car, and then told him they had found an outstanding warrant. After about ten minutes, officers released the barber and allowed him back inside the shop.”
After the raid, Jones said he repeatedly contacted the Moreno Valley police department to ask why they had conducted the raids on his business. “We never received any answer for why they did what they did,” said Jones. “And we never got an apology.”