Suspended Lexington officer sued for arresting the wrong man and leaving him in jail

A Lexington police officer who was recently suspended for two months without pay has been sued in Fayette Circuit Court for alleged racial discrimination.

Officer Jesse Mascoe allegedly pulled over Dwight Paul Jr. on Aug. 30, 2018, for a tinted window violation, illegally searched his vehicle and found no drugs, but then arrested Paul for an outstanding warrant for failing to pay child support.

The only problem: Dwight Paul Jr. was not wanted for flagrant non-support, the lawsuit alleges.

Even after Fayette County Detention Center staff told Mascoe that Dwight Paul Jr.‘s birth date and age were not the same as the similarly named person who was wanted for flagrant non-support, Mascoe didn’t care, court documents allege.

“Mascoe left the detention facility and Paul remained imprisoned,” the lawsuit alleges.

Paul had to hire a lawyer and pay the amount listed on the warrant for non support. It is not clear how long Paul remained in jail. He was eventually dismissed from the non-support charge after he appeared in court on Sept. 6, 2018, the lawsuit alleges.

“The Defendant Mascoe acted in an arbitrary and absolute manner by stopping, detaining, arresting and imprisoning Paul due to his race,” the lawsuit says.

Paul is black. Mascoe is white.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages to cover Paul’s legal expenses and his pain and suffering. Named in the lawsuit are Mascoe, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, the Lexington police department, Mayor Linda Gorton and Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers.

Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the city, said the city does not comment on ongoing lawsuits.

Gerry Harris, a lawyer for Paul, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the police department said Mascoe is still on a two-month unpaid suspension that began in August. He could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit alleges Mascoe pulled Paul over for a tinted window violation and then told Paul he smelled marijuana. Mascoe, who has been an officer since 2015, then allegedly handcuffed Paul and put him in the back of his vehicle. Mascoe then “without permission or probable cause” began to search Paul’s vehicle. He didn’t find any drugs.

He then searched Paul. “During this personal search, Mascoe grabbed Paul’s genitals in an aggressive manner causing pain,” the lawsuit alleges.

He found no drugs on Paul.

Mascoe then arrested Paul on an outstanding warrant for flagrant non-support even though was no probable cause to suspect Paul of flagrant non-support, the lawsuit alleges. Mascoe didn’t check Paul’s social security number or Paul’s birth date. If he had, he would have known that Paul was not a wanted man, the lawsuit alleges.

At the jail, Mascoe allegedly told detention center staff to do a strip search of Paul. They found no drugs. But the experience humiliated Paul, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that Paul’s constitutional rights were violated.

Many of the allegations in the lawsuit mirror complaints against Mascoe in 2019.

According to records obtained by the Herald-Leader through an Open Records Act request, Mascoe attempted to stop a vehicle for a tinted window violation on May 27 when the suspect fled in his vehicle. Mascoe chased the vehicle, which ran into a fence and a third vehicle driven by Adrian Wilkinson, who was treated for a head injury.

Mascoe violated the department’s policy on vehicle pursuits by chasing the vehicle for a minor violation, according to disciplinary records.

Mascoe also was cited by superiors twice in 2019 for improper searches — once for an incident in March 2019, which resulted in the charges being dismissed, and for a separate incident in April 2019.

Other violations from 2019 that were included in Mascoe’s disciplinary file include improper activation for body-worn cameras, improper documentation of a traffic stop, and driving his police vehicle out of county without permission. He had also violated the department’s vehicle pursuit policy prior to the May 27 incident when Wilkinson was hurt, the records indicate.

It’s not clear if Mascoe was disciplined for the 2018 incident involving Paul. The discipline records received by the newspaper only include incidents from March to June 2019.