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Judge rules former LMPD officer violated teen's constitutional rights during 2018 traffic stop

The judge ruled police conducted an unlawful frisk and vehicle search, prolonging the traffic stop and violating the then 18-year-old's rights.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has determined that a Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) officer violated a teenager's rights during a viral traffic stop in 2018.

In his ruling on Thursday, Judge Greg Stivers says former LMPD officer Kevin Crawford violated Tae-Ahn Lea's fourth amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. 

Lea was 18 years old when he was pulled over by officers for an improper wide turn in his mom's car on Aug. 9, 2018.

According to court documents, Crawford repeatedly asked if Lea had any weapons or drugs on him, which Lea denied.

There was a baseball bat between the passenger seat and console, which an officer asked about and Lea said was a small souvenir Louisville Slugger.

"It wasn't even thinking about it, or anything like that. Just a souvenir that [his  mother] got," he said.

Crawford then opened the car's door and told Lea to exit the vehicle. 

The LMPD officer then frisked and handcuffed Lea while his vehicle was searched by K-9 and officers. Nothing illegal was found inside the car and he was issued a citation for the improper turn.

"You could tell in the video, I was in shock, because I knew nothing was in there at all," he said. "I knew I did nothing wrong."

Officers claim Lea was acting nervous, something he says shouldn't have been concerning for them.

"I couldn't believe they honestly said that. I mean, I was nervous," Lea said. "You know, you get pulled over in broad daylight. Only day off work, I had been working hard, fresh out of high school."

The lawsuit, filed in 2019, argues Crawford unlawfully conducted a pat-down search of Lea, prolonging the traffic stop beyond its initial purpose, which Stivers agreed violated his fourth amendment rights.

Stivers ruled that there was no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity that justified detaining Lea beyond the traffic infraction investigation.

As part of the ruling, the judge dismissed the lawsuit against other officers named in the suit.

While Crawford no longer works at LMPD, he was hired by Jeffersonville Police in 2019.

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