ELIZABETHTOWN — Willie Thompson, a black police officer in Elizabethtown, says he doesn’t see black and white — either on the job or when he is off duty.
So a lawsuit against the Fayetteville Police Department for an incident that involved two white and one Hispanic police officers mistakenly arresting Thompson outside a Walgreens store is anything but racially motivated.
“I can’t stress this enough, this is not about race to me,” Thompson said during an interview with the Bladen Journal last week. “It’s about right and wrong.”
Thompson, a native of Bladen County, has an extensive background in law enforcement — including military service and stops as a South Dakota police officer, Hoke County sheriff’s deputy and nearly two years in Elizabethtown as a patrolman.
Thompson’s lawsuit alleges that the Fayetteville officers — identified as Andrew Dickinson, Thomas Marshburn and Ramon Herrera — used aggressive force in December 2014, as well as used racial profiling and harassed him without just cause.
The incident began when Thompson, who was off duty, was using a Redbox video machine outside the Walgreens. He said he noticed the police cars coming in, but “I wasn’t going to interject myself into whatever situation was taking place, so I just minded my own business.”
But he said a store clerk, who had called the police because of a prescription fraud incident, soon came out and pointed the officers toward him, and that’s when things went bad.
“They immediately got aggressive with me and weren’t listening to anything I said,” Thompson explained. “I repeatedly tried to tell them I was a police officer and all my (credentials) were in my vehicle, but they ignored it. They essentially overreacted.”
Thompson added another factor getting ignored was that two women in the parking lot tried to tell the Fayetteville officers they had the wrong man and that the one they were looking for had run the other way.
“I’m not a disrespectful person,” Thompson said. “I was trying to tell them who I was, but they didn’t want to hear it. They immediately threw me against a wall and handcuffed me.”
He also said the officers refused to check the online site where it would have shown Thompson to be an Elizabethtown police officer.
Finally, the officers went inside the store to look at the in-store video cameras and realized that Thompson had never been in the store.
“They told me I matched the description given, but I don’t see how that can be,” Thompson said. “It’s clear to see the man they wanted and I were wearing very different clothing and I’m a good foot taller than the suspect they wanted.”
But what really frustrated Thompson at the time was what one of the officers told him as they removed the handcuffs.
“He said, ‘if you hadn’t been acting like that, this wouldn’t have happened,’” Thompson said. “I was like, really? I knew what he was trying to do.
“I was never aggressive or combative,” he added, “and there is a video camera that supports everything I have said.”
Thompson said the officers never once apologized to him, although “they have said they did, but that’s a lie.”
Thompson said he met with Fayetteville’s Internal Affairs recently with counsel present and told his side of the story, but nothing has happened since — outside of a letter claiming the incident was being investigated.
Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock has said he is supporting his officers — Marshburn has since left the department — and Thompson, who has secured the services of Fayetteville attorney Allen Rogers, expects the case to be taken to court.
Thompson, too, has also received the support of his own department.
“My department has been very supportive through this,” he said. “There’s been no negative impact whatsoever. Right now, I just want the truth to come out.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.