AUBURN — A Lewiston man who claims he was stopped in traffic by Westbrook police and later arrested because he is black is suing that city, police department and officers.

Vincent Oden Facebook photo

Vincent Oden said in a civil complaint filed earlier this week in Androscoggin County Superior Court that he lost a business and profession as a result of false arrest.

Through his local attorney, Adam Lee, Oden said in his lawsuit that he was driving to Lewiston from Westbrook where he had been working on Jan. 28, 2018. While driving on Main Street in that city he drove to an area where firetrucks had responded to a snapped utility pole causing wires to hang low in the street.

Firefighters waved him past the scene, but he was stopped by a Westbrook police officer who hadn’t stopped similar vehicles with white drivers passing through the same area, according to the lawsuit.

Oden told the officer he hadn’t consumed any alcohol and was OK to drive. He said he had medication in his car he’d been prescribed for a recent tooth extraction and an injured Achilles tendon.

He passed all of the field sobriety tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that were conducted by police. The officer referred to Oden to department officials at the scene as “a black male out of Lewiston,” the suit says.

After conferring with a sergeant from the department, the officer arrested Oden, who was handcuffed and driven to the Westbrook police station, but wasn’t advised of Miranda warnings.

From there, he was driven to Cumberland County Jail in Portland where he was administered a blood/alcohol breath test and a drug recognition evaluation. The results of the breath test came back showing zero blood/alcohol in his system, according to the lawsuit. The conclusion of the evaluation “indicated that he was in fact not under the influence,” Lee wrote in the complaint.

Still, he was arrested for possession of his prescription medicine.

He was jailed for “an extended period of time and was subjected to a humiliating strip search,” despite negative results from drug and alcohol tests, Lee wrote.

When he was released, bail conditions prevented him from visiting a business that served alcohol. At that time, Oden was in the process of seeking to open a barbecue restaurant in Lewiston that served alcohol. The restrictions effectively barred him from continuing with his primary business venture and, secondarily, prevented him from working his part-time job as a DJ. Because of the bail conditions, he lost his business, Lee wrote.

Later, the criminal charges were dismissed along with his bail conditions, according to the suit.

Oden later resumed a barbecue catering business he’d started before seeking to launch the restaurant after the restrictions were dropped. He also was able later to return to his part-time DJ business.

Despite initial roadblocks, he was eventually successful in obtaining a copy of the police report documenting his arrest in an effort to understand why police had taken that action, but portions of the report had been inexplicably redacted in violation of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

“Upon information and belief, these redactions were for the purpose of concealing that information in the police report which was erroneous, biased and embarrassing to defendants,” Lee wrote.

After this experience, Oden, a military veteran, was diagnosed with major severe depressive disorder and is undergoing treatment at the Togus Veterans Affairs medical center in Chelsea.

He is claiming his 4th and 14th amendment rights, as well as Maine Constitution rights, were violated because of the “baseless” traffic stop that constituted a “seizure.”

Lee wrote that “defendants had no articulable facts to support a reasonable suspicion that plaintiff had engaged, was in the process of engaging or was about to engage in violation of the law.”

Oden also claims false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Calls to Westbrook officials seeking comment were not returned Thursday.

Comments are not available on this story.