GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A federal jury has awarded $730,000 to a Black Secret Service agent, finding that two white U.S. Park Police officers unlawfully detained him in 2015 as he waited to accompany a Cabinet secretary’s motorcade.
The jury returned a verdict July 9, finding that Gerald Ferreyra and Brian Phillips violated Nathaniel Hicks’ constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable seizure. The jury also found the totality of the officers’ actions during the seizure unreasonable.
In July 2015, Hicks was preparing to lead a motorcade through Maryland when the officers detained him on the shoulder of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Ferreyra pointed his weapon at Hicks as he approached the agent’s parked vehicle and saw a gun on the front seat, the lawsuit says.
Hicks alleged in the suit that the officers singled him out because of his race and said he did nothing to justify being detained after the officers confirmed he was an on-duty Secret Service agent. Hicks claims Ferreyra and Phillips both yelled at him, talked to him in a degrading manner, and wouldn’t let him leave even after he showed them his Secret Service credentials.
Hicks, now a retired 20-year veteran of the Secret Service, had been assigned to a protection motorcade for then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on the morning of July 11, 2015. The motorcade slowed to allow Hicks to join it, but officers continued to detain the agent. One of them mockingly waved at the passing vehicles, according to Hicks’ attorneys.
Phillips briefly stopped Hicks a second time — allegedly for talking on a cellphone while driving erratically — after he drove away from the spot along Interstate 295 in Maryland where the officers initially detained him. Phillips continued to talk to Hicks in a demeaning tone before throwing his identification and registration at him, the suit alleged.
Attorneys for the officers did not respond to messages seeking comment on the verdict. U.S. Park Police officials did not yet have details about whether the officers were still with the agency.