Lawsuit filed in train threat arrest in Colorado
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado – An ex-convict awakened and taken off an Amtrak train early this year in southeastern Colorado and accused of making threats has filed a lawsuit alleging his civil rights were violated.
Ojore Nuru Lutalo, 65, of Elizabeth, N.J., alleges that the arresting officer in La Junta lied about probable cause and omitted information that would have cleared him because the officer wanted to make an arrest in a “major ‘terrorism’ case.”
Lutalo also claims in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Denver that he was targeted because he is African American and because of heightened concern nationwide after a failed underwear bomb on a plane approaching Detroit in December.
He told The Associated Press in a phone interview that he was held for a couple of days in jail without being questioned.
“I knew from day one that the allegations against me were false,” Lutalo said. “All this should play out in court.”
Prosecutors didn’t pursue charges, saying the investigation revealed that Lutalo didn’t make any threats.
La Junta Police Chief Todd Quick, who along with his department is named in the lawsuit, didn’t immediately return a message to AP Wednesday.
The lawsuit also names the city of La Junta.
Lutalo was arrested Jan. 26 on suspicion of felony endangering public transportation. Another passenger reported statements overheard while Lutalo was speaking on a cell phone and jotted down notes on a page of magazine, according to the lawsuit. That passenger reported what she heard to train personnel who contacted police as the train neared La Junta.
The passenger later told police she never heard any specific threats to the train.
Police failed to conduct a thorough investigation, including searching his luggage or the train for a bomb, or questioning the passenger who made the initial report while the train was in La Junta, according to Lutalo’s lawsuit.
Lutalo, a self-described anarchist, served 28 years in prison in New Jersey for armed robbery and weapons offenses involving a shootout with a police officer in 1975 and another shootout with a drug dealer in 1981. In a February interview, he said he avoided flying and decided to take a train because he feared extra scrutiny at airports because of his criminal record and known political views.