A lawsuit was launched last week against Utah and Idaho police departments by two Black Idaho State University students who were wrongly arrested in 2016 for a crime they didn’t commit.
Nehemiah McFarlin and Atoa Fox were thrown behind bars after police accused them of robbing the U.S. Bank in Malad City, Idaho, Dec. 14, 2016. The two students allegedly fit the description of the culprit, although attorneys representing the pair said the only description that matched the two was race, the Standard-Examiner reported.
McFarlin and Fox, then teammates on the Idaho State University football team, were on Christmas break and headed home from Idaho to California when they drove through Box Elder County, Utah, and were met with icy road conditions. The two slid off the road, damaging their vehicle, forcing them to wait on the side of the highway for AAA help.
According to their lawsuit, someone who saw the pair sitting on the side of the road called Box Elder police and reported two Black males sitting inside a white vehicle.
The complaint continues by saying Utah Highway Patrol officers pulled up to where McFarlin and Fox were waiting and ordered the two out of their car at gunpoint. The two players were accused of robbing the bank just across the state line in Malad City and despite their offering alibi evidence at the scene, were taken to jail and spent that night and most of the next day behind bars before being released due to lack of evidence.
Authorities later arrested Dakota Shareef Walker at his home in Ogden, Utah, on Jan. 10, 2017. Walker would plead guilty to the Idaho robbery and others, receiving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence for robbing five banks in four states in 2016 and 2017.
Earlier reports described the robber as a Black man wearing a hoodie and driving a Toyota. McFarlin and Fox were driving a 2017 white Chevy Camaro.
“They were absolutely racially profiled,” Nicka Fox, the mother of Atoa Fox, told the State Journal in 2016. “If it was two white kids sitting on the side of the road, (the police) would’ve called for backup and assistance to help them. … They would’ve made sure they were OK. My son doesn’t deserve to have to walk out in these cities and worry about the color of his skin.”
Attorneys representing the two Idaho State students are alleging false arrest, illegal search and seizure and excessive force in their lawsuit. They’re seeking at least $10,000 in damages.
“The defendants ignored obvious and compelling information and evidence and participated in conjuring up information and evidence that was inaccurate, unreliable, untrustworthy and untrue in order to continue their arrest and seizure of McFarlin and Fox,” according to the suit.