For several hours in the immediate aftermath of the downtown Dallas ambush that left five police officers dead on July 7, 2016, Mark Hughes was the most wanted man in America. Now, more than two years later and with his name fully cleared, he is suing Dallas and the Dallas Police Department in federal court for violating his civil rights.
On its Twitter account and through the media, the Dallas Police Department distributed a photo of a grinning Hughes, AR-15 slung over his shoulder.
"This is one of our suspects. Please help us find him!" the department posted shortly after the shooting.
Before sunrise, it became apparent that Hughes had nothing to do with the shooting. After Micah Johnson, the real shooter, began killing police officers after a march against police brutality, Hughes quickly found a Dallas cop and handed over his rifle, he told the Observer in July 2016. Hughes was on his way to his car when he learned he'd been named a suspect on TV.
Hughes immediately turned himself in to nearby cops, who took his shirt and car keys before arresting him and driving him to Jack Evans Police Headquarters in the Cedars, according to Hughes' suit. After questioning and forensic testing, police drove Hughes back downtown and released him, but they failed to return his shirt, car keys and gun, according to the lawsuit.
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"Mark Hughes was lawfully carrying a firearm as a symbolic gesture asserting equal protection under the law for black men exercising their Second Amendment rights when he and his brother were targeted, harassed and violated by DPD," Hughes' attorney, Lee Merritt, said in announcing the lawsuit Wednesday.
In the two years between the ambush and lawsuit, Merritt says, Hughes and his brother Cory Hughes have attempted numerous times to discuss community policing reforms with the city and police department, neither of which is commenting on the pending lawsuit. The brothers didn't want to seek a legal remedy to what they view as mistakes by the city and the department, but they've been left no choice, Merritt says.
"They requested to discuss reform, progress and collaboration. They were rebuffed," Merritt says of the brothers. "Neither felt they could in good faith stand for the civil rights of others while idly standing by while their own were trampled on."
In his suit, Mark Hughes accuses DPD of illegally arresting him without probable cause; illegally holding on to his property, including his gun; and intentionally causing emotional distress for him and his brother.