NewsLocal NewsWPTV Investigates

Actions

Did Boca Raton man go too far in protecting property? He's now suing police for wrongful arrest

Richard Townsend arrested after confronting person he thought was car thief but was officer
Posted at 1:42 PM, Dec 10, 2021

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Richard Townsend's high-end Boca Raton neighborhood had a rash of auto thefts.

So, when his security cameras saw a figure dressed in black shining a light in his truck at 3 a.m., he grabbed his gun and ran outside.

But it wasn't a car thief.

It was a Boca Raton police officer, and Townsend ended up arrested when police said he pointed his gun at them, as reported by Contact 5 on Thursday.

The charges were dropped but not before Townsend spent two days in the Palm Beach County Jail. Townsend is now suing the city and the officer for wrongful arrest.

"I would like a hand-written apology from the officer, and I would like an explanation as to why he was on my property at three in the morning," Townsend said.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 21, poses a number of questions when residents and police clash, even though both have the same goal in mind — protecting property.

Townsend was on high alert after expensive vehicles had been stolen from the driveways of neighbors.

"There was one stolen from two houses down there. There was another stolen from the driveway directly across from my house," Townsend said. "They've also broken in and stolen items out of the cars."

Security cameras in Boca Raton showing thieves stealing a vehicle.

His security cameras caught the thieves in action in one instance.

On May 16, 2020, Townsend's security camera alerts roused him from his sleep at around 3 a.m. that there was someone on his property. He saw a man dressed in black with a flashlight.

"We had seen on my cameras that somebody was looking in my car, and also my neighbor's car," Townsend said as he walked down Coventry Street, which is nestled next to the Intracoastal Waterway.

While his wife called 911, he grabbed his handgun and went outside shirtless and saw the figure walking away and getting into a black Chevrolet Tahoe. Townsend yelled at what he thought was a car thief.

Then suddenly the SUV turned around and came back. It was the Boca Raton police.

Within minutes Townsend was in handcuffs and facing a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Townsend runs a very exclusive business: installing windows for yachts.

As he was placed in a police transport vehicle, Townsend thought his livelihood was in jeopardy.

"What's going to happen with my family? What's going to happen with my reputation, my career?" he asked.

In less than a month, the State Attorney's Office decided not to file charges against Townsend. It did stipulate there was probable cause for an arrest — just not enough evidence to convict him.

Townsend wanted an apology, however, Boca Raton police did not offer one.

Val Rodriguez

His attorney, Val Rodriguez, said police created an unsafe situation for residents by going on their property unannounced.

"This is one of their own law-abiding citizens, someone who pays lots of taxes," Rodriguez said.

"He (the officer) created a situation that was ultra-dangerous by not identifying himself, someone thinking he's a guy dressed in black, shining flashlights into cars in the front yard."

The officer who was on Townsend's property, flashing his light in his pickup truck, was Officer Adam Keniston. Contact 5 looked into Keniston's record and found no complaints and several commendations.

"He claimed he saw me point a gun at him. How? It’s dark out," said Townsend, who has named Keniston as a defendant in his lawsuit along with the city. "I screamed to the individual. He ignores me. He jumps into an SUV and drives away."

Contact 5 showed the security and body-cam videos to private investigator Carl Woods, a former Palm Beach Gardens police officer and current councilman.

Private investigator Carl Woods
Private investigator Carl Woods shares his thoughts on the case.

"This officer is just seeing random cars in the neighborhood where there sensitive to crime. And they're making sure that these people's cars are locked."

Woods said Townsend should have never left his home after his wife dialed 911.

"So, you don't really want to go out there and put yourself in harm's way," Woods said.

"They're not doing their job if cars keep getting stolen," Townsend said.

Townsend said despite his arrest, he doesn't regret getting his gun and going outside to check on the situation that night.

No date has been set to try Townsend's lawsuit. His attorney said the litigation is important because it is about a homeowner's right to protect his property.

Email the Investigators
Share your news tips and story ideas with WPTV's investigations team.