NEW HYDE PARK, Long Island -- A Long Island couple will be filing a complaint with Nassau County claiming police overreach and discrimination.
Kan and Claudia Tan, along with their attorney Jean Wang, sat down with PIX11 News. The Tans say their vehicle was improperly towed and their family was left in the cold.
It revolves around an incident that occurred on February 10, 2019. The couple, with their 4-year-old daughter Alison and 2-year-old son Zachary, were on the way home from a Sunday afternoon of grocery shopping. They were traveling along Jericho Turnpike in New Hyde Park when they were stopped by a Nassau County police officer.
"I did ask him what did I do somehow he got so aggressive, he's really rude and angry at that point," said Mr. Tan.
Mr. Tan says when he asked why he was stopped, the officer did not answer him.
The family's Tesla was being serviced at the dealership so they were driving a loaner. The vehicle had California plates and turns out the registration was expired - the responsibility to renew the registration falls on the Tesla dealership. Tesla has apologized to the family.
However, Mr. Tan did have valid insurance to cover a loaner. Still, the officer gave him two tickets - one for lack of registration and one for operating without insurance.
The couple recorded the incident that showed the loaner vehicle being towed and the family left out in the cold, their two children sitting on the sidewalk.
"My daughter especially she was just shivering and she asked me mom why did the police take our car," said Mrs. Tan.
Mr. Tan says he tried to explain to the officer the vehicle was a loaner and he was unaware of the expired registration but claims the officer would not listen.
"He said I'm going to tow your car," said Mr. Tan. "I keep mentioning this is a loaner to imply that I'm really confused at the situation and also to imply it's not my fault the car is not registered. I do have strong feelings I was being bullied."
Their attorney says that's not the only reason.
"It's an abuse of their police authority and its victimization of residents of Nassau County and if there's no lawful reason then the next reason is racial profiling." said Wang. "If there was no lawful reason to stop him visibly, the only thing seen is he's Asian, then what other act is it than a racist act."
PIX11 reached out to Nassau County Police. A spokesperson emailed and said they would have to look into this further during business hours but did say an unregistered uninsured vehicle is illegal and the operator would not be allowed to continue to drive it. PIX11 requested a comment or statement from the Nassau County Police Department, we have yet to hear back.
However, citing New York State vehicle and traffic law, Attorney Wang says this is police overreach - and the only lawful reason to impound a vehicle is if the driver is under arrest, if the vehicle is evidence or part of a crime or if there's a clear cut public safety concern. She says it should've ended with the tickets.
"He was set on impounding the vehicle from the get go because he knew he couldn't arrest Mr. Tan for any reason so the only way to punish him or to make his life miserable was to impound the vehicle," said Wang
The Tans and their attorney also say it was unnecessary to call for additional officers. The family, was surrounded by four cruisers and claim the officers started ridiculing and laughing at them.
"You don't call four other vehicles to the scene with additional officers surrounding this family just to kick them out of their car and then laugh at them when they're standing stranded in the middle of the street," said Wang. "That's not courtesy and that's not lawful."
The Tans say they felt embarrassed and humiliated and worse, their children were left out in the cold. They're speaking out because they don't want this to happen again to another family.
"I just don't understand how this could've happened we are humblest family,'' said Mrs. Tan. "I was thinking are we criminals or something did we violate rules that bad that they have to do this to us?
The Tans say the most difficult part was explaining to their daughter what happened.
"We do really hope the police officer will apologize not to us, but to my daughter who asked the question aren't police supposed to help?" said Mr. Tan.