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After viral video, Hudson man sues Hernando County deputy, Walmart for false arrest

Tony Nguyen said he was arrested at a Spring Hill Walmart, but authorities were looking for someone else also of Asian descent.

TAMPA, Fla. — The man at the center of a viral video of an arrest at a Spring Hill Walmart is pushing back.

Tony Nguyen of Hudson said he's suing Walmart, a loss prevention officer and the Hernando County deputy who arrested him. The lawsuit calls for more than $10 million over claims of racial profiling and false arrest. 

"I'm just happy to be alive today," Nguyen said. "It could have went south. I could be dead."

Plaintiffs said authorities were looking to arrest Cody Vondelinde, another man of Asian descent but thought he was Nguyen during a visit in November. 

They're suing Hernando County Deputy Michael McNeeley and Walmart Loss Prevention Officer David Pettigrew.

Credit: 10 Tampa Ba

"It never should have happened and that's why we're here," Harry Daniels, a civil rights attorney representing Nguyen, explained.

The video taken by Nguyen's girlfriend has garnered more than 800,000 views on his YouTube channel. Plaintiffs state through the 911 audio, Pettigrew warned Vondelinde was aggressive and likely armed. 

"I was pleading with the officer. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?" Lauren Caldwell, Nguyen's girlfriend, recalls.

The plaintiffs state Nguyen was never asked for his identification. The lawsuit claims it wasn't until they reached jail that Nguyen's identity was confirmed. 

Plaintiffs also claim in their lawsuit that Nguyen wasn't cleared right away. Instead, authorities used a 2013 incident in which Nguyen had been trespassed due to shoplifting at the same Walmart to keep him detained.

While plaintiffs note the warning from 2013 violated Walmart's trespassing policy, they argue McNeeley originally arrested Nguyen for "reasonable suspicious of trespassing opposed to probable cause."

The plaintiffs said charges were later dropped.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office states it does not comment on pending litigation. 

Walmart said, "We take allegations like this seriously, and we are actively looking into this situation. We will respond as appropriate in court once we are served."

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