Remember that whole business in the Third Amendment about not having quarter soldiers in private homes without the owner’s consent or that stuff in the Fifth Amendment about takings of property or that other stuff in the Fourth Amendment on unreasonable searches and seizures. It does not appear to apply to police in Henderson Nevada. The City of Henderson is being sued with its police chief Police Chief Jutta Chambers (left) as well as the City of North Las Vegas and its Police Chief Joseph Chronister (right) for a bizarre takeover of a home for a stakeout. Anthony Mitchell says that he was told that police needed to occupy his home to get a “tactical advantage” on the occupant of a neighboring house. When Mitchell refused, the police ultimately, according to his complaint, busted through his door, hit him with pepper balls, and put him into custody. The lawsuit also names Officers Garret Poiner, Ronald Feola, Ramona Walls, Angela Walker, and Christopher Worley.
Mitchell says that the ordeal began with a call from Officer Worley demanding access to his home. He refused to allow the police to do so and the call ended.
The complaint states that Officer David Cawthorn laid out the following plan in a report: “It was determined to move to 367 Evening Side and attempt to contact Mitchell. If Mitchell answered the door he would be asked to leave. If he refused to leave he would be arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer. If Mitchell refused to answer the door, force entry would be made and Mitchell would be arrested.’” Ultimately, when Mitchell did not open the door, the police bashed it in, shot him with “pepperball” rounds, searched the house, and set up a lookout point in the house. He says that they then went to his father’s house, a few doors away, and made a similar “request.” They took the father to the Henderson police station, and when he tried to leave, they arrested him. When his wife Linda opened the door, they used the house as planned. Both Mitchell and his father were booked them for obstructing an officer.
If these allegations are true, it is unclear why the police chiefs or the responsible prosecutors are still employed. Chief Chambers retired with a large buyout from the city.
All of the charges were later dismissed, a pattern we have seen in police abuse cases where victims are hit with charges and later offered pleas bargains or settlements. In this case, the charges were dropped but what prosecutor prepared the charges to begin with?
What I find most troubling about this case is that it seems to be following a trend. After the Boston bombing, I wrote a column expressing concern over how the Boston police effectively searched every home in a huge area — forcing families into the street under some general claim of exigency. It turned out that the suspect was not in the area. Police seem to be using exigency or “tactical” claims to circumvent constitutional protections.
I am eager to hear the response of these departments because, if true, these allegations constitute a chilling case of police abuse. If police can simply proclaim a “tactical” need as the basis for entering any home, the fourth amendment would become a purely discretionary rule. In my view, Mitchell had every right to refuse the use of his home. This was not some hot pursuit of a suspect or a need to protect officers from an imminent threat or harm. It was the forced occupation of a home — a poignant case to read on the Fourth of July weekend. We previously broke away from a guy named George who liked to do stuff like this.
Source: Courthouse News
Kudos: Andre Campos