Archives for posts with tag: search warrant

This decision is on defendant’s motion to dismiss for summary judgment under Rule 12(b)(6). The motion is denied. The facts refer to a ninja-like mask worn by an FBI drug task force executing a search warrant.

GARY A. ADAMS, DENISE ADAMS, SHAQUEL ADAMS RILEY, TAILON ADAMS, GARY A. ADAMS, on behalf of BRYA ADAMS, a minor, and SHAQUEL ADAMS RILEY on behalf of her minor children, SAVON RILEY, SHANE ADAMS, SURRON ADAMS, STEFON ADAMS, TERREL JACKSON and SERENITY WEST, Plaintiffs,
v.
KAREN SPRINGMEYER, JOHN DOE 1-11, Defendants.

Civil Action No. 11-790

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Decided May 22, 2012 by U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer.

The Statement of Facts (citations to the record removed):

A drug task force supervised by Defendant Springmeyer forcibly entered Plaintiffs’ home to execute an arrest warrant for Sondra Hunter, a suspect who was entirely unrelated to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants knew or had reason to know that Hunter did not reside at the home, as she had moved out of the house several months before the Plaintiffs leased the same residence on June 5, 2010. Living in the home at the time of the incident were Gary A. Adams, his wife Denise Adams, and their minor daughter, Bryna Adams. Tailon Adams, Shaquel Adams Riley, and Ms. Riley’s minor children, Savon Riley, Shane Adams, Surron Adams, Stefon Adams, Terrel Jackson, and Serenity West, also resided in the home at that time. When the incident occurred, Plaintiffs ranged in ages from three to fifty-eight. [Footnote#6: According to the caption of the Amended Complaint, seven of the thirteen plaintiffs are minors.] The Amended Complaint also states that Plaintiffs are “law abiding citizens of the United States, who have no record of criminal activity.”

At approximately 5:30 a.m. on March 3, 2011, Plaintiff Gary Adams was awakened by screams from the first floor of his home. When he descended the stairs from the second floor to the first floor, he observed a battering ram “violently” knock down the front door, and Defendants “stormed into the house pointing assault rifles at [him] and plaintiff Denise Adams and Shane Adams[,] who were on the first floor” at the time. Defendants then aimed red laser targeting beams at Plaintiff Gary Adams’s head, which “plac[ed] [him] in immediate fear that he was about to be shot in the head.” Plaintiffs did not know that Defendants were law enforcement officers and instead believed that Defendants were “criminals breaking into their home in a ‘home invasion.'”

Plaintiffs claim that approximately eleven individuals, presumably John Does 1-11, entered the home through both the front and back doors. Defendants were “dressed in tactical ninja[-]like uniforms” [Footnote#8: At argument, Counsel for Plaintiffs further described these uniforms as having hoods that obscured the identities of the individuals participating in the raid.] and shouted profanities at Plaintiffs, including “get the fuck down on the ground” and “shut the fuck up.” While Defendants pointed assault rifles at Plaintiffs, Defendants gathered Plaintiffs on the first floor of the house but refused to answer any questions regarding why they had broken into their home. Defendants then escorted Plaintiffs outside to the sidewalk even though Plaintiffs were dressed only in their bedtime clothing or underwear. [Foonote#9: Only Plaintiff Shaquel Adams Riley, who was in her “her twenties . . . [or] [m]aybe early thirties” at the time of the home invasion, was forced to stand outside in her underwear.] It was “freezing cold” outside at the time of this incident. In the course of the home invasion, Defendants also searched all of the rooms in Plaintiffs’ home.

“At some point [during the raid],” Defendant Springmeyer identified herself as the supervising agent and explained that Defendants had entered Plaintiffs’ home to execute an arrest warrant on Hunter. Plaintiffs state that “[a]t all times relevant hereto, [D]efendant Springmeyer participated in[,] directed, approved, and/or with knowledge of its unconstitutionality acquiesced in the conduct and actions, of other law enforcement officials, including ones acting as federal agents and/or ones acting under color of state law.”

Plaintiff Gary Adams told Springmeyer that they were not associated with Hunter and that she lived in their home before they rented it. Furthermore, Plaintiffs claim that “[D]efendants knew or had reason to believe that [Plaintiffs] were the actual residents at the address appearing on any arrest warrant and likewise knew or had reason to believe that [P]laintiffs had no association whatsoever with the alleged suspect [Hunter].” Plaintiffs state that they “openly occupied and resided” in their home, which “was easily verifiable by anyone interested in determining who resided in such property.”

As a consequence of this incident, Plaintiffs plan to vacate their home, as “their continued presence therein serves as a constant reminder of the events” that occurred. [Footnote#10: As of the time of the hearing on Defendant Springmeyer’s Motion to Dismiss, which occurred on March 26, 2012, Plaintiffs had not yet vacated their home. Counsel for Plaintiffs stated that one Plaintiff “may have left and relocated for a period of time” and may or may not have returned to the residence.

In deciding that adequate facts had been alleged to state a claim the opinion again refers to:

“tactical ninja-like uniforms” that obscured their identities. Plaintiffs only learned of Springmeyer’s identity because she introduced herself and stated that she supervised the raid. Given the nature and circumstances of this incident, it would be difficult for Plaintiffs to plead the facts in their Amended Complaint with any more specificity. See Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005) (stating, “The Third Circuit has held that a civil rights complaint is adequate where it states the conduct, time, place, and persons responsible”) (citing Boykins v. Ambridge Area Sch. Dist., 621 F.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir. 1980)).

and

it is evident from Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint that Defendant Springmeyer, along with the eleven John Doe Defendants, was responsible for the excessive force that was allegedly used against Plaintiffs. Again, based on the nature and circumstances of the home invasion and the “tactical ninja[-]like uniforms” worn by Defendants during the raid that obscured their identities, it would be unreasonable to require Plaintiffs to plead these facts with further specificity at this time.

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Another case of police officers in ninja garb. Here in Bell v. City of Topeka, the police execute a search warrant and are accused of unreasonable force. The Court sides with the city, granting summary judgment.

DAVID L. BELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF TOPEKA, KANSAS, et al., Defendants.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
Case No. 06-4026-JAR
496 F. Supp. 2d 1182

Decided July 9, 2007 by District Court Judge Julie A. Robinson

Plaintiff claims that after he was pulled from the car, officers slapped hand cuffs on him and slammed him face-first into the car, causing plaintiff to suffer a dental injury. Afterwards, plaintiff was beaten on his legs and lower back, and then he fell to the ground on his knees. Officers then picked plaintiff up, carried him a couple of steps, and then dropped him back down, forcing him to lie face down in a puddle of water. Lieutenant Pase saw the officers remove plaintiff from the car, but he did not see plaintiff being taken to the ground because he could only glance over occasionally while tending to his duties. Lieutenant Pase also saw the officers bring plaintiff toward the street where he lay face down on the ground.

Sergeant Erwin stayed with plaintiff while the officers proceeded with the execution of the search warrant. Plaintiff contends that he asked Sergeant Erwin if he could move so that he would not have to be face down in the water, and Sergeant Erwin’s response was, “Shut the fuck up right now before I put my foot on the back of your mother fucking neck and hold you face down in that water until you drown.” After that, plaintiff claims that Sergeant Erwin made comments such as “I ought to shoot you.” After the scene was secured and officer safety was under control, Lieutenant Pase told Sergeant Erwin to pick plaintiff up off of the ground. At that point, officers wanted to search plaintiff, who told them, “the only thing lower than a mother fucking crackhead was the mother fucking Topeka Police Department.” He also told an officer, “Kiss my ass and good luck.” The officers then told plaintiff that they needed to search his car, and they warned him if they cut themselves on the broken glass from his crack pipe that he would be in trouble. Plaintiff laughed and told the officers, “You stupid mother fuckers, you broke the glass–broke the windows of my car. There’s–the car is full of glass.” Throughout the events that evening and in the early morning, plaintiff describes the officers as being dressed in black, “ninja-like clothing” and wearing masks. Plaintiff was then put into a car for transport to the jail. Plaintiff asked the officer who was transporting him to loosen the handcuffs, which the officer did. Plaintiff was at the jail for approximately twenty-six minutes before he was released at about 1:26 a.m.

The Court found the Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the police department had negligent training or negligent supervision or that there was unreasonable use of (or excessive) force. Therefore the city’s motion for summary judgment was granted.

In this 1992 case, ninja is used to refer to the attire of law enforcement personnel. Recall this previous case of DEA agents in ninja outfits. This case arises with allegation of excessive force, which will become a common theme for future cases involving ninja law enforcement.

MITCHELL L. POPE, Plaintiff, v. CRAIG KLEMENS; SGT. PAT WILSON; DON KNECHTEL; PATTY LUCIANO; CLYDE SMITH; PAUL WEIDNER; and MARK BURNS, All City of Lansing, Michigan Police Officers, Defendants.
File No. 5:90-CV-55
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8686

Decided – February 18, 1992

The case arises from the search of an apartment where the police had previously made a purchase of cocaine (but not from the Plaintiff):

According to plaintiff, the following occurred during the search. The police entered the residence and yelled, “police search warrant.” Two search warrants were put on the counter. Plaintiff states that he thought it was a joke, but when he rounded the corner into the kitchen, he saw a “person with a mask on in a ninja suite [sic] holding a pistol. This was the first person in the door. This person came towards me, and put the pistol at my face with the light on for the sites. This person backed me up a sort [sic] distance till my rear came to the table, and I was there with my hands up and had this gun at my face, pointed between my eyes. . . . This person kicked me in the chest, while I had my hands over my head. He kicked at me while he had me at gun point. And kicked with intent to do grate [sic] bodily harm.”

Based on that,

Plaintiff accuses all defendants of violating his fourth amendment rights on the grounds that there was no probable cause to justify the search and seizure. Plaintiff also states a claim for excessive force against the person allegedly camouflaged in a “ninja” suit who, while pointing a gun at plaintiff, allegedly kicked plaintiff in the chest.

Plaintiff seeks $ 300,000.00 in compensatory damages and the return of all arrest cards and other incriminating information.

Dismissing the claim, the Court writes:

Plaintiff has provided no evidence of any injury or corroborating evidence by any of the other witnesses. Allegations supported by only a scintilla of evidence are insufficient to demonstrate a genuine issue of fact. Accordingly, I find in favor of defendants on plaintiff’s fourth amendment excessive force claim.