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Cops Accused of Invading NV Home, Firing Pepperballs and Assaulting Family

After a family refused to allow the police to use home as a lookout, the police decided to forcibly take control of the house anyway.
 
 
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A Nevada family has filed a lawsuit claiming that, after denying police requests to use their homes as lookouts, cops forcibly made their way inside anyway, firing pepperballs and eventually arresting them.

The family says that police called their son Anthony Mitchell's home and asked to use it for "tactical advantage" in a neighbor's domestic dispute. 

He refused, but says police then burst through the door, searched the home and moved the furniture without permission. They allegedly demanded he crawl on the ground and fired pepperball rounds at him and his dog.

They then moved on to aggressively demanding access to his neighboring parents' home, even rummaging through their refrigerator and allegedly leaving some condiments on the kitchen floor. By the end of the afternoon, the suit claims Anthony Mitchell and his elderly father were arrested for obstructing justice. 

The suit, filed by Mitchael and Linda Mitchell and their son, Anthony, includes alleged Third Amendment violations: the prohibition of forcibly quartering soldiers' in citizens' homes. The Mitchell family is suing the City of Las Vegas and the suburb Henderson, as well as as the police chiefs of both towns, and several other Henderson cops. 

Here's how the complaint breaks down what happened on July 10th, 2011, after the cops showed up at Anthony's door:

Surprised and perturbed, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell immediately called his mother (plaintiff Linda Mitchell) on the phone, exclaiming to her that the police were beating on his front door.

Seconds later, officers, including Officer Rockwell, smashed open plaintiff Anthony Mitchell’s front door with a metal ram as plaintiff stood in his living room.

As plaintiff Anthony Mitchell stood in shock, the officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor.

Fearing for his life, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell dropped his phone and prostrated himself onto the floor of his living room, covering his face and hands.

Addressing plaintiff as ‘asshole’, officers, including Officer Snyder, shouted conflicting orders at Anthony Mitchell, commanding him to both shut off his phone, which was on the floor in front of his head, and simultaneously commanding him to ‘crawl’ toward the officers.

Confused and terrified, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell remained curled on the floor of his living room, with his hands over his face, and made no movement.

Although plaintiff Anthony Mitchell was lying motionless on the ground and posed no threat, officers, including Officer David Cawthorn, then fired multiple ‘pepperball’ rounds at plaintiff as he lay defenseless on the floor of his living room. Anthony Mitchell was struck at least three times by shots fired from close range, injuring him and causing him severe pain.

Plaintiff Anthony Mitchell’s pet, a female dog named ‘Sam,’ was cowering in the corner when officers smashed through the front door. Although the terrified animal posed no threat to officers, they gratuitously shot it with one or more pepperball rounds. The panicked animal howled in fear and pain and fled from the residence.

Sam was subsequently left trapped outside in a fenced alcove without access to water, food, or shelter from the sun for much of the day, while temperatures outside soared to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, starting at approximately 10:45 a.m., police officers entered the back yard of plaintiffs Michael Mitchell and Linda Mitchell’s residence at 362 Eveningside Avenue. The officers asked plaintiff Michael Mitchell if he would be willing to vacate his residence and accompany them to their ‘command center’ under the guise that the officers wanted Michael Mitchell’s assistance in negotiating the surrender of the neighboring suspect at 363 Eveningside Avenue. Plaintiff Michael Mitchell reluctantly agreed to follow the officers from his back yard to the HPD command center, which was approximately one quarter mile away,” the complaint states.

“When plaintiff Michael Mitchell arrived at the HPD command center, he was informed that the suspect was ‘not taking any calls’ and that plaintiff Michael Mitchell would not be permitted to call the suspect neighbor from his own phone. At that time, Mr. Mitchell realized that the request to accompany officers to the HPD command center was a tactic to remove him from his house. He waited approximately ten minutes at the HPD command center and was told he could not return to his home.

“Plaintiff Michael Mitchell then left HPD command center and walked down Mauve Street toward the exit of the neighborhood. After walking for less than five minutes, an HPD car pulled up next to him. He was told that his wife, Linda Mitchell, had ‘left the house’ and would meet him at the HPD command center. Michael Mitchell then walked back up Mauve Street to the HPD command center. He called his son, James Mitchell, to pick him up at the HPD command center. When plaintiff Michael Mitchell attempted to leave the HPD command center to meet James, he was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back of a marked police car.

“Officers had no reasonable grounds to detain plaintiff Michael Mitchell, nor probable
cause to suspect him of committing any crime.

“At approximately 1:45 p.m., a group of officers entered the backyard of plaintiffs Michael Mitchell and Linda Mitchell’s residence at 362 Eveningside Avenue. They banged on the back door of the house and demanded that plaintiff Linda Mitchell open the door.

“Plaintiff Linda Mitchell complied and opened the door to her home. When she told officers that they could not enter her home without a warrant, the officers ignored her. One officer, defendant Doe 1, seized her by the arm, and other officers entered her home without permission.

“Defendant Doe 1 then forcibly pulled plaintiff Linda Mitchell out of her house.

“Another unidentified officer, defendant Doe 2, then seized plaintiff Linda Mitchell’s purse and began rummaging through it, without permission, consent, or a warrant.

“Defendant Doe 1 then escorted Linda Mitchell at a brisk pace through her yard and up the hill toward the ‘Command Post’ while maintaining a firm grip on her upper arm. Plaintiff Linda Mitchell is physically frail and had difficulty breathing due to the heat and the swift pace. However, Doe 1 ignored her pleas to be released or to at least slow down, and refused to provide any explanation for why she was being treated in such a manner.

“In the meantime, the officers searched and occupied plaintiffs Michael Mitchell and Linda Mitchell’s house.

When plaintiff Linda Mitchell returned to her home, the cabinets and closet doors throughout the house had been left open and their contents moved about. Water had been consumed from their water dispenser. Even the refrigerator door had been left ajar and mustard and mayonnaise had been left on their kitchen floor.”

Anthony and Mitchell were then, as the story goes, arrested. The complaint seeks punitive damages for third, fouth, and fourteenth Amendment violations, as well as assault, abuse of process, emotional distress, and other claims. 

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne