'Brutalized' family files lawsuit over SWAT team nightmare
A federal court case has been launched after a SWAT team in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area busted into the wrong house, shot the family’s dog, handcuffed the children and forced them to “sit next to the carcass of their dead and bloody pet for more than an hour.”
The case has been outlined by Courthouse News,and Mike Riggs at a Reason.com blog wrote, “Shawn Scovill of the taskforce may have raided the wrong house, but he didn’t want to let the opportunity to rifle through someone’s things go to waste. So he and his team ransacked the Franco house for over an hour, and managed to find a .22 caliber pistol in the ‘basement bedroom of Gilbert Castillo,’ which the suit says they attributed to the head of the Franco household, Robert Franco.”
According to CN, a claim over the attack on the family has been filed in federal court by a team of lawyers representing the family. The plaintiffs are the nine people in the Franco home on the evening of July 13, 2010, including three children, and the case seeks $30 million for the civil rights violations and other damages.
Defendants include the St. Paul police department, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and members of the Dakota County Drug Task Force.
Robert Franco explains in the claim the attack officers raided the wrong house, and Task Force Officer Scovill, who set up the raid, “provided false information to a Minnesota District Court judge in order to obtain a search warrant.”
According to CN, Franco alleges, “Defendant Scovill lied when he informed the district court judge who reviewed Scovill’s search warrant application that Scovill had obtained information from the confidential informant that the plaintiff’s home was the properly targeted house and that the address and the identity of the individuals who resided therein were the plaintiffs.”
The complaint explains what officers should have known: that a neighbor should have been the intended target.
CN reported, “Plaintiff Roberto Franco was not named in the search warrant, nor was any person who lived in the raided house named in the search warrant.”
Added the complaint, “Plaintiff, Roberto Franco, had never been discussed or considered a suspect by law enforcement, Scovill or any of the defendants directly involved or indirectly involved in the raid, relative to any alleged involvement by Franco in any distribution of contraband prior to the wrong house raid.”
Franco pointed out that the neighbor’s name was actually on the warrant.
Instead, the SWAT team “negligently raided the home” and spent the next hour “physically brutalizing all the above-named occupants of said house,” according to the complaint.
Added Riggs, “Since the DEA is named in the suit, the Francos’ legal team will likely find itself going head-to-head with Obama administration lawyers, who argued a similar case earlier this year before the Ninth Circuit. Short recap…. The DOJ sought a summary dismissal of a lawsuit filed against seven DEA agents for their rough treatment of a family of four – mother, father, two very young daughters – during a wrong-door raid conducted during the Bush administration. The Ninth Circuit denied the DOJ’s request for a summary dismissal, and drew a bright line between how adults are treated during raids, and how children are treated during raids.”
The complaint said in the St. Paul attack, officers handcuffed everyone in the home except a woman, who was forced, “virtually naked, from her bed onto the floor at gunpoint.”
“Defendants shot and killed the family dog and forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead pet and bloody pet for more than an hour while defendants continued to search the plaintiffs’ home,” according to the complaint.
A young girl, who is diabetic, “was handcuffed at gunpoint and prevented by officer from obtaining and taking her medication, thus induced a diabetic episode as a result of low-blood sugar levels.”
The case accuses officers later of providing perjured testimony in the trial for Roberto Franco, who was convicted regarding the possession of the handgun.
Commented Riggs, “If anyone can weigh in on the legal loophole that might allow evidence seized during a wrong-door raid to be used in court, please fill me it. Also, are Minnesota gun laws that strict?”