Another indication that our increasingly militarized police are out of control
By “out of control,” I mean that many police departments act as if they believe that, as police, they cannot break the law—to paraphrase Richard Nixon, they seem to believe that “If the police do it, it’s not against the law.” And they act on that: Frank Serpico was nearly killed as a result of bearing testimony against police engaged in outrageously illegal acts and was made a pariah by the force. Serpico failed to agree that if the police do it, it’s legal.
Here’s a particularly egregious example from Las Vegas Review-Journal, thanks to my friend in Amsterdam. This is, of course, a court filing: it has not gone to trial (and I would be that the case is settled without going to trial).
Members of the Mitchell family said they had done nothing wrong when Henderson police broke into their two homes without warrants, according to a federal lawsuit.
The family on July 10, 2011, had refused to let SWAT officers use their homes to perform surveillance in what authorities suspected was an ongoing domestic violence incident involving a neighbor.
Officers then manhandled Linda Mitchell and arrested her husband, Michael Mitchell, and her son, Anthony Mitchell, charging them with obstructing a police officer, family members allege.
Police also shot Anthony Mitchell and the family’s dog, Sam, with a “pepperball gun,” similar to a paint ball gun that holds pepper spray.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court, said the Mitchells’ constitutional rights were violated, including their Third Amendment right that prohibits soldiers from quartering in a home without the homeowner’s consent.
Police had gone to the 300 block of Evening Side Avenue, near Horizon Ridge Parkway and the Las Vegas Beltway, for an alleged domestic violence incident at Phillip White Jr.’s home, according to a media report at the time and the lawsuit.
White was believed to have barricaded himself and a child inside his home at 363 Evening Side.
SWAT officers closed all entrances and exits to the neighborhood. The standoff lasted hours.
Police began to call people in their homes.
About 10:45 a.m. they contacted Anthony Mitchell, who lived two homes away from White, at 367 Evening Side.
According to the lawsuit, Henderson police officer Christopher Worley told him police needed to “occupy his home in order to gain a ‘tactical advantage’ against the occupant of the neighboring house.”
Anthony Mitchell said that he didn’t want to be involved and he didn’t want police in his home.
Officers began banging on his door and demanded they be let inside. He called his mother who lived across the street at 362 Evening Side.
Police soon broke down the front door, aimed guns and cursed at Anthony Mitchell.
Terrified and confused, he dropped to the floor, covered his face with his hands and made no movement, according to the lawsuit.
Officer David Cawthorn then fired multiple shots with the pepperball gun, striking Anthony Mitchell three times as he “lay defenseless on the floor of his living room,” the lawsuit said . He was then handcuffed and taken to jail.
The lawsuit said police also shot his “cowering dog” with a pepperball gun. The dog fled out an open door and was left trapped outside without water, food or shelter for most of that July day.
At the same time, police were also contacting Michael and Linda Mitchell, who lived directly across the street from the subject of the alleged domestic violence incident.
Police asked Michael Mitchell to come to their command post to see whether he could help talk Phillip White into surrendering.
Michael Mitchell was told White wasn’t taking any calls and was told he could not return to his home.
After twice attempting to leave the neighborhood, he too was arrested.
About 1:45 p.m. police banged on Linda Mitchell’s door. She told officers they could not enter without a warrant. They did so anyway, according to the lawsuit.
One officer grabbed her arm and forced the physically frail woman with difficulty breathing from her home, the lawsuit said.
Minus having warrants, police occupied both homes and rummaged through the Mitchells’ belongings, including opening cabinets and using a water dispenser, according to the lawsuit.
Anthony Mitchell and his father were jailed for about nine hours at the Henderson Detention Center before they were bailed out. . .
We seem to be seeing more and more of this kind of high-handed behavior, with no accountability or repercussions for the officers involved. Indeed, shooting and killing people’s pet dogs, preferably in front of their owners, seems almost a sport these days. Google “police kill dog” and see what you get.