Nineteen-Hour 'Standoff' Ends With Law Enforcement Officers Destroying An Empty House

from the we'll-teach-you-to-be-vacant! dept

The Cherokee County (KS) Sheriff’s Department engaged in a fruitless 19-hour standoff with a vacant residence. On the 20th hour, the fugitive house was finally taken down.

A SWAT truck with a battering ram attached was used to poke holes and tear apart the house in an attempt to drive the nonexistent suspect out. As deputies became unable to find him, they began taking their frustration out on couches, beds, lamps, clothing, toys, and even the family’s Christmas tree was ripped through a window and smashed to bits.

The entire time, Nita Lane, the homeowner, was trying to tell the cops that Alexius was not there and does not live there.

The sheriff, quite expectedly, remains unapologetic. Despite being told by the victim that Alexius was not in her house, [Sheriff David] Groves maintains that his officers acted in the best possible manner.

“It appeared using that tool [infra-red camera] there was somebody in the attic. As it turns out, now we know that was incorrect. But nonetheless that was the information we were operating under at the time,” said Groves.

The write-up at The Free Thought Project contains a decent summation of the ridiculous ordeal, but the real fun comes in reading the play-by-play at the Joplin Globe, which captures the shifting narrative provided by the Sheriff’s Department.

It begins on December 15th, with the site declaring “Joplin man in standoff with law enforcement in Galena.” Granted, this was several hours before it was discovered that a more accurate headline would have been “Joplin house in standoff with law enforcement.”

Galena police and agents with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the FBI served a search warrant about 9 p.m. Monday at 1009 E. Fifth St. looking for Alexius and removed a woman and four children from the home. In the course of serving the warrant, they learned that Alexius was hiding in the attic of the single-story house and might be armed.

That’s not really what they learned. They used a thermal imaging camera and thought they detected someone hiding in the attic. So, the standoff began, with the sheriff confidently stating they’d be able to wait out the fugitive member of the local gang concern, “Joplin Honkies,” thanks to the department’s bench depth.

“Time is on our side,” the sheriff said. “We have the luxury of being able to rotate officers out. At some point, he’s going to have to come out of there.”

Five hours later, Sheriff Groves admitted that the man the occupants of the house had already stated wasn’t in the house was, in fact, not in the house.

Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves said local, state and federal law enforcement officers late into the day on Tuesday had believed that Doug Alexius, 40, of Joplin, was inside the home and armed, although no shots had been fired.

Groves said a search that ended at 5:30 p.m. concluded that Alexius was not in the home.

Left unmentioned was the damage done to the house in search of the fugitive who wasn’t there. Law enforcement officers fired flash bangs into the home and used an armored vehicle-mounted ram to punch holes in the attic. The officers also tore apart the inside of the home in their futile search.

It wasn’t until the following day that the damage done to the home was addressed. The FBI agreed to pay for the destruction, but Sheriff Groves refused to shoulder any of the blame, despite initiating the pointless standoff.

“As for why specific tactics were utilized or items removed, those questions would need to be directed to the teams involved in that action,” Groves wrote in an email to the Globe. “The teams utilized were from the KBI and FBI. The FBI indicated yesterday (Tuesday) that they would be paying for the damages to the home.”

He also wrote:

“The information we received indicates he was in the residence that morning… Either that information was inaccurate or he left prior to law enforcement arrival. We have no reason to believe that he left the residence once a perimeter was established.”

This last sentence is problematic, given statements made later by other law enforcement officials.

The standoff that wasn’t included police dogs, the evacuation of nearby houses, a cordoned-off block, officers from three law enforcement agencies (FBI, Sheriff’s Department, Kansas Bureau of Investigation) and a plane circling overhead. Groves had “no reason” to believe the suspect had escaped undetected because that outcome verged on impossible. And yet, his statement was directly contradicted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation two days later, starting with a justification for the havoc wreaked on the empty house:

Doug Younger, the agent for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation who oversaw part of what has been described as a standoff between agents and an armed man reputed to be a member of the Joplin Honkies gang, walked through the house of single mother Juanita Lane on Tuesday night after it was all over.

Windows were broken out and a ram had been used to batter a hole in the back of the modest white house so agents could reach the attic where Doug Alexius was believed to be hiding. Throughout the 20 1/2-hour ordeal, the children’s pet rabbit scampered around the house.

Younger, who oversees the statewide SWAT team for the KBI, told the Globe on Friday that he believes Alexius was in that house the whole time although the wanted man wasn’t found after agents combed through the house with the help of a robot and dogs.

“I believe he was there, but we were going to have to tear the place down to find him,” Younger said.

Faith. Just the sort of thing we like to see in our law enforcement officers — especially those willing to tear apart a family’s home in service of their gut feelings. Younger actually congratulates himself for the house not being completely razed during the search for the nonexistent fugitive.

“I feel like we did due diligence, but at the same time we stopped before we tore the place to the ground,” Younger said.

Good for him. But Younger still holds the belief that the wily Joplin Honky either burrowed into the house’s foundation or somehow made his way past the three-agency dragnet surrounding the house. This belief helps Younger justify the damage done to the house while simultaneously allowing him to brag about his agency’s admirable restraint.

The FBI will cover the damage, which is nice. The courts have already made it clear law enforcement has no obligation to reimburse property owners for damaged houses, vehicles, or personal effects. That a federal agency would step up and assist the homeowner in this fashion is commendable, even if everything leading up to that point was a debacle.

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Comments on “Nineteen-Hour 'Standoff' Ends With Law Enforcement Officers Destroying An Empty House”

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59 Comments
shyra says:

Re: Re: Re:

Throughout the 20 1/2-hour ordeal, the children’s pet rabbit scampered around the house.

And THIS “hot spot” is probably what thermal was picking up. Either the pet rabbit, and/or a squirrel in the attic.

THIS “survellience” equipment should (and I thought WAS) banned as unconstitutional by the courts. Of course, in Brownbackistan, who cares what the courts say? They just rip the courts’ funding if they don’t do what they’re told!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

THIS “survellience” equipment should (and I thought WAS) banned as unconstitutional by the courts. Of course, in Brownbackistan, who cares what the courts say? They just rip the courts’ funding if they don’t do what they’re told!

I believe the case you are referring to was that the police cannot use this device to search for evidence of a crime, when they otherwise have no basis to believe a crime has occurred. The case said nothing about whether they can use it in a tactical capacity against a dangerous fugitive water heater.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

When questioned if the sun might have created the hot spot in the attic the police responded:

“These cameras pick up hot spots created by hiding humans, thats what they are designed for. There is no way that the hot spots we detected could have been caused by anything other than a gang member hiding. Furthermore at 9am the hot spot was on the east side of the attic but at 4pm it had moved to the west side of the attic. Clearly this was a human moving around in the attic, there is no way that the sun could have caused a hot spot to move!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Or perhaps because someone, somewhere was smart enough to realiz if the homeowner sued, it would be slam-dunk, open-and-shut in their favor,

Hardly. What part of “The courts have already made it clear law enforcement has no obligation to reimburse property owners for damaged houses, vehicles, or personal effects” do you not understand?

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, there is the difference between doing a lot of partly spurious damage in the pursuit of a law enforcement target, and doing a lot of damage just because.

They probably could have justified the flash bangs and even the battering ram for entering into the attic. Trashing the windows and furniture in frustration, however, is hardly going to be a good sell to a judge as being an integral part of regular police operations.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We all rolled out with our new toys, we had to use them.

So what if we can’t offer up any evidence beyond “we thought so” to justify starting a stand off wasting tons of resources. So what if we ignored the homeowner telling us the target wasn’t there. So what if we decided to take out our frustrations by destroying the home and the publics trust in us. Trust us, we only did what we thought was right… and what was right was to punish someone who did nothing wrong, told the truth from the get go, and ignore reality because this handy tool we obviously don’t know how to work knows better than our own lying eyes.

But even this will pass muster with the rest of the public, because it didn’t happen to them and the sheriff told us it was to get a very bad man and being associated with a bad man (even just in the sheriffs mind) means you have no rights or expectation of not having your home & well-being destroyed.

Oblate (profile) says:

Wow.

They used a thermal imaging camera and thought they detected someone hiding in the attic.

So now having poor attic insulation is reasonable suspicion of harboring a fugitive?

Throughout the 20 1/2-hour ordeal, the children’s pet rabbit scampered around the house.

Lucky it wasn’t shot as an accomplice, for “charging menacingly toward an officer”, or just as a case of mistaken identity. Some police do seem to like shooting pets.

The officers also tore apart the inside of the home in their futile search.

This is the part that really seem actionable. If they suspected he was in the attic, why would they need to touch anything clearly not in the attic? It’s as if they were acting like vindictive, immature, poorly trained idiots instead of police officers.

and even the family’s Christmas tree was ripped through a window and smashed to bits.

Sigh. Cue the “war on Christmas” people…

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Wow.

They probably tore the place apart trying to catch that damned rabbit.

They probably started a pool on who would nail the bunny, within the first few hours of the stand-off, out of boredom and stupidity.

After all, during this kind of high-stakes stand-off with a major gang-boy type armed and dangerous suspected criminal, the cops get all pumped up and need to kill something….

… keeps them from going home later and beating their wife and kids.

Personanongrata says:

Professional Policing?

Where did the FBI, Sheriff’s Department, Kansas Bureau of Investigation SWAT clowns get their training?

On the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan?

The methods employed were completely disproportionate to situation which was serving an arrest warrant on Doug Alexius, a suspect wanted on a misdemeanor count of assaulting a law enforcement officer and another drug-related charge.

(Area in bold font excerpted from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/cops-demolish-single-moms-home-mistake-destroy-childrens-christmas-offer/)

That a federal agency would step up and assist the homeowner in this fashion is commendable, even if everything leading up to that point was a debacle.

Commendable my ass. Commendable would have been for the person in charge to have controlled the juvenile/sophomoric destructive urges of the poorly trained SWAT clowns before they destroyed someones private property for no reason whatsoever.

The money the federal, state or local government pays out to repair the unnecessary damage comes from taxes levied on a citizens productivity.

If these payouts are to have any affect at changing law enforcement tactics they need to come directly from the law enforcement pension funds or an agents/officers take home pay.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Professional Policing?

“wanted on a misdemeanor count of assaulting a law enforcement officer”

Contempt of cop knows no bounds.
The suspect allegedly dared assault a delicate police officer which helped rile up the response to the ZOMG TERRORISTS level.

Disrespecting a cop in this jurisdiction leads to ruined homes & lives. Perhaps a very large lawsuit will convince the citizens they need to remove the leadership from this contemptible group and show them that their actions have direct consequences. This is unchecked abuse of power from those who should know better and need to be held accountable before they strike again.

bdj says:

What happened to “waiting them out” and “rotating officers”? They lasted 20 hours before destroying an innocent persons home. It’s one thing to read about it happening to someone else but that could easily have been YOUR home.

How about doing something smart like methodically ‘clearing’ each room visually with small teams and tear gassing the attic? I’m fairly certain they would have heard coughing had someone been hiding up there.

We need professionals, not cowboys. I propose that if they rip apart a residence unjustly then we in turn get to rip apart one of theirs. Unremorseful bastards deserve a little eye for an eye treatment…

Anonymous Coward says:

“six children, ages 3 to 15, also lived there”

So out of the 6, 4 were at home and had to be “removed”. I wonder what those kids will remember about Christmas 2015 as their home was ripped apart. The vindictive wrecking of Christmas tree and toys is just calculated to warm their hearts and inform their view of life.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I am above the law can do whatever I want kill anyone I want and no one can stop me because your all too cowardly to do anything about it”

Sums up how I see his attitude towards the serfs. Of course that sort of demeanor gets people shot by those they deem as beneath them. Since law enforcement has shown they clearly cannot be bothered to prosecute themselves it is up to the people to do it for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

The quickest way to create home grown terrorists is to pull this garbage on American citizens. Maybe the FBI should realize why so many guns are being purchased.

A soft spoken police officer / FBI agent is someone I would listen to. One that damages what I have worked for is going to do nothing but convince me to purchase more guns.

I would rather keep my money and have local cops I feel comfortable saying hi to when I see them around town.

Anonymous Coward says:

Shape-shifter

I can see that there were some details left out of this story (undoubtedly by that diabolical Tim Cushing, out to make all police look bad).

What he didn’t tell you is that Alexius is a dangerous shape-shifter. In just an instant he can make himself look like anyone or anything else.

Now the police knew that he was in the house because the police, being the heroes that they are, are never wrong because heroes are just never wrong. The question was where in the house was he? After surrounding the for house for over 19 hours, and not seeing anyone or any “thing” come out of it, they were compelled to move in for the sake of the hostage bunny.

Because they couldn’t use the unlocked doors (just because) they were forced to use armored vehicles to smash their way in. They were then faced with the task of finding their elusive quarry, which could look like anything in the house. That’s why they had to go around ripping up the furniture and such, just to see if any of it moved when struck. Finally, when they began beating on the Christmas tree it fell over to the ground, obviously in order escape further beating. This is when they thought they had their man and proceeded to throw him or it out of the window so that officers waiting outside could apply the handcuffs.

However, upon hitting the ground the hapless tree just laid there, like a tree. A few officers approached it cautiously and delivered a series of blows with night sticks to elicit a response, but the tree still failed to try to escape. Now the police realized that once again their nemesis had given them the slip and was still inside the house.

Normally, at this point they would just burn the whole house down as that’s the only way to really be sure in these cases. (And then bill the homeowner for the hours spent ridding the house, now a pile of ashes, of the fugitive shape-shifter.) However, with it being the Christmas season and all, and noticing the attention they were getting in the press, they decided give the house back instead and catch shape-shifting Alexius another day. And as part of their Santa Cop program they’re even going to spend taxpayer money (you didn’t they’d spend their own did you?) to patch it up!

DogBreath says:

Re: Shape-shifter

Later that night inside the burnt down house, when the humans were no longer present, a small pile of what appeared to be ashes stirred silently and morphed back into the form of Alexius.

“Ignorant solids”, the Alexius changeling muttered under its nonexistent breath, as shape shifters do not need to breath.

He then pulled a small device out from inside his form and said, “Weyoun, beam us up”. Weyoun replied, “At once, Founder. I live to serve.”

The Founder and the rabbit, who by that time had morphed back into its original form of what looked like Sheriff David Groves said, “Another planet added to the Dominion. Our work here is done.”

“Not entirely,” said the former pile of ash changeling,
“but it is a good start.”

David says:

You know what these officers are doing here, right?

They are priming the public. The “best before use dates” of rocket launchers they got as presents from the military are approaching fast and it would be a shame to let them go to waste. So they need to work up an escalation of home destruction to make the use of rocket launchers appear proportionate.

At least they haven’t gotten ICBMs yet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Police damage liablity, a bad example

I know it is really really tempting to link to your own previous articles, folks, but linking to the DEA destroying the truck is not a good example.

You might do better to link to this article about an apartment landlord, whose property was damaged by local police.

Descriptions of the resolution process are included in the article. The article makes it fairly clear that the police are off the hook for damages due to actions by the tenants themselves, say, drug production, and that a search warrant muddies the waters regarding insurance.

But it appears there is at least some procedure, and venue for appeal, for making damage claims against the police.

GEMont (profile) says:

Xmas Shopping in the War Zones

As for why specific tactics were utilized or items removed…”

Sounds like some of the cops did a little impromptu Christmas shopping while wandering through the house.

After all, its Christmas and the probability of there being numerous fully wrapped and totally guilty presents for four children and two adults, lying ominously under that Christmas tree (which the cops threw through the livingroom window), is pretty high.

Suggest a new asset forfeiture term: Copportunity.

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