Lawsuit: Police Destroyed Farm House To Capture Homeless Man Armed With An Ice Cream Bar

from the USE-ALL-THE-TOYS!!! dept

Is it possible to arrest an unarmed homeless person without destroying the residence he’s hiding in? To the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and Clovis PD (and far too many other law enforcement agencies), the question remains rhetorical.

David Jessen’s farmhouse felt the full, combined force of two law enforcement agencies and all their toys last June. According to his lawsuit [PDF], a homeless man was rousted from a nearby vacant house after he was discovered sleeping in the closet. He left peacefully but was soon spotted by the construction crew breaking into Jessen’s house. The construction worker, god bless him, called the police because he thought they could help.

Jessen was notified shortly thereafter. He returned home to find four sheriff’s office cars parked at his residence (one of them “on the lawn,” because of course it was) and a deputy yelling at his house through a bullhorn. According to the deputies, the homeless man refused to come out and threatened to shoot anyone who came in. Jessen was asked if he had any guns in the house. He replied he did, but two were unloaded and had no ammo and the third was hidden so well “only he could find it.”

Jessen was asked to move his pickup truck and leave the area for his own safety. The deputies also asked for a house key and for the garage to be opened before he left. Jessen and his family went to a friend’s house about a quarter-mile away. Several hours later, he was told he could return home. This is what Jessen returned to:

As David was driving toward the home from Jensen David counted approximately fifty-five (55) or more law enforcement vehicles. David was then ordered to park along Rolinda Avenue north of his home and instructed to walk to his home. On his way to his home David was stopped by a SWAT person who told him the “operation” was concluded, A second Fresno County Deputy Sheriff, that Jessen’s are informed and believe and upon information and belief allege was a Lieutenant, handed David a card and said “we have insurance for this.”

We’ll pause there for a moment and consider the effect this must have on recipients. This is basically a message telling them their stuff has been damaged/destroyed. Not that the law enforcement agency cares. It might end up with higher premiums, but each officer involved still has an undamaged residence to go home to, unlike “civilians” like Jessen, whose houses happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Insurance in the hands of officers like these is a permission slip, rather than a liability buffer.

Continuing on…

A third Fresno County Deputy Sheriff showed David the damage and David was overwhelmed by the severity and extent of the damage to the residence. The damage to the Jessens’ residence was massive and extensive. The magnitude of the damage to the Jessen’s’ home was unreasonable and unjustified, needlessly implemented to capture a singular, surrounded, unarmed, hungry, homeless person who posed no danger to anyone, and cooperated in leaving the neighbors residence earlier.

Here’s the full list of what local law enforcement deployed to handle a single, resistant homeless person:

a. Utilized over 50 vehicles;
b. A K-9 unit,
c. Two helicopters;
d. Two Ambulances;
e. One Fire Truck;
f. A Crisis Negotiation Team arriving in a large motor home, that Plaintiffs are informed and believe included communications equipment and other support equipment;
g. A Robot;
h. SWAT Team; and
I. Back Up SWAT Team — Clovis City Police.

Now, the officers might have been concerned the homeless person had armed himself with one of Jessen’s weapons, despite his assurances they were well-hidden/unloaded. Even so, they had plenty of options available that didn’t include doing all the things they did instead.

a. Ripped out the wrought iron door and interior door to the Jessen’s home office;
b. Pulled the wall of the office off the foundation;
c. Broke the window to the office;
d. Teargassed the bathroom near the office;
e. Shattered the sliding glass door to the home for “robot” entry;
f. Ripped the wrought iron door off the laundry room;
g. Teargassed the laundry room;
h. Flash bombed the laundry room and the business office that resulted in breaking six (6) windows;
i. Teargassed the kitchen;
j. Teargassed the master bathroom;
k. Teargassed the sewing room;
l. Teargassed the bedroom in the northeast corner of the home; and
m. Destroyed over 90 feet of exterior fencing with a SWAT vehicle.

For reasons only known to the Sheriff’s Department, a deputy continued to search for hidden handgun on Jessen’s effed-up residence. He was only able to “recover” after receiving specific directions over the phone from Jessen to locate it. All guns were immediately returned to Jessen, making this last search — which occurred nearly two hours after Jessen was given an insurance card and a broken home — especially pointless.

In total, the interloping homeless person cost Jessen one window, an ice cream bar, some milk, and half a tomato. According to the lawsuit’s allegations, the two law enforcement agencies rang up more than $150,000 in damaged property. Jessen alleges a long list of constitutional violations but also something a bit more whoa if true:

All of this military-like activity was implemented and completed without Jessen’s request, approval, or consent. Jessens are informed and believe the training operation was undertaken because the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and/or Clovis Police Department had found, by accident, the perfect location to conduct a training exercise on a rural home, on a dead-end street, in rural Fresno County, where “civilians” were not present, “civilians” were not going to congregate, “civilians” were not going to observe or interfere with the military training assault on the Jessen’s home and the situation posed no risk of injury to the officers. The Fresno County Sheriff‘s Department and Clovis Police Department seized upon this fortuitous opportunity to engage in a real-life training exercise.

Unless something amazing comes out of discovery during litigation, this claim is unlikely to survive. And chances are it won’t survive an initial reading. Jessen is probably safer staying the Constitutional lane. But there is a hint of truth to the allegation, even if there was no provable intent to use Jessen’s house as a SWAT team training ground. Law enforcement agencies spend a lot of money on tools and tactics which are rarely deployed. Recognizing a chance to take all the toys out for a spin isn’t necessarily a conspiracy… it’s just what happens when you have more power than restraint. That’s what turns a “standoff’ in which the suspect is armed with half an ice cream bar into a mostly-unusable house.

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Comments on “Lawsuit: Police Destroyed Farm House To Capture Homeless Man Armed With An Ice Cream Bar”

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70 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Bad or worse

I think the really messed up thing is the idea that they trashed his house by using the excuse for a ‘training exercise’ is the less insane option.

The alternative is that they are so incompetent, so incredibly trigger happy with their toys that they were completely incapable of showing even the slightest bit of self-restraint in apprehending the fiendish homeless person that they totaled his house by accident.

When sociopathic corruption is the better option, you know things are all sorts of wrong.

David says:

Re: Re: Bad or worse

The guy said he would shoot someone, somehow…

Well, not if you read more carefully:

[Jessen, the home owner] returned home to find four sheriff’s office cars parked at his residence (one of them "on the lawn," because of course it was) and a deputy yelling at his house through a bullhorn. According to the deputies, the homeless man refused to come out and threatened to shoot anyone who came in.

See? The only witnesses for the homeless person having stated to shoot someone are the deputies.

Jessen was asked if he had any guns in the house. He replied he did,

Jackpot.

When sociopathic corruption is the better option, you know things are all sorts of wrong.

Well, if the judge does not hand out severe penalities here, it may be his house that is razed to the ground next because people reported a raccoon in his attic.

If it was a training session, there have to be penalties. And if it was best practice, the police departments have to be disarmed (and probably most officers fired) in order to avoid this kind of damage in the future because clearly the cure is worse than the ailment.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Bad or worse

Well, it’s not like Trump invented it, but maybe under his reign the “scorched earth” strategy against terrorists will come to full bloom.

Imagine how frustrating it must feel to terrorists to travel all the way to the U.S. and find out that they won’t be able to make a difference.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Bad or worse

To be fair, that’s hardly something that started under the current administration, and has been true for many years now at this point. ‘Terrorists’ don’t actually have to do anything anymore, just making threatening noises is more than enough to have governments tripping over themselves to sacrifice public rights ‘for the protection of the public’.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Bad or worse

To use a well-worn meme – why not both? It’s both a training exercise and an excuse to exercise extreme incompetence.

American police seem especially trigger-happy and desperate to use their toys without care for the innocents they affect, but they probably don’t get that way immediately. Why not, then, take the opportunity to train them in doing such things without pesky “civilians” being involved (it should be noted that police are also civilians, but they love the military that much they use their terminology).

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Whatever it was supposed to do, it was totally inadequate.

Officers had to “shatter” a sliding door for the robot to enter the house. What good is a robot that can’t open or break a door on it’s own? They are going to deploy this thing to disarm a bomb or something and their entire plan is going to be foiled by a bedroom door being closed?

Anonymous Coward says:

Fun facts:

Given that any object can be held before as a person these days that house should have declared war on the USA:
“d. Teargassed the bathroom near the office;”
that would be a war crime

g. Teargassed the laundry room;
-> war crime

i. Teargassed the kitchen;
j. Teargassed the master bathroom;
k. Teargassed the sewing room;
l. Teargassed the bedroom in the northeast corner of the home;

->>> mu-mu-mu-multi war crime!

Tear gas affects breathing and under either late 19th or early 20th treaties that means stuff is a war crime.

But a house filling war crimes against a pd would be so much 21rst century.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Fun facts:

I think the rationale is something like “under civilian circumstances, close oversight and supervision – and immediate review of the details of what happened, independent of the actors’ subjective reports – is much more practical than is the case in a military context”, and so it’s much easier to make sure the tools involved aren’t abused against innocents in a civilian context than in the case of a war zone.

That falls apart in practice if that oversight isn’t applied or if the supervision doesn’t care / is “in on it”, but the basic idea doesn’t seem entirely bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

it makes me wonder

What the historical/political quirk has the US with the meanest police Individuals willing to wreak the communities they aught to protect. The rest of the world doesn’t spend the money the US spends on its police. But the civilized countries, and most of the others do manage to train police better and to respect their fellow citizens.

wayout says:

the whole “they turned this into a training operation” has more then a bit of truth to it. I work for a Community College in a downtown campus. We had a report a while back of a potential “armed person” on campus. Well, to make a long story short, the individual was found without incidence, unarmed (important point here) in short order. Now, we had units from State Police, City Police, Another colleges officers (who are for all intentions state police), Capital Police, Homeland Defense (yep), County Police, and probably even the FBI since the have an office close by. Understand, we also have our own armed officers that had to go though the same training that the state police do. To make a long story short, we were told to leave the building, i.e. shut down classes for the rest of the day (after the apprehension mind you) so they could conduct a full on search of the building, even though, there was no evidence that the individual that was caught had an accomplice. So yeah, after having witnessed that, and realizing later, that they (law enforcement) had the perfect training opportunity in front of them and took it. I find the assertion in the article to have a whole bunch of merit. Proving it though, may be a bit harder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I spent most of a decade working for a university with a campus in the middle of a city with serious crime problems. The campus police were completely incompetent: stupid, slow, dim-witted — just bottom-of-the-barrel low wage morons who somehow managed to fake their way through training.

They did the same thing repeatedly. Cost: millions of dollars in disruption. Arrests: one drunk (unarmed), one homeless person (unarmed), one student (unarmed and actually on his way to class), one staff member (unarmed and doing his job). Meanwhile, during the same time period, muggings, assaults, and robberies continued unabated and slowly increased in frequency. But you see, dealing with those requires quick thinking and fast reflexes, something as utterly beyond these lumbering baboons as nuclear physics is beyond my dog. Whereas shutting down the entire campus just means blindly executing a playbook and showing off — gratifying their bloated egos by trying to prove how essential they are — and getting to play with all their toys and pretend that they’re a pseudo-military force.

If an actual armed active shooter ever turns up on campus, and is at all competent, a lot of people will die before these clowns have the slightest idea what’s happening. I think it’s much more likely that a student, faculty or staff member will take them down than the clowns calling themselves police.

David says:

Re: Actual Justice

The police department is government property. No, you’d need to hold the actual police officers accountable jointly and severally. “I was just following orders” is the Nuremberg defense, and there comes a point when it should no longer be considered admissable when officers engage in common unconscionable behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

For reasons only known to the Sheriff’s Department, a deputy continued to search for hidden handgun on Jessen’s effed-up residence. He was only able to "recover" after receiving specific directions over the phone from Jessen to locate it.

So it seems that Jessen was correct when he said that it was hidden such that "only he could find it."

Anonymous Coward says:

Cheaper to wait him out

Factoring in the cost of the destruction, and ignoring the legal fees, it would easily have been cheaper to wage a medieval style siege. Establish a perimeter. No supplies in until the target surrenders. Wait for the target to exhaust the house’s supplies, then his choices are surrender or starve. He might well surrender before then if he thought it could end peacefully.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cheaper to wait him out

Or a few officers could have just gone in and got him. Info they had seemed to imply at best he had a pistol. I’m sure they had plenty of body armor on that swat team. If not they could have borrowed some from the SECOND swat team. (I mean really, WTF? two swat teams vs one homeless guy? Unless this guy looks like Rambo that seems overkill)

Anonymous Coward says:

'police militarization' taken to the next step

They should be thankful that the police showed a great deal of restraint — at least compared to a similar incident in Denver two years ago, in which a house was virtually razed to the ground in order to capture an illegal squatter.

http://www.denverpost.com/2015/06/05/owner-standoff-house-in-greenwood-village-is-destroyed/

It’s looking an awful lot like this could be the start of a new trend in policing, to the point that the public will be begging for the return of the ‘old fashioned’ SWAT tactics whose only damage they leave behind is generally just a busted door and a dozen bullets in the wall.

ECA (profile) says:

Ummm

Lets just pay the swat team, FORGET the cops..
Police seem to be TO SCARED to talk to a lone person..

Also, 50 Vehicles??
You could surround the HOUSE COMPLETELY and still have Extra vehicles..
50 vehicles with 1 person IN EACH…THIS IS NOT A LUNCH BREAK, this is NOT A DONUT SHOP..

Did the DOG not like how the Trespasser SMELT??

2 swat teams and they JUST GASSED EVERYTHING??
What about that NICE bullet proof shield they have?? Let the person SHOOT a few shots FIRST..then YOU KNOW he found the gun..

How many police officers IN these 2 towns?? Working at that time??? and how many EXTRA called in?? OVER TIME..

fairuse (profile) says:

Wow - World Of Warcraft with real eapons

I noticed the Sheriff’s Office was called Sheriff’s Department. Big problem; department means part of the local government. That is how acting in a military way is allowed. Can’t bring federal army in so make your own.

Ref: https://www.nationallibertyalliance.org/files/juristdocs/Anderson_on_Sheriffs_Vol_1.pdf

The Sheriff, in this case, is where. Election year? Boozing it up with the County Executive?

We are a police state for sure is there is no Elected Sheriff to stand with us.

lmao all these "Negrus's" says:

bunch of "Negrus's"

Lmao look at all these idiots that broke the law, GOT CAUGHT, thrn had a sense of “justice”. Keep whining about your food stamps and free cell phones. So tired of people having an uneducated view of America as a whole. Go back to y’all’s shithole countries so ypu can bitch about REAL PROBLEMS! But tbis is a biased website so the majority will be against me. Sadly the majority of you “home sizzles” and “dawgs” will whine about how my immigrated ancestors that worked their asses off (through slavery, mind you, though im sure there will be plenty of “Uhhhh, nuh uh, ur not blak” comments,) eere better off due to some odd skin complexion of theirs. Also, anyone with semse, sorry, this isnt directed at black people. Just the Negrus’s. And YES, there is a difference. Night all! Dont bother responding, you’re not worth my time to respond. And for the internet fags, yes, i know its a dead article. Cry all you want about it.

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