Failures

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
dog, police, standoff



Woman Sues After Police Destroy Her Home During 10-Hour Standoff With The Family Dog

from the we're-unfamiliar-with-this-home-entry-device-you-call-a-'key' dept

When the only thing standing between law enforcement and a suspect they're seeking is a person's home, well… the home's got to go.

As seen previously here at Techdirt, police officers pretty much razed a residence to the ground searching for a shoplifting suspect. In another case, law enforcement spent nineteen hours engaged in a tense standoff with an empty residence before deciding to send in a battering ram.

Another standoff -- currently the center of a federal lawsuit -- stands somewhere in between these two cases. The house wasn't completely empty or completely destroyed. But that still doesn't make the Caldwell (ID) police look any more heroic… or any less destructive.

The lawsuit's [PDF] opening paragraph lays it all out.

On August 11, 2014, after registering her child for first grade, Ms. West returned to her home to find multiple City of Caldwell police officers in her yard searching for a Fabian Salinas. Wanting to cooperate, and uncertain whether Salinas was in her house, Ms. West gave the police a key to her house and gave them permission to use it to enter her house to arrest him. During a ten hour long standoff, police repeatedly exceeded the authority Ms. West had given them, breaking windows, crashing through ceilings, and riddling the home with holes from shooting canisters of tear gas destroying most of Ms. West and her children’s personal belongings. The only occupant of the house was Ms. West’s dog. Ms. West’s home remained uninhabitable for two months.

Here's one photo of the home, taken by officers and provided to the Idaho Statesman in response to a public records request. (More photos can be found at the link.)

If you'd like to see some pictures of the standoff with the family pet that include the Caldwell Police's impressive armored personnel carrier (presumably able to withstand even the nastiest of dog bites), those can be found here.

According to Courthouse News Service's interview with Shariz West's lawyer, the documentation he's viewed gives no explanation why it took a small army of SWAT officers 10 hours to discover the suspect wasn't in the home.

"I have no idea," he said. "I've read the police reports and debriefing, and it's my recollection that someone heard a deadbolt activate, which was impossible, and saw the curtains move, which is possible because there was a pit bull in the house at the time. Basically, they had a standoff with a dog."

And that some remedial attic-traversing training might be in order.

Fisher said some of the damage to the house was caused when an officer slipped off a truss while crawling in the attic and fell through the ceiling.

So, when given a key and consent from the occupant, officers instead chose to grab an armored vehicle and go through several windows and the attic. Even if they believed the suspect might be dangerous, there has to be some middle ground between full-scale assault and simply unlocking the door and stepping inside.

This happened back in 2014 but there's been no coverage of the Caldwell cops' 10-hour, one-dog standoff until now. Thomas Johnson of Fault Lines suggests that might have something to do with the local paper of record.

If you’re wondering why it took a couple of years for this event to make news outside of Idaho, it’s because the local paper apparently only checks court records or their exclusive police source, resulting in some very incomplete reporting. Why bother getting out there and talking to the homeowner or neighbors when you can sit on your chunk?

The "coverage" Johnson points to opens with some severe law enforcement spin:

A man who escaped a police standoff last August in Caldwell, only to be captured in Meridian about a week later, pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to felony eluding and felony rioting.

That's a pretty generous depiction of what actually happened. From all appearances, the suspect was never in the home during the 10-hour standoff. And when someone's not actually where you think they are, it's a huge stretch to refer to their non-presence as an "escape." If that's the spin the PD's using, they can just claim any person with an outstanding warrant not found at Shariz West's home on that long day in August 2014 also "escaped" the same standoff.

In any event, the city and PD are now facing a lawsuit. The police did give her a three-week stay in a hotel. Too bad it took more than two months for her to be able to return to her residence. This raid on a house containing nothing more than a dog is the natural side effect of police militarization, which encourages law enforcement to escalate in questionable situations, rather than use more measured tactics to ensure occupants aren't deprived of a place to live simply because a suspect might be hiding somewhere behind closed doors.


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  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 19 Aug 2016 @ 4:23pm

    Also escaped the stand-off

    Not found after the stand-off were Elvis, Jimmy Hoffa, and Bigfoot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Angel (profile), 19 Aug 2016 @ 4:27pm

    So I wonder what they decided to charge the dog with? I mean how dare he not come out for 10 hours....just what was he thinking?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 19 Aug 2016 @ 4:30pm

    ...and the dog ? ? ?

    was the dog okay ?
    what puzzles me, is why the kops didn't follow their dog SOP and shoot on sight...
    although, pit bulls are pretty smart dogs and all...

    all dogs go to heaven, and apparently kops feel ordained to send them there...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 4:53pm

      Re: ...and the dog ? ? ?

      I was wondering this also, is the dog ok?
      If so, someone's got some splainin to do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 5:31pm

        Re: Re: ...and the dog ? ? ?

        If they had killed the dog the noises and curtain moving would have stopped and they would have had to put away their toys and go home. No fun in that!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 5:30pm

      Re: ...and the dog ? ? ?

      I was wondering the same thing. The only thing they might shoot faster than an unarmed black person is a dog so it's incredibly surprising that it doesn't sound like they killed her dog, a pitbull, in that 10 hour standoff.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 10:30pm

        Re: Re: ...and the dog ? ? ?

        I think it's in Michigan, but there's a police department in America that has averaged shooting a dog once every 8 days FOR TEN YEARS STRAIGHT.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 19 Aug 2016 @ 11:28pm

        Re: Re: ...and the dog ? ? ?

        I think most pitbulls are white and easily mistaken for police officers when seeing just the face.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 12:34am

      Re: ...and the dog ? ? ?

      I get the feeling they just used the house for target practice and never bothered to check inside.

      It's their word against any evidence to the contrary. Their word seems to be backed up by military grade gear, and a local media all too eager to be a propaganda front for these criminals in blue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2016 @ 8:20am

      Re: ...and the dog ? ? ?

      Sounds like the dog survived (from the first link).

      "They found the dog in a back bedroom and turned it over to animal control, according to a police report."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 5:33pm

    "presumably able to withstand even the nastiest of dog bites"

    You are being very presumptuous here. They should have sent in a helicopter for good measure!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 5:44pm

    Keystone cops

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 5:54pm

    Why do they bother with vests and helmets? When faced with doing the job they're paid to do they treat it like a 10 year old playing a video game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 6:31pm

    Well done PD

    You got to admit the PD showed a lot of restraint.

    They used tear gas instead of grenades or a suicidal robot.
    Also they only crashed through a ceiling instead of using the armored vehicle to crash through the whole house.

    Very well done PD for not using the worst option possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anomalous Cowherd, 19 Aug 2016 @ 8:25pm

    Bunch of losers

    Real men would have nuked it from orbit -- that's the only way to be sure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Aug 2016 @ 9:31pm

    Motivation for restraint

    I imagine you could drastically reduce how trigger happy cops like this are if you tied damages to the police budget. Bust up a house to the tune of $25,000 in a 'tense stand-off'? Say goodbye to $25,000 from the department budget, plus housing costs for however long it takes to fix the house to the point the owner can move back in.

    Importantly the payment would not be tied to a lawsuit, or even prohibit one if the homeowner decides to file, it would be mandatory, and based upon an estimate provided by a third party with no links to the police or city.

    Maybe if they actually had to pay out of their own pockets they'd think before breaking out their toys.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 12:36am

      Re: Motivation for restraint

      no, breaking the laws like this should be mandatory prison time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Quiet Lurcker, 20 Aug 2016 @ 7:27am

      Re: Motivation for restraint

      Someone else suggested mandatory jail time in addition to mandatory pay-out for these kinds of damages.

      I agree with both suggestions, and offer yet a third:

      Mandatory unpaid community service, minimum 40 hrs/wk performing repairs, clean-up, and performing general labor assisting the paid people performing the repairs on the house until the work is done. Then the mandatory jail time kicks in.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2016 @ 5:46am

      Re: Motivation for restraint

      Assign civilian review boards in local police districts the responsibility for deciding issues of qualified immunity with authority to recommend prosecution. Have grand jury sessions become fully adversarial. Then, just apply existing laws with full recognizance that cops aren't by default due special treatment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 12:31am

    little boys playing with guns and hiding behind their badges when time comes for a spanking

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeDetroit (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 6:32am

    Arlo Guthrie said it best...

    ... but I bet he never saw this coming. They get all that nice military equipment, they gotta use it!

    "And they was using up all kinds of
    cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer's station.
    They was taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and
    they took twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles
    and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each
    one was to be used as evidence against us."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    psiuuuu, 20 Aug 2016 @ 9:04am

    A key? Sounds like they could have used...

    a bag of Deeeeez Nuts!




    (Seriously, though? Open the door and go clear some rooms.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 10:51am

    On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog...

    ... in real life, neither does the police.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 20 Aug 2016 @ 11:23am

    "Nobody Helps the Police"

    60 Minutes did a piece about how the community (mostly minority) refuse to help the police. Some famous rap star admitted he wouldn't call the cops even when he had a serial killer living next door. The police never take responsibility for their actions. They've made us the enemy and many have reciprocated. They may be able to convince a grand jury that they acted appropriately. Every time they murder someone, use a battering ram and tear gas someone's dog a few more people stop answering the door when the cops arrive to ask questions. Maybe they can ask the grand jury.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bystander, 20 Aug 2016 @ 12:24pm

    One-sided "coverage"

    I see only the plaintiff's side of the story here. Did you even try to get the city's side? Or did you just sit on your chunk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 1:48pm

      "Here, have another chance to lie to me and tell me why you were in the right."

      Do you really think the police are going to be eager to admit that they had a 'stand-off' with an almost empty house for hours, busting up the place in the process because they were too incompetent, too cowardly or both to simply use the key the homeowner provided to check the house?

      They already tried to spin it as though the person they were after was in the building and 'escaped', why would you waste time giving them another chance to lie again?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymouse Coward (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 1:43pm

    If it ain't broke...

    Things like this never used to happen before they started restricting civil asset forfeiture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 2:46pm

    It's proven once more

    Do not give the police your permission for anything, ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 20 Aug 2016 @ 3:16pm

    GI Joe Cop Raid - Screwing the Pooch

    "This raid on a house containing nothing more than a dog is the natural side effect of police militarization..."

    And this kind of stupidity will continue to escalate, as long as the cops themselves face no repercussions whatsoever, as is always the case.

    After all, no matter how much the law suits cost the city, its the tax payers who will be footing the bills for all of the destroyed property (and eventually someone's life), when the Dreadstone Cops get their macho all stiff and engorged, donning all that brand new Manly Military assault wear.

    The utter lack of consequences for the actions of these idiot cops, will guarantee that this process continues unchecked and escalates every year, as more and more bad cops realize they are immune to prosecution, regardless of how despicable their deeds, and go out to appease their GI Joe Fantasies at public expense.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2016 @ 3:29am

    After a 10h standoff

    during which officers' brains escaped...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mb (profile), 22 Aug 2016 @ 9:05am

    Just to be safe...

    ...they probably should have "searched" all of the neighbouring houses while they were at it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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