Cops Destroy Ring Doorbell at Wrong House

Imagine it’s winter time. You’re at home in Erie, Pennsylvania. There’s snow everywhere. Your Ring Doorbell alerts you to movement at your front door. It’s a SWAT team. They grab your doorbell camera and chuck it into the snow and then start to bust down your door. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve broken no law. You have no idea why they’re there. And neither do they apparently. What do you do? What is the law? 

It was March 12, 2023.Officers approach the house and notice the Ring doorbell and then they remove or destroy it. The homeowner got to the front door and confronted the officers. They told him to come outside, which he did.

Sadly, Lance, who submitted the footage, has early onset dementia. He explained this to the officers. He decided to take out his cell phone and begin filming their interaction – for his safety and theirs, of course. That’s when Lance’s cell phone footage begins. The cops absolutely did not want to be filmed, even though they were on Lance’s property, without a search warrant and without probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion, to believe that Lance had committed any crime at all. 

Searches and seizures which take place in a person’s home are presumptively unreasonable, which means they are illegal by default according to the Fourth Amendment. The only exceptions are consent and exigent circumstances. Here, the officers had no search warrant for this house. It also appears that they had no legitimate reason to believe that the fugitive they were looking for was inside the house. 

According to their own words, they received an anonymous tip that the fugitive could be inside the home. In reality, the fugitive had no connection whatsoever to the home. Anonymous tips cannot form the basis of probable cause. Which is why they didn’t have a warrant. They should have investigated the anonymous tip, in which case the officers would have discovered that it was not credible. Instead, they just got the boys together, rolled up on the house, destroyed private property and then commenced an illegal search. 

While the homeowner gave the officers consent to go inside the house, he subsequently revoked that consent after finding out that the officers were acting off a bogus anonymous tip. Moreover, they had already invaded the curtilage of the home and destroyed private property prior to obtaining that consent. They had no legal justification to do so and therein violated the Fourth Amendment. 

Lance is looking to file a lawsuit, if any Pennsylvania lawyers are interested in helping him. 

UPDATE: Since I made the video on this, Lance found out that the officers had first applied for a search warrant, based on the anonymous tip. That warrant was apparently denied by a judge as lacking probable cause. Then the officers showed up anyways. In the end, they were apparently at the wrong house. Not surprisingly…. Lance’s home had no connection to the fugitive they were looking for.

5 Cops Charged After Bodycam is Released

On May 10, 2019, officers attempted to stop Ronald Greene over an unspecified traffic offense around midnight. A high-speed pursuit began, ending in brutal treatment at the hands of police officers. They did everything in the book to Mr. Greene, who repeatedly cried out that he was scared. Just this week, the other surviving police officers involved in the death of Ronald Greene were criminally charged in Louisiana State Court with crimes ranging from negligent homicide to malfeasance.

Raw Footage here.

The 46-minute clip shows one trooper wrestling Greene to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and punching him in the face while another can be heard calling him a “stupid motherf——.”

Greene wails “I’m sorry!” as another trooper delivers another stun gun shock to his backside and warns, “Look, you’re going to get it again if you don’t put your f——- hands behind your back!” Another trooper can be seen briefly dragging the man facedown after his legs had been shackled and his hands cuffed behind him.

https://apnews.com/article/louisiana-arrests-monroe-eca021d8a54ec73598dd72b269826f7a

Facing the most serious charges from a state grand jury was Master Trooper Kory York, who was seen on the body-camera footage dragging Greene by his ankle shackles, putting his foot on his back to force him down and leaving the heavyset man face down in the dirt for more than nine minutes….

The others who faced various counts of malfeasance and obstruction included a trooper who denied the existence of his body-camera footage, another who exaggerated Greene’s resistance on the scene, a regional state police commander who detectives say pressured them not to make an arrest in the case and a Union Parish sheriff’s deputy heard on the video taunting Greene with the words “s—- hurts, doesn’t it?”

Associated press, 12/15/22

Law enforcement attempted to coverup their misconduct and to suppress the body cam footage from the public.

Greene’s May 10, 2019, death was shrouded in secrecy from the beginning, when authorities told grieving relatives that the 49-year-old died in a car crash at the end of a high-speed chase near Monroe — an account questioned by both his family and even an emergency room doctor who noted Greene’s battered body. Still, a coroner’s report listed Greene’s cause of death as a motor vehicle accident, a state police crash report omitted any mention of troopers using force and 462 days would pass before state police began an internal probe.

All the while, the body-camera video remained so secret it was withheld from Greene’s initial autopsy and officials from Edwards on down declined repeated requests to release it, citing ongoing investigations.

But then last year, the AP obtained and published the footage, which showed what really happened: Troopers swarming Greene’s car, stunning him repeatedly, punching him in the head, dragging him by the shackles and leaving him prone on the ground for more than nine minutes. At times, Greene could be heard pleading for mercy and wailing, “I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!”

Associated press, 12/15/22

Not surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time. Now the DOJ has instituted a broad investigation into the Louisiana State Police.

The AP later found that Greene’s arrest was among at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which state police troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings of mostly Black men, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct. Dozens of current and former troopers said the beatings were countenanced by a culture of impunity, nepotism and, in some cases, racism.

Such reports were cited by the U.S. Justice Department this year in launching a sweeping civil rights investigation into the Louisiana State Police, the first “pattern or practice” probe of a statewide law enforcement agency in more than two decades.

Associated press, 12/15/22

Abandoned on Train Tracks by Police | Qualified Immunity? | State-Created Danger Theory

By now we’ve all seen the footage of the train in Colorado hitting the police car stopped on the tracks, severely injuring a woman in police custody who was placed handcuffed in the rear of the police cruiser. My immediate thought was qualified immunity. There can be no doubt that the police officer was directly at fault in causing the severe injuries to the woman in his custody. No doubt about it. But unlike a doctor who negligently injures someone, a police officer get to assert qualified immunity. 

Here’s the 8 minute clip showing the train hit the cruiser:

Qualified immunity is unfair and needs to be abolished. A lawyer representing this woman, if a lawsuit is filed, is going to have the legal requirement to point to some past clearly established case law describing the officer’s conduct as a civil rights violation. Well, how many cases have there been in any particular jurisdiction where police officers let people in their custody get hit by trains? Moreover, as I’ve explained before, to establish section 1983 liability, you have to allege intentional conduct – not negligence or incompetence. Some intentional or purposeful conduct. For this reason, when one police officer accidentally shoots their partner, there’s generally no liability. I did a video on that one already

I took a quick look at the case law in the jurisdiction where this train incident happened, which is Colorado, which is in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. So that’s where you want to look first for federal civil rights case law. I have a theory of liability here. First, take a look at some of the new footage released, from another angle.

There’s a legal doctrine under section 1983 called the state-created danger theory. Basically, it allows a pathway for a plaintiff to establish section 1983 liability for a civil rights violation where the government may not have directly or intentionally caused the injury to the plaintiff, but created the possibility or likelihood that it would occur. This theory has been adopted in the 10th Circuit. Here’s what a plaintiff would have to prove: 

  1. the charged state … actor[ ] created the danger or increased plaintiff’s vulnerability to the danger in some way; 
  2. plaintiff was a member of a limited and specifically definable group; 
  3. defendant[‘s] conduct put plaintiff at substantial risk of serious, immediate, and proximate harm; 
  4. the risk was obvious or known; 
  5. defendants acted recklessly in conscious disregard of that risk; and 
  6. such conduct, when viewed in total, is conscience shocking.

Estate of Reat v. Rodriguez, 824 F.3d 960 (10th Cir. 2016)

But to defeat qualified immunity, you still have to point to a prior case with a similar fact pattern. Again, a non-exhaustive review of 10th Circuit case law shows that the state-created danger doctrine has been applied: 

Off-duty police officer on personal business who crashed his police vehicle;

On-duty police officer who engaged in a high-speed chase;

Firefighter who crashed his truck into a car;

Police officer who caused the death of a bystander by instructing him to help physically subdue a suspect, who then shot the civilian; 

Social worker who removed a child from his mother’s home and placed him with his father, who killed him;

School official who suspended and sent home a special education student who subsequently killed himself;

State mental health administrators who eliminated a special unit for the criminally insane, causing the transfer of a murderer to the general hospital, where he killed his therapist. 

The common theme for liability in the 10th Circuit under the state-created danger theory is that the victims were unable to care for themselves or had limitations imposed on their freedom by state actors. This is very much like the deliberate indifference standard imposed on correctional officers entrusted with the care of inmates. The arrestee is unable to act herself. She can’t get out of the way of the train. Likewise, if a prison catches fire, inmates locked in their cells can’t get out on their own. 

I can think of a few other arguments and theories for liability. But this is an often-overlooked one, and popped into my head first. It seems to match our facts here. Watching the footage establishes, without much potential for dispute, that the arresting officer created the danger; that he rendered the victim incapable of helping herself; that he put her into harm’s way, and that the risk was obvious. You can see the fact that he had parked on the train tracks. No doubt the evidence would show that he was aware of the fact that these tracks were frequented by trains. You can actually hear the train coming in the body cam footage. 

If this woman is left with no justice due to qualified immunity, hopefully people will start paying attention. Qualified immunity serves no legitimate purpose. It’s the very definition of judicial activism. I’ll be watching this one to see what happens.