W.D.Tex.: SJ denied for raid on wrong house

Police raided the wrong house and got sued. Summary judgment is denied. The supervising officer and others there knew within one minute they had the wrong house, but they continued and kept plaintiff handcuffed. And nobody in the raiding party even admitted to handcuffing her. B.B. v. Hancock, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139394 (W.D.Tex. June 11, 2021). On alleged failure to knock-and-announce:

Upon the summary judgment record, the Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that the entry into the Basco’s home was reasonable. Fact issues abound as to whether it was reasonable for law enforcement to believe that knocking and announcing their presence was dangerous, would be futile, or would inhibit effective investigation of the suspected crime. Thus, whether the method employed to enter Plaintiffs’ home was reasonable is a question for a jury that precludes summary judgment.

On search of the wrong house:

The Supreme Court has “held that police officers do not necessarily violate the Fourth Amendment when they mistakenly execute a search warrant on the wrong address.” Simmons v. City of Paris, Tex., 378 F.3d 476, 479 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 80, 107 S. Ct. 1013, 94 L. Ed. 2d 72 (1987)). However, search of the premises must stop immediately upon realizing they have entered the wrong address. Id. at 479-80.

Here they didn’t and that precludes summary judgment.

It would be ridiculous to expect a plaintiff whose home has been raided to be jotting down names and asking everyone what they did. That is why plaintiffs are allowed to name Doe defendants and who-did-what is sorted out in discovery. Here, Plaintiffs have been met with a wall of silence. Even though the testimony is inconsistent on many points, when asked who handcuffed Mrs. Basco [TEXT REDACTED BY THE COURT]

The summary judgement evidence shows that Rodriguez, Smith, and Hancock planned and orchestrated the raid. Each of these men were present and knew they were at the wrong house, yet none of them directed the men in the stack to cease operations and exit the home, [TEXT REDACTED BY THE COURT] none of them removed or directed the removal of Mis. Basco’s handcuffs upon realizing they were at the wrong house.

To establish liability under 42 U.S.C. 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate the personal involvement of the defendant in the constitutional violation. “Personal involvement of supervising personnel generally includes giving a ‘command, signal, or any other form of direction to the officers that prompted’ the constitutional violation.” Turner v. Driver, 848 F.3d 678, 696 (5th Cir. 2017). On the evidence presented, a reasonable jury could find that Rodriguez, Smith, and Hancock were each personally involved in the alleged Fourth Amendment violations because they participated in, facilitated, approved, condoned, or turned a blind eye to the conduct “for fear of what they might see.” Id. at 696 n.88 (citations omitted).

The reasonableness of officer conduct is a fact-based inquiry that requires a careful balancing of the “nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989) (quoting Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 8, 105 S. Ct. 1694, 85 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1985) (internal quotations omitted)). The Court recognizes that the actions of law enforcement are not to be judged with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Id. at 396-97. And that a court cannot determine whether an officer’s conduct was reasonable “without settling on a coherent view of what happened in the first place.” Lampkin v. City of Nacogdoches, 7 F.3d 430, 435 (5th Cir. 1993). Having considered the evidence, and viewing all facts and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the Court concludes that the summary judgment record raises triable issues of fact for a jury. Because the evidence shows Rodriguez, Smith, and Hancock’s personal involvement in each of the alleged Fourth Amendment violations, Plaintiffs claims will proceed against these Defendants.

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