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USA Nevada Family Sues After Police Reportedly Demand To Use Home As Stake Out And, When Refused, Bash I

Tejwant Singh

Nevada Family Sues After Police Reportedly Demand To Use Home As Stake Out And, When Refused, Bash In Door, Shoot Homeowner with Pepperballs, and Arrest Him And His Father

LAS VEGAS (CN) - Henderson police arrested a family for refusing to let officers use their homes as lookouts for a domestic violence investigation of their neighbors, the family claims in court.

Anthony Mitchell and his parents Michael and Linda Mitchell sued the City of Henderson, its Police Chief Jutta Chambers, Officers Garret Poiner, Ronald Feola, Ramona Walls, Angela Walker, and Christopher Worley, and City of North Las Vegas and its Police Chief Joseph Chronister, in Federal Court.

Henderson, pop. 257,000, is a suburb of Las Vegas.

The Mitchell family's claim includes Third Amendment violations, a rare claim in the United States. The Third Amendment prohibits quartering soldiers in citizens' homes in times of peace without the consent of the owner.

"On the morning of July 10th, 2011, officers from the Henderson Police Department responded to a domestic violence call at a neighbor's residence," the Mitchells say in the complaint.

It continues: "At 10:45 a.m. defendant Officer Christopher Worley (HPD) contacted plaintiff Anthony Mitchell via his telephone. Worley told plaintiff that police needed to occupy his home in order to gain a 'tactical advantage' against the occupant of the neighboring house. Anthony Mitchell told the officer that he did not want to become involved and that he did not want police to enter his residence. Although Worley continued to insist that plaintiff should leave his residence, plaintiff clearly explained that he did not intend to leave his home or to allow police to occupy his home. Worley then ended the phone call.

Mitchell claims that defendant officers, including Cawthorn and Worley and Sgt. Michael Waller then "conspired among themselves to force Anthony Mitchell out of his residence and to occupy his home for their own use." (Waller is identified as a defendant in the body of the complaint, but not in the heading of it.)

The complaint continues: "Defendant Officer David Cawthorn outlined the defendants' plan in his official report: 'It was determined to move to 367 Evening Side and attempt to contact Mitchell. If Mitchell answered the door he would be asked to leave. If he refused to leave he would be arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer. If Mitchell refused to answer the door, force entry would be made and Mitchell would be arrested.'"

At a few minutes before noon, at least five defendant officers "arrayed themselves in front of plaintiff Anthony Mitchell's house and prepared to execute their plan," the complaint states.

It continues: "The officers banged forcefully on the door and loudly commanded Anthony Mitchell to open the door to his residence.

"Surprised and perturbed, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell immediately called his mother (plaintiff Linda Mitchell) on the phone, exclaiming to her that the police were beating on his front door.

"Seconds later, officers, including Officer Rockwell, smashed open plaintiff Anthony Mitchell's front door with a metal ram as plaintiff stood in his living room.

"As plaintiff Anthony Mitchell stood in shock, the officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor.

"Fearing for his life, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell dropped his phone and prostrated himself onto the floor of his living room, covering his face and hands.

"Addressing plaintiff as 'asshole', officers, including Officer Snyder, shouted conflicting orders at Anthony Mitchell, commanding him to both shut off his phone, which was on the floor in front of his head, and simultaneously commanding him to 'crawl' toward the officers.

"Confused and terrified, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell remained curled on the floor of his living room, with his hands over his face, and made no movement.

"Although plaintiff Anthony Mitchell was lying motionless on the ground and posed no threat, officers, including Officer David Cawthorn, then fired multiple 'pepperball' rounds at plaintiff as he lay defenseless on the floor of his living room. Anthony Mitchell was struck at least three times by shots fired from close range, injuring him and causing him severe pain." (Parentheses in complaint.)

Officers then arrested him for obstructing a police officer, searched the house and moved furniture without his permission and set up a place in his home for a lookout, Mitchell says in the complaint.

He says they also hurt his pet dog for no reason whatsoever: "Plaintiff Anthony Mitchell's pet, a female dog named 'Sam,' was cowering in the corner when officers smashed through the front door. Although the terrified animal posed no threat to officers, they gratuitously shot it with one or more pepperball rounds. The panicked animal howled in fear and pain and fled from the residence. Sam was subsequently left trapped outside in a fenced alcove without access to water, food, or shelter from the sun for much of the day, while temperatures outside soared to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit."

Anthony and his parents live in separate houses, close to one another on the same street. He claims that police treated his parents the same way.

"Meanwhile, starting at approximately 10:45 a.m., police officers entered the back yard of plaintiffs Michael Mitchell and Linda Mitchell's residence at 362 Eveningside Avenue. The officers asked plaintiff Michael Mitchell if he would be willing to vacate his residence and accompany them to their 'command center' under the guise that the officers wanted Michael Mitchell's assistance in negotiating the surrender of the neighboring suspect at 363 Eveningside Avenue. Plaintiff Michael Mitchell reluctantly agreed to follow the officers from his back yard to the HPD command center, which was approximately one quarter mile away," the complaint states.

"When plaintiff Michael Mitchell arrived at the HPD command center, he was informed that the suspect was 'not taking any calls' and that plaintiff Michael Mitchell would not be permitted to call the suspect neighbor from his own phone. At that time, Mr. Mitchell realized that the request to accompany officers to the HPD command center was a tactic to remove him from his house. He waited approximately ten minutes at the HPD command center and was told he could not return to his home.

"Plaintiff Michael Mitchell then left HPD command center and walked down Mauve Street toward the exit of the neighborhood. After walking for less than five minutes, an HPD car pulled up next to him. He was told that his wife, Linda Mitchell, had 'left the house' and would meet him at the HPD command center. Michael Mitchell then walked back up Mauve Street to the HPD command center. He called his son, James Mitchell, to pick him up at the HPD command center. When plaintiff Michael Mitchell attempted to leave the HPD command center to meet James, he was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back of a marked police car.

"Officers had no reasonable grounds to detain plaintiff Michael Mitchell, nor probable cause to suspect him of committing any crime.

"At approximately 1:45 p.m., a group of officers entered the backyard of plaintiffs Michael Mitchell and Linda Mitchell's residence at 362 Eveningside Avenue. They banged on the back door of the house and demanded that plaintiff Linda Mitchell open the door.

"Plaintiff Linda Mitchell complied and opened the door to her home. When she told officers that they could not enter her home without a warrant, the officers ignored her. One officer, defendant Doe 1, seized her by the arm, and other officers entered her home without permission.

"Defendant Doe 1 then forcibly pulled plaintiff Linda Mitchell out of her house.

"Another unidentified officer, defendant Doe 2, then seized plaintiff Linda Mitchell's purse and began rummaging through it, without permission, consent, or a warrant.

"Defendant Doe 1 then escorted Linda Mitchell at a brisk pace through her yard and up the hill toward the 'Command Post' while maintaining a firm grip on her upper arm. Plaintiff Linda Mitchell is physically frail and had difficulty breathing due to the heat and the swift pace. However, Doe 1 ignored her pleas to be released or to at least slow down, and refused to provide any explanation for why she was being treated in such a manner.

"In the meantime, the officers searched and occupied plaintiffs Michael Mitchell and

Linda Mitchell's house. When plaintiff Linda Mitchell returned to her home, the cabinets and closet doors throughout the house had been left open and their contents moved about. Water had been consumed from their water dispenser. Even the refrigerator door had been left ajar and mustard and mayonnaise had been left on their kitchen floor."

Police took Anthony and Michael Mitchell to jail and booked them for obstructing an officer. They were jailed for at least nine hours before they bailed out, they say in the complaint. All criminals charged were dismissed with prejudice. They claim the defendants filed the baseless criminal charges "to provide cover for defendants' wrongful actions, to frustrate and impede plaintiffs' ability to seek relief for those actions, and to further intimidate and retaliate against plaintiffs."

None of the officers were ever subjected to official discipline or even inquiry, the complaint states.

The Mitchells seek punitive damages for violations of the third, fourth and 14th Amendments, assault and battery, conspiracy, defamation, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, negligence and emotional distress.

They are represented by Benjamin C. Durham, with Cofer, Geller & Durham, in Las Vegas.


Some points:

This is where I live. The Henderson Police are known to be very harsh,violent and unfair. In fact they have been sued many times for the same reason and had to pay to the plaintiffs.

Fortunately I have always have had very good relationships with them. In fact, I have been stopped a couple of times once for weaving and other time "speeding" on a downhill slope. I am always ready with the documents before they come to my car window and apologise profusely for the things they claim I had done immediately. I have not been ticketed but just warned. Perhaps because I am known in this town because of my Bana and having active involvement in the City's social programs and also for my demeanor during the interaction.

Some questions

1.How would you react if this happened to you in your own town?

2.Is the police right or wrong? Please specify with reasons.

3.How can we improve the relationships between the law enforcement and the citizens as individuals so that they can protect and serve us as the logo outside all the Police cars say?

4.What is the Police's reputation in your own town?

5. Have you been harassed by them? If yes, please share your experience or anyone you know who has been harassed.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Tejwant ji

I am stunned! The story would make more sense if the police were targeting someone engaged in gang-related felonies: drug manufacture/dealing, illegal gun sales and stockpiling. Even then simply taking over a private residence on the fly doesn't add up.

For my own satisfaction I need to know if this is common operating procedure in other jurisdictions. Local police departments may try to make the law up as they go along, but something tells me this is not legit.

How did things get to this point? Elected officials somehow got elected and somehow sanction this sort of behavior. Does the general electorate think it is OK ... the ends justify the means until it happens to them?

I don't know how my own local police department would handle this. I suspect they would approach me informally and seek my cooperation, rather than follow the storyline here. In fact, I have never heard of this even in the nearby city of Philadelphia, a large city of around 2 million, where serious, professional criminal gangs, including Italian and Russian mafias, carry on all sorts of organized and dangerous felonious activity. That police force has, like many large-city forces, a history many chapters of iabuse of power and corruption. Yet it is not constant, as you read about in cities where police corruption is entrenched. With each episode, someone is brought to justice. No home take-overs like this that I know of.

I am going to check with my local police. What you describe sounds like the Patriot Act has run amok and organized, local advocacy is needed.
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1947-2014 (Archived)
What kind of stakeout starts out like this? A stakeout is supposed to be undercover, a secretive and quiet operation. Here the police call attention to themselves. Maybe they wanted an air-conditioned location because it is hot as hell in Nevada right now, and they did not want any arguments?

Neither I nor my husband can remember any story of police stakeouts in Philadelphia, where we both lived for many years, where a private residence was used by police as a stakeout for drug, weapons, human-trafficking, etc; and where the story hit the news because the stakeout house was taken by force.

I also cannot comprehend why a neighborhood home would be taken by force for a stakeout on a domestic violence dispute.

I do remember 2 stakeouts in cocaine distribution cases, one a few houses away from me and one around the corner, where the police used vans that looked like they belonged to commercial home renovation contractors. Nobody's home was used. It was just like you would see on a police thriller -- vans with electronic equipment and back-up teams called in to make the arrests at the end. Life was per usual. At no time was the street blocked; everyone could walk around. We did not realize the vans were stakeout vans until the drama ended. Very professional.
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Tejwant Singh

Spnadmin ji,

Guru Fateh.

There were series of violations under Police Chief Jutta Chambers (City of Henderson). She was forced to resign after the violations continued even beating of an old man which was videotaped by a citizen.

The police in Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas are well known for the violations of the laws for some reasons and as a result they keep on getting sued for that.


Henderson police chief retires in wake of beating scandal

Posted: Feb 16, 2012 10:41 AM PST
Updated: Feb 16, 2012 3:48 PM PST
Posted By Matt Guillermo
Posted By Jason R. Latham

Chief Jutta Chambers (City of Henderson)
Video of Henderson police and Nevada Highway Patrol arresting a man suspected of drunken driving led to criticism of law enforcement tactics.

Henderson Police Chief Jutta Chambers announced her retirement on Thursday, less than two weeks after the videotaped beating of a motorist was made public and the city was forced to pay out a six-figure settlement.

Chambers had held the position since September 2008, according to the city's website. Her retirement is effective March 1.

It was not immediately known whether Chambers would receive a retirement package upon her departure. She was paid a base salary of more than $185,000 in 2010, according to the website TransparentNevada.com.

Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that outgoing City Manager Mark Calhoun had demanded Chambers resign in the wake of the scandal.

The four officers identified on the videotape were disciplined but not relieved of duty.

FOX5 wants to know what you think about Chambers' retirement.

Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Forgive me. I have removed the picture of Jutta. I will explain by private message. It has to do with keeping the Spotlight in working order.
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1947-2014 (Archived)
What kind of budget do they have for these lawsuits: paying for legal representation, paying court costs, paying damages when they lose? Doesn't this add to the tax burden of citizens?

Even if the city wins these legal challenges costly resources are spent on defending against them.

Maybe the financial cost rather the constitutional violations need to be played up. Somehow people go blank when you talk about the constitution. The taxpayers' pocket book gets everyone's attention.

Tejwant Singh

The Police departments in these 3 cities have a lot of budget because of the tourism and also federal funds are pumped in for it being a tourist place and is part of the Home Security extra protection budgetary allotment. There is a special tax on hotel rooms for this purpose too.

Perhaps having too much money in the coffers could be one of the causes of these atrocities by the Police Departments because money brings power and abuse.


1947-2014 (Archived)
At this point I am tempted to go into my rant about a big USA problem: too much money in the hands of those who have too little ............................. (fill in the blanks). :) But I won't.


1947-2014 (Archived)

My question about shouldering the costs of lawsuits against the city were answered in Jonathan Turley's article below. There are no lawsuits because the citizens of Hendersen apparently have been willing to exchange protection of their constitutional rights with "dropping charges" even when the charges are outrageous. The Mitchell family seems made of sterner stuff.

I have begun some light research on this issue, especially as it pertains to states of emergency and public exigencies. So far nothing has come up where a local government can make a declaration of any kind that would justify what is reported in the story. The claim of a "tactical advantage" by local police has not to date turned up as a satisfactory reason for taking over a private home by force for a stakeout in a domestic abuse case.

There is an interesting legal doctrine - "The Constitution is not a suicide pact" - under which courts have argued that civil liberties can and must be revoked when the survival of the nation is threatened. The story in Hendersen surely does not rise to the level of a national threat. The courts will have to decide I suppose.

Jonathan Turley's blog spot below describes the constitutional issues very well. He may be going over the top a bit on the Boston case, on both legal and practical grounds. On legal grounds the state attorney general may have deemed there was a regional threat and given the green light (though I am just guessing here). A state of emergency would be formally declared. On practical grounds most citizens would cooperate and leave their homes without protest, even if begrudgingly, especially if the police explained that they might be caught in a gun battle if a terrorist were found hiding on their premises. No matter what the legal grounds, the Boston case is different, because a single family was not singled out; and in the Hendersen NV case, the police knew that no criminal was being harboured or hiding on the Mitchell properties.

Police Reportedly Demand To Use Home As Stake Out Despite Refusal of Family, Bash In Door, Shoot Homeowner with Pepperballs, and Arrest Him And His Father


Remember that whole business in the Third Amendment about not having quarter soldiers in private homes without the owner’s consent or that stuff in the Fifth Amendment about takings of property or that other stuff in the Fourth Amendment on unreasonable searches and seizures. It does not appear to apply to police in Henderson Nevada. The City of Henderson is being sued with its police chief Police Chief Jutta Chambers (left) as well as the City of North Las Vegas and its Police Chief Joseph Chronister (right) for a bizarre takeover of a home for a stakeout. Anthony Mitchell says that he was told that police needed to occupy his home to get a “tactical advantage” on the occupant of a neighboring house. When Mitchell refused, the police ultimately, according to his complaint, busted through his door, hit him with pepper *****, and put him into custody. The lawsuit also names Officers Garret Poiner, Ronald Feola, Ramona Walls, Angela Walker, and Christopher Worley.

Mitchell says that the ordeal began with a call from Officer Worley demanding access to his home. He refused to allow the police to do so and the call ended.

The complaint states that Officer David Cawthorn laid out the following plan
in a report: “It was determined to move to 367 Evening Side and attempt to contact Mitchell. If Mitchell answered the door he would be asked to leave. If he refused to leave he would be arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer. If Mitchell refused to answer the door, force entry would be made and Mitchell would be arrested.’” Ultimately, when Mitchell did not open the door, the police bashed it in, shot him with “pepperball” rounds, searched the house, and set up a lookout point in the house. He says that they then went to his father’s house, a few doors away, and made a similar “request.” They took the father to the Henderson police station, and when he tried to leave, they arrested him. When his wife Linda opened the door, they used the house as planned. Both Mitchell and his father were booked them for obstructing an officer.

If these allegations are true, it is unclear why the police chiefs or the responsible prosecutors are still employed. Chief Chambers retired with a large buyout from the city.

All of the charges were later dismissed, a pattern we have seen in police abuse cases where victims are hit with charges and later offered pleas bargains or settlements. In this case, the charges were dropped but what prosecutor prepared the charges to begin with?

What I find most troubling about this case is that it seems to be following a trend. After the Boston bombing, I wrote a column expressing concern over how the Boston police effectively searched every home in a huge area — forcing families into the street under some general claim of exigency. It turned out that the suspect was not in the area. Police seem to be using exigency or “tactical” claims to circumvent constitutional protections.

I am eager to hear the response of these departments because, if true, these allegations constitute a chilling case of police abuse. If police can simply proclaim a “tactical” need as the basis for entering any home, the fourth amendment would become a purely discretionary rule. In my view, Mitchell had every right to refuse the use of his home. This was not some hot pursuit of a suspect or a need to protect officers from an imminent threat or harm. It was the forced occupation of a home — a poignant case to read on the Fourth of July weekend. We previously broke away from a guy named George who liked to do stuff like this.
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1947-2014 (Archived)
p/s Readers in the states. This story should be ample evidence for why you don't want provisions of the Patriot Act extended this year to enable local police departments to have access to your phone and internet data gratis the NSA. Make a note to alert your Senators and Congressmen and women.

Locals suffer from a little Caesar complex.

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