Militarization of Police

Updates and a Civil Suit From That 2011 Maricopa County SWAT Raid Starring Steven Seagal

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Remember that March 2011 Maricopa County SWAT raid over cockfighting which starred occasional-"lawman" Steven Seagal? Well, at long last a lawsuit by the homeowner/alleged cockfighter Jesus Llovera is going forward.

Seagal and the Maricopa County sheriff's department, as well as the County Board of Supervisors are all named in a civil suit which alleges that the use of 40 deputies, a tank, a bomb robot, and a c-list movie star were for the benefit of the Steven Seagal: Lawman television show, as well as the members of the media who had been alerted to the raid. Because his house was damaged and his puppy was killed, Llovera is asking for unspecified damages, as well as dismissal of the charges against him.

On the morning of the raid, Llovera says his first reaction to the sounds outside was to reach for the phone and begin to dial 911. Then, according to The Arizona Republic:

He made it to the hallway just as his bedroom windows shattered. At his door, members of a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office SWAT team in full riot gear told him to get on the floor.

He was handcuffed and taken outside, where action-movie actor Steven Seagal waited, clad in camouflage and sunglasses and hoisting a rifle.

"I looked up and saw his face," Llovera said. "It was very strange."

Indeed.

Llovera, to his credit, refused to sign the release which would allow the footage of the raid to be used on Seagal's television show. Considering the intimidation factor, that's impressive. Footage of this level of law enforcement lunacy might help enlighten the public, though, so that's a bit of a downside.

Says the Republic:

Robert Campos, Llovera's attorney, has asked the court in the criminal case to throw out evidence discovered at Llovera's home, arguing that the warrant was not served property.

Campos said his client was not involved with cockfighting, as authorities suspect. But, even if he were, the raid "was still overkill, and that's the whole point."

And The Republic story makes it clear, Llovera was probably still cockfighting and weirder still is the other ostensible reason for the raid:

Phoenix police went to Llovera's home in February 2011 to investigate a man's claim that Llovera had kidnapped him and held him hostage for four days. Llovera told his own story of being kidnapped and having his pinky chopped off in the desert.

Confronted with differing stories, police didn't pursue the kidnapping case. But they did send the information about the roosters on Llovera's property to the Sheriff's Office.

That resulted in the search warrant that led deputies, with Seagal in tow, to storm Llovera's home. Trombi said the allegations against Llovera justified the sheriff's use of force.

"When SWAT is requested, it's based on previous history surrounding that suspect and that residence. Phoenix police did it with just as many if not more SWAT personnel as we did," [Maricopa County sheriff's Deputy Chief Dave] Trombi said. "We had a legitimate law-enforcement reason to be there, we had a legitimate document, a search warrant, signed by that judge to be at that property. And a year later, we're still in the litigation phase. We're not willing to back down from the charges the county attorney filed based on our investigation."

Maybe they did have a legitimate law-enforcement reason to be there, though they certainly sound unimpressed with the kidnapping allegation. Still, if Llovera was innocent of all charges or just a chicken-abusing creep who never harmed a human, this raid was overkill. And if Llovera turns out to be some scary, kidnapping, serious criminal-gangster person, police should have wondered whether he was armed and then they should have wondered whether surprising Llovera as he slept was the least dangerous method of investigation available. But that wouldn't have made good television. 

Radley Balko on the dangerous mixture of television cameras and police raids; Reason on the militarization of police

NEXT: Veronique de Rugy on Women vs. the State

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  1. sorry, but i cant get worked-up over cock fighting…which allows time for the deep fryer to get up to temp

    1. ive also wittnessed praying mantus fights in the far east…which can be fed to fish after.

    2. Ironically, the chickens were killed during the raid.

      But its all good when pigs cops kill chickies and doggies for entertainment.

  2. I think P.J. O’Rourke once described cockfighting as “two chickens fighting over who gets to be the entree”. Certainly not something that needs a SWAT raid.

    Can anybody explain to me why cops don’t wait until suspicios person clears the building, detain them in the car, and then execute the warrant? I mean, if we’re so paranoid about eveidence destruction, why not wait until nobody’s home? Does the property owner have to be on-site before you can execute a warrant?

    1. The only thing I can think of is that they just like to break shit.

    2. If you did that, you couldn’t fleece taxpayers for an ever-growing arsenal of tanks, weapons, etc. It also makes for pretty poor television.

    3. I always assumed it was because that wouldn’t be fun.

      1. Cops attack citizens because they know that they can get way with it. I let one friend of mine with a cop son know that he should be ashamed of his son’s occupation. I try to make his life miserable. Cops look the other way and pat abusive friends on the back.

        If you know any cops, let them know how much contempt you have for them.This is a typical libertarian article about abusive cops. I have never seen an article about fightng against cop abuse because libertarians don’t have any fight in them.

    4. I never really understood the public’s distaste for cock-fighting. Who really gives a shit? Chickens are evil fuckers anyways.

      1. As a species they are nasty, but roosters are Satan’s Bird. They gladly kill each other, why is it so wrong to place bets on the winner?

    5. I though the property owner/ resident did have to be home during the search, but you’re right that they could just wait for the guy to come outside and then arrest him and search the place without incident.

      1. Again, no fun at all. The FBI used to follow David Koresh when we went shopping in town and watched him go jogging ever other day. What fun would it be to arrest him there? No tanks, no cool shootouts, blah.

  3. Alt-text winnah!!

    1. Lucy should start giving training classes to other Reason staff members.

  4. “”Can anybody explain to me why cops don’t wait until suspicios person clears the building, detain them in the car, and then execute the warrant?””

    Come on, in this case it’s easy. It all about rating for a TV show.

  5. Any footage of this raid that made air would have been edited in such a way that the cops would have appeared to be under constant life-threatening conditions. Probably would have used footage from other criminal activities to boot. These shows are under no obligation to be accurate. Mix a little muted gunfire in the background and even Reno 911 becomes disturbingly dramatic.

    1. But the raw footage could have been subpoenad. Of course, this type of footage has a notable tendency to disappear or have been taped over by the time the subpoena arrives.

      FTR, I’m one of the most consistent animal welfare advocates here and I think the SWAT team and the tank were overkill. Obviously a publicity stunt.

      We’re not willing to back down from the charges the county attorney filed based on our investigation.

      Of course not. You need those as a bargaining chip to make the civil suit go away. Scumbags.

  6. Also: If I pitched a show where mentally ill people are dressed up in uniforms and allowed to believe that they are something they’re not, I’d be condemned as cruel and inhuman.

    Do it with Seagal, though…

  7. Serious question:
    Based on how this went down, when a cop threatens to arrest someone for taping them, can the person just ask the cop to sign a release to have it released on their YouTube channel, and not be charged with wiretapping?

    1. 1) Good luck getting a cop to sign a release.

      2) Wiretapping laws vary greatly by state. I don’t live in AZ, and am unfamiliar with their laws.

      1. 1) You’re absolutely right.

        2) And cops are quite often unfamiliar with the wiretapping laws in their own state, leading to illegal arrests.

        1. Ignorance of the law is an useful excuse for the men in blue.

          1. Yet somehow whenever I get in front of a judge and say “Sir, I didn’t know I couldn’t do cocaine off that hooker’s ass,” he always replies with some bullshit about ignorance being no excuse.

            1. You mean you’re supposed to do it off of her tits?

              1. I was going to say it wasn’t a firm enough surface. Then I remembered we’re talking about hookers rather than mere sluts.

        2. unfamiliar or “unfamiliar” – works either way.

    2. I’m sure that asking the cop to sign a release would be considered brandishing a weapon, and would require your being subdued with overwhelming force.

    3. I was just thinking about how a TV show needs a release form signed, but the police don’t. If the TV show didn’t claim ownership of the video, would that make it public domain and therefore broadcastable without consent? We see police tapes all the time on the news.

      1. And yet while the police routinely release names, reports and video of incidents before charges are levied or the cases go to trial, they routinely refuse to name policemen involved in shootings or excessive force complaints, and always try to suppress the release of evidence anyone has that may make them look bad.

        But there’s no double standard and cops are often treated more harshly because some cop who threw his ex out a second story window got a stiff sentence once.

      2. There’s a difference between commercial uses and “news”, too.

        1. What if they broadcast it without advertisements?

  8. or just a chicken-abusing creep who never harmed a human,

    I’m sorry but I have to agree with o3, I really couldn’t give a shit about cock-fighting even beyond the legal/illegal debate (obviously should be legal). If you can eat them then you can fight them.

    1. Your humaneness is an exemplar of the libertarian mindset.

      1. I’m not trying to be a dick, Tonio, but some of us do view animals as property. I have no use for cruelty, but I tend to think that if it isn’t sentient, it has no rights.

        I haven’t the faintest interest in watching two animals fight, but I believe that granting any rights to the things we consume is opening a can of worms.

        1. Exactly.

          I only really care whether that chicken is cooked before it’s on my dinner plate.

          Well, that’s not true. Some places have terrible wing sauces. I care about what’s on my chicken too I guess.

        2. Prease flee Michaer Vick!

          1. It took me a minute to translate, but I got a good laugh when I did.

        3. I know Epi, but we should agree that we disagree about this. I know my view is very much a minority* view here on this.

          I’m not going to go all medieval on anyone, but I will always take a stand for animal welfare.

          (*)As in numerical minority.

      2. I would never watch a dog fight but think what their owners do with them is their own business. Cock-fighting doesn’t bother me in any way. If I had a chance I would probably watch one just for the experience but I have no real interest (I also plan to go to a bull fight someday). People should be able to decide for themselves what they are comfortable with. I’ve eaten cat and dog before in Asia (not very good eating really). Different cultures place different values on different animals (see the national retardation over horse meat).

      3. As far as Cock-fighting in particular goes, it is just humans placing Roosters in a position what they do naturally. All the Roosters care about is passing on their genes. If they do so by being a succesful fighter and being breed by humans to create more what do they care? Just like successful horses being studded for being good racers. Humans are part of nature as well and animals that adapt to our existence are no different than any other animals succesfully filling a niche.

        1. I’ve been to one and found it distasteful. Not everything I find distasteful should be illegal.

          1. BLASPHEMER!

  9. and a c-list movie star

    C-list?!? Lucy, do you you know why Ritchie killed Bobby Lupo?

    1. Executive Decision was a Seagal tour de force.

    2. Casey Ryback. Game set match.

    3. What does it take to change the essence of a man?

    4. Truth be told a lot of Seagal’s earlier work like Out for Justice were actaully pretty good action flicks. Some of the beatdowns he delivers in that movie alone should go in the movie fight sequence hall of fame (if there is such a thing).

      It wasn’t until he turned into an insufferable enviro-hippie blowhard douche, and started insisting on preaching about it in his movies (hello Fire Down Below) that he became insufferable. Now he’s just a has been attention whore.

      1. Yeah he had a good run up until he decided to try something other than violence in his movies. Early on he was one of the better ones at mixing guns and martial arts together in an entertaining way.

        Of course he still ran like a girl.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkskuSXqUD0

    5. That’s cool – I needed a new keyboard anyway.

  10. Lucy, there is a difference between “Ostensible” and “Ostensive.” One makes sense in this context, the one you used doesn’t.

    1. Brandon, there’s a difference in “pedantic” and a “pedantdick.” You’re being one right now.*

      *Of course, so am I.

    2. Indeed there is! It stems from my inability to spell “ostensibly” paired with my incessant urge to use it in blog posts. Fixed.

  11. Am I reading this right? When they thought Jesus was a hardcore gangster kidnapper – they went and questioned him — when they thought he had barnyard animals fight each other, they smashed his house into dust?

    Also, Herzog on Chickens: “The Intensity of Stupidity” (Segal)
    http://vimeo.com/9880377

    1. That about sums it up!

    2. So Jesus is a hardcore gangster kidnapper? I guess this means his CIA cover is blown. Back to the hidden bunker before the world learns the truth.

  12. What a cock won’t do for a cock.

  13. Didn’t this case involve Steven Segall(sp?) actually killing 200 or so chickens at this place?

    Yeah, and Jesus Llovera is the person accused of animal cruelty?

    Oh, sweet irony.

    1. Did he kill them by choking them?

      1. Considering his name recognition, I doubt he spends much of his tome choking chickens. Unless they aren’t his.

    2. The Sheriff’s Department had a great barbeque.

  14. Because his house was damaged and his puppy was killed

    …because it’s not a SWAT raid until someone shoots a puppy.

    He was handcuffed and taken outside, where action-movie actor Steven Seagal waited, clad in camouflage and sunglasses and hoisting a rifle.

    Two things: 1) Seagal didn’t go inside with the SWAT team but waited outside? What a pussy. 2)Chuck Norris wouldn’t have needed a SWAT team, he is the SWAT team.

  15. Guys! It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. YOU CAN’T KILL A PUPPY. Period.

  16. Can’t, or won’t?

  17. Good time for this link.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/…..8951.story

    1. Convicted felons can’t have dogs?

      What is that, the Michael Vick rule?

    2. First time I’ve ever heard that felons can’t possess certain dogs.

      1. I wouldn’t be surprised. In some places non-felons can’t have certain dogs either.

        1. Valid point.

    3. Gang member slugs puppy?

      I guess “Cop Shoots Dog” is the new “Dog Bites Man”

  18. Steven Seagal beats up sea lions.

  19. Mr. Llovera is just lucky the cops didn’t force him to imbibe the Steven Seagal Energy Drink.

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