You don't often hear about lawsuits based on the Third Amendment, the one that says "no soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by law." That usually overlooked provision is cited in a federal lawsuit recently filed by Anthony Mitchell and his parents, Michael and Linda Mitchell—an oddity for which we can thank the Henderson, Nevada, police department. The Mitchells, who live in separate houses near each other in the Las Vegas suburb, were forcibly evicted from their homes on July 10, 2011, by police officers responding to a domestic violence report involving one of their neighbors. Here is how it all started, according to the complaint:
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.
The cops did not take no for an answer:
[Henderson police 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.
The cops pepperballed Mitchell's dog for good measure, even though she was "cowering in the corner when officers smashed through the front door." They charged Mitchell with…wait for it…"obstructing an officer." His father, Michael, faced the same charge after he tried to leave a police command center to which he was lured under false pretenses while the police took over his house as well. The two men were jailed for nine hours before making bail, and the charges ultimately were dismissed with prejudice. The lawsuit argues that police filed the unjustified 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." In addition to Third and Fourth Amendment violations tied to the warrantless occupation of their homes, the Mitchells say the police are guilty of assault and battery, conspiracy, defamation, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.
[Thanks to Johnny Cook for the tip.]