Fourth Amendment

'We Own This Property…It's Ours Until We Are Done'

Cops raid the wrong house...again.

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Kicked-in front door
Alan/Flickr

The Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a warrant before searching a private home. It also requires that the home they end up searching is the one they actually have the warrant for.

Sheriff's deputies in Van Buren County, Iowa, were golden on that first requirement when they raided Michael Owings' house on June 27 for suspected drug possession. They did indeed have a warrant.

Unfortunately for them—and for Owings—their warrant allowed them to search the house of one Gary Shelley, Owings' neighbor.

In a suit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, Owings accuses Van Buren County Sheriff Deputy John Zane and four unnamed deputies of displaying a "gross disregard" for his constitutional rights by conducting "a flagrantly illegal entry of his private residence."

The story began on June 26, when Zane carried out a traffic stop. In the course of the stop, he got a tip that illegal drug use and distribution might be going on at Shelley's residence, a two-story farm house on rural Heather Avenue. Police promptly got a warrant for Shelley's house. But they showed up at Owings' mobile home, about a third of a mile up the road.

Owings was not home at the time, but his lawsuit says there were several signs that cops had arrived at the wrong house. One was an actual sign prominently listing the address at the gate of the property. Another was a name plate reading "Owings" located next to the front door.

Undeterred, the deputies forced their way into the home, where they encountered further evidence that they were in the wrong place, including prescription bottles and bank statements bearing Owings name. To top it all off, Owings' mother and girlfriend arrived while police were still tearing through the place; they flat out told the officers that they had the wrong house.

According to the lawsuit, deputies responded by saying, "We own this property…it's ours until we are done."

The search turned up no illegal activity, and the police eventually cleared out, though not before removing items from the house and damaging the property.

Sadly, wrong-address raids are not unusual in the United States. Many of these cases lead to tragic consequences. Back in July, police in Southaven, Mississippi, killed Ismael Lopez while looking for an assault suspect at the wrong address. In 2015, Miami cops "destroyed" the home of 90-year-old woman while searching for drugs they never found. In 2012, while conducting a wrong-door raid in St. Paul, Minnesota, police killed the family dog and then forced three handcuffed children to sit by their dying pet while officers smashed up their home.

Owings is demanding compensation for the damage done to his property, for the violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, and for emotional distress. A court date has not been set.

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  1. I smell some paid administrative leave.

  2. Don’t wanna be a thug, don’t live near a thug.

    1. That’s possibly the dumbest thing I have read on the internet this year. And that’s a pretty high threshold.

      1. New here?

  3. OT: Democrat hypocrisy on healthcare reaches epic proportions

    “The latest version of Trumpcare may live under a new name?Graham-Cassidy?but no matter how many ways they try to dress it up, they try to hide it, it’s even more dangerous and more reckless than the previous bill that was defeated,” he said at a press conference in Washington, D.C. “Simply put, Trumpcare is a sham. They’re crafting it in the dark of night.”

    ROTFLOL! These people have zero shame.

    1. “”They’re crafting it in the dark of night.”””

      Make America Pre-Electricity Again!

    2. “Simply put, Trumpcare is a sham. They’re crafting it in the dark of night.”

      They don’t mean that literally, of course. What they are trying to say is that Trumpcare presumes that the legislation first must be passed and only then will the public become privvy to what it contains.

      Sort of like: “We have to pass the bill to know what’s in it.” LOL

      1. Yeah but you see that’s been done before, so you can’t do it like that this time.

  4. American copping….local police, state level, DEA, FBI, Border Patrol….is completely out of control. You will trust these people at your peril, ESPECIALLY if you’ve done nothing wrong.

    Today’s American cop needs sent to Havana, Caracas or perhaps Hanoi.

    1. Why? Do their cops need training?

  5. To be fair, they kind of own it after they leave, too.

  6. Even less recognition will be given to this actual rights violation than to the supposed one in the Yik Yak case.

    1. Priorities.

  7. The story began on June 26, when Zane carried out a traffic stop. In the course of the stop, he got a tip that illegal drug use and distribution might be going on at Shelley’s residence, a two-story farm house on rural Heather Avenue

    Besides everything else in this story; what really pisses me off that one unconfirmed tip is somehow enough for a search warrant to be granted. The judge should have his home ransacked and all his unmentionable sifted through and aired in public, I heard he has drugs in his house.

    1. My thoughts exactly.

      Since when does some idiot spreading a rumor about a neighbor constitute “probable cause?” This is like the back during the Spanish Inquisition. If you had a beef with someone, all you had you had to do was go to the local church and say, “I overheard so-and-so talking heresy and he was blaspheming, too.” That was enough to have your neighbor hauled off to be tortured. Do we really want to go back there again?

      This part is even worse than the sad fact that these stupid cops can’t even find the right address. How hard is it to read a number on a house, or even check the name on the town records to make sure they have the right place?

      1. They had their orders. Confirming they have the correct address is questioning orders and the thought of anyone not unthinkingly complying with police orders is intolerable.

      2. About as hard as it is to hear people shouting “He can’t hear you!” as you shoot a deaf man who had done nothing wrong.

        1. Once a cop makes up his mind he cannot change it. That would be admitting to being at fault. So once they draw their guns on someone who refuses to obey, that person is going to die. Doesn’t matter if the person is deaf. They have already decided that they are going to kill the guy. Admitting that the guy can’t hear the commands that he is not obeying is admitting to being wrong. They aren’t allowed to do that. Same idea with the house. They decided it was the right place, and that means it was the right place. Doesn’t matter if people can show that it was the wrong place. To back down is to admit fault. Same thing with that cop who assaulted and illegally detained the nurse who told him he was wrong. He couldn’t admit to being wrong. That would probably get him fired. Kinda like not murdering someone who isn’t a threat can get an officer fired. Restraint is weakness. Admitting fault is weakness. Acting like a human being is weakness.

      3. “Since when does some idiot spreading a rumor about a neighbor constitute “probable cause?”

        Oh, I think it gets “better” than that. “…Zane carried out a traffic stop. In the course of the stop, he got a tip that illegal drug use and distribution might be going on at Shelley’s residence.”

        Sounds like Zane let a small ratfish go to get a bigger fish. After all, who shirks their duty to offer unsolicited information about unrelated criminal activity upon being detained, except all you phuckers with something to hide, of course.

        Did Zane vouch for the reliability of this ratfish? Zane probably told the judge, “Don’t worry, I had my tipster dead to rights on some serious charges and I even threatened a tune-up if the tip turned out to be bullshit.”

  8. RE: ‘We Own This Property…It’s Ours Until We Are Done’
    Cops raid the wrong house…again.

    It might behoove the police who raided this property to learn how to read, or am I asking for the earth, moon and stars here?

    1. Maybe spring for gps?

    2. It might behoove the police who raided this property to learn how to read,

      “Shelley’s residence, a two-story farm house on rural Heather Avenue… But they showed up at Owings’ mobile home,

      Somehow I don’t think reading comprehension or the home being “properly marked” would have made much difference.

  9. They didn’t have the wrong house. They are the police. They are always right. So it was the house’s fault for being improperly marked. But the cops didn’t make a mistake. Reality is whatever they say it is because they can murder anyone who argues with them, and nothing else happens. Fuck you, that’s why.

  10. So when does the judge that signed a warrant based on wild rumor have his disbarment hearing?

    Something about ‘probable cause’? Ring a bell anyone?
    I have lost track; have pitchforks and torches been banned yet?

  11. “The search turned up no illegal activity, and the police eventually cleared out, though not before removing items from the house and damaging the property.”

    Removed items but no illegality. Them really do think they own it. Owens should have confirmed Them was done based on Them’s appetite for conversion.

  12. The sudden recent uptick in ambush-murders of police officers truly baffles me.

    1. “The sudden recent uptick in ambush-murders of police officers truly baffles me.”

      One possible explanation may be, “Like a cold, good and bad moods can be ‘picked up’ from those around you.

      “Evidence suggests mood may spread from person to person via a process known as social contagion,” said Public health statistics researcher Rob Eyre who led the study.”

      It may be a reciprocating contagion at work…like the zyka virus attacking brain cancer.

      http://miami.cbslocal.com/2017…..y-friends/

  13. This article conflates several related issues.

    The raid on the wrong address comes under the heading of a mistake. Mistakes happen. If we are going to allow police to execute search warrants, they are going to make mistakes. They should exercise due caution and take steps to prevent mistakes, but they are people so they are going to screw up sometimes. The fact that they apparently didn’t do any pre-search work to ensure they had the right address is the part of “wrong address” to get upset about.

    But the big “piss you off” moments are the destruction of property and the jackass attitude, and those are things that apparently occur whether the raid was legitimate or not. Even if the guy is a notorious drug dealer, there is no excuse for wantonly destroying property. They should be responsible for any damage they cause in executing any search warrant. The only reason they should be let off for destruction of property is if it is damaged in the course of dealing with someone who is resisting the service of the warrant or arrest.

    And the biggest deal of all is the cavalier attitude toward issuing search warrants in the first place, which seems to be largely driven by the drug war, which most of us recognize as illegitimate. On TV the cops always complain about how tough it is to get a warrant. From what I can tell it doesn’t take much at all, certainly not what I would label “probable cause”.

    1. The reason sticking these all together as a single issue is a problem is that people will pick and choose what they hear. Just as the civil libertarian hears “unconstitutionally entered someone’s home and destroyed their property”, the law enforcement community hears “In the course of conducting a legally sanctioned search, the police mistakenly entered the wrong residence. ”

      This is the Dunphy moment, where people who are wearing different hats see the same events entirely differently.

      Breaking the issues out allows the civil libertarian to concede that mistakes are going to be made, but insist that efforts be made to reduce the chances of such mistakes.

      Simultaneously, this allows the police officer to concede that perhaps shooting people’s pet dogs on a routine basis isn’t the best all around policy. Or that going into a raid absent exigent circumstances should be done with better preparation – like instead of raiding the home of a suspected drug dealer at 5 AM, perhaps you watch the house and figure out their schedules and catch them on their way out, or while they are away. This would make the cop’s lives easier and safer while protecting the public.

      The way the discussion is currently being had precludes the possibility of progress. The only way we are going to make headway under our current strategy is to have an end to prohibition for completely unrelated reasons.

    2. I don’t think the article conflates issues at all. It’s clear that the article is about a mistake being made because the police are incompetent and/or don’t care about going to the wrong address. Yes, mistakes will be made, but not in this case if any level of care is taken. Whether this was a good warrant or whether their behavior was appropriate once inside the property is irrelevant to that issue.

    3. But this wasn’t a “mistake”.

      It was gross negligence at best.

      When the cops stop getting excused because “hey people make mistakes” then a LOT LESS gross negligence will happen.

      Cops should be held to a higher standard.

      This wasn’t a raid conducted in exigent circumstances. There was more than enough time to get the right house and execute a search (however wrong that was to begin with) without infringing on several rights.

      So, I don’t want to hear anymore excuses because cops make “mistakes”.

      If a non-cop makes a “mistake” like that he often ends up being criminally charged.

      Quit making cops superior citizens.

  14. The Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a warrant before searching a private home.

    No, it does not. Read it again.

  15. As the “hero’s” left ” their ” house, they suddenly realized they’d made a huge mistake.
    They had forgotten to shoot the dog.

  16. As usual, the unnamed judge had no reason to apply the due diligence, and requisite careful consideration, when authorizing the home invasion robbery.
    He is an expensive rubber stamp of justice.
    Is the warrant for my house?
    No?
    APPROVED!!

  17. This county has serious problems. Many complaints..these officers think it is the wild west.. When you actually call cty. Sherrif’s for something important no one will come. They tell citizens that there is 1 officer and they are on duty in some opposite side of county..every time.. Also check out the news on the prior county attorney and his scandal. I personally witnessed him telling citizens who had went to him regarding inaction of sherrif’s deputy not following Iowa code and he told citizen ” I don’t have time for this, I am going hunting”. And left the cpunty attorney’s office of which he was also living in??!!
    This county as a whole should be investigated fully and the Attrny General would have a hay day who is hiring and supervising these people? … They could make a movie about it.. The most corrupt county ever!!
    Living in that county, I have had to repeatedly call State Troopers anytime something happens.. It is not safe. Everyone knows these “officers” are psychologically unstable and a danger to us.I hope something comes of this. This entire county needs investigated top to bottom … It would be like opening a gigantic barrel of worms!!!

  18. What about the man falsely accused of stealing bronze statues?? Mt Pleasant man falsely arrested and detained for stealing statues he didn’t steal?? With all these lawsuits I hope they hire someone to fill in for all these guys while they all spend time in court.

  19. What about the man falsely accused of stealing bronze statues?? Mt Pleasant man falsely arrested and detained for stealing statues he didn’t steal?? With all these lawsuits I hope they hire someone to fill in for all these guys while they all spend time in court.

  20. Something else sickening is reading the court documents online and officers’ recording from squad car the way they were swearing and saying they were going to kill the sick man on the highway with a bb gun before they even arrived on the scene. ..
    US Courts. (.gov)>ca8>media>opndir
    Eigth circuit .pdf

  21. The search turned up no illegal activity, and the police eventually cleared out, though not before removing items from the house and damaging the property.
    http://clickerheroes.co/

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