Drug War

Louisville SWAT Team Looking for Pot Needlessly Terrorizes Family, Thanks to a False Tip, a Cursory Investigation, and a Detective's Nose

The cop claimed to detect "a strong smell of fresh marijuana coming from within the house," but police did not find any.


A Louisville, Kentucky, SWAT team looking for marijuana broke into a home and terrorized the family living there, based on claims police easily could have debunked if they had been doing their jobs properly, according to a lawsuit filed last week. The cops "continued to detain Plaintiffs, with rifles drawn on them, even after it became clear that the Residence was a family household—not a drug dealer's lair," the complaint says.

Ashlea Burr and Mario Daugherty say more than a dozen SWAT officers stormed into their home without warning on the morning of October 26, 2018, breaking the front door, setting off "exploding devices" (presumably flashbang grenades), and shouting commands while threatening them and their three teenaged children with "assault rifles." The family initially thought they were being robbed, and one of the children, a 14-year-old girl identified as "Z.S." in the lawsuit, "ran through the back door and into the yard in an effort to reach her grandmother's house next door." The cops sprang into action:

Officers drew their assault rifles on her, yelling commands at her to get on the ground….Z.S. was extremely frightened, began crying and submitted [by kneeling on] the ground. It was cold and rainy, and Z.S. was not wearing any socks, shoes or a jacket. She repeatedly requested to be taken to her grandmother's next door, but the Officers refused the requests, kept her in the cold, wet conditions, and kept their rifles on her.

The girl can be heard sobbing in a video of the raid's aftermath. "Hold on, hon, we're almost done, OK?" says one of the officers. "We'll get you back inside. You're not hurt, right? You're just scared? I'm sorry."

Burr and Daugherty's lawyer, Josh Rose, says police initially denied they had any video of the raid. After he pointed out that the SWAT officers were required to wear body cameras, he says, the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) released a highly expurgated copy of the footage.

In his application for a warrant to search the house, Detective Joseph Tapp claimed the LMPD received a tip from someone who reported that "a black male named Anthony McClain is growing marijuana and has multiple bags of marijuana packaged for sale in the front bed room." According to Tapp, the tipster "also stated a white female named Holly was [McClain's] girlfriend and owned the house."

If Tapp had bothered to look up the property records, he would have seen that the house is in fact owned by a man named Kevin Hyde, who rents it to Burr and Daugherty. The lawsuit also notes that "nobody named Anthony McClain or Holly lived at the house at or near the time of the raid," that "Ashlea is not white," and that "nobody in the house was growing marijuana or had multiple bags of marijuana packaged for sale."

Aside from this obviously erroneous tip, the search warrant was based on three brief visits to the house. During his first "surveillance," on October 5, Tapp saw "a Black male" enter the house and leave 10 minutes later. Tapp then "approached the house to conduct a knock and talk." When he "stepped on the open porch," he said, "the smell of fresh marijuana could be smelled." He knocked on the door, but no one answered, so he left.

During his second "surveillance," on October 22, Tapp saw "a black male" arrive in a "gray Jaguar" with an Indiana license plate and enter the house. The car was registered to Daugherty, whom WDRB, the Fox TV station in Louisville, describes as "a local artist whose work has been featured at the Kentucky Derby Museum and on local news." The car was not registered to "a black male named Anthony McClain" or to a woman named Holly, which really should have given Tapp pause. The next day, three days before the raid, Tapp "approached the house and again was hit with a strong smell of fresh marijuana coming from within the house."

Tapp argued that the tip, "the witness of the short stay," and "the strong fresh smell of marijuana on separate occasions," combined with his "training and experience," provided probable cause for a search. Yet the tip was demonstrably false, visiting a house for 10 minutes is not inherently suspicious, and apparently there is something wrong with Tapp's nose, since police found no evidence of marijuana cultivation at the house.

Burr and Daugherty argue that "the raid was not supported by probable cause." They say it exemplifies lax training and oversight by the LMPD that results in "the issuance of search warrants in predominantly African American neighborhoods without probable cause and/or in an unreasonable manner in violation of the Fourth Amendment."

The plaintiffs also argue that the search was executed recklessly. "It is completely unreasonable to execute a warrant that vaguely mentions someone potentially smoking marijuana at a residence with a SWAT team of 14 officers, exploding devices, forced entry, and assault rifles, particularly when no investigation was done to determine who lived in the Residence and given the other false statements and omissions in the affidavit," they say. "Defendants' misconduct could have very easily resulted in the death of a parent or child for no good reason," and it "did result in the violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights and significant emotional damage."

Burr and Daugherty, who are asking for a jury trial in Jefferson County Circuit Court, are seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal fees. I called the LMPD for comment and will update this post if and when I get a response.

NEXT: Brickbats: November 2019

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  1. dudes … it’s a plant.

    1. Seriously a big part of why I moved to Colorado. You gotta come up with something other than “it smells like weed over here” to go busting down doors.

      Weed being legal has also removed the police’s ability to interfere in people’s lives because they “smelled weed”. Somehow, their lack of ability to just search and harass whoever they want at will hasn’t led to the total collapse of society. Weird.

      1. Welcome. Please drive like somebody who has a brain.

        1. Also, don’t vote for Democrat Socialist nitwits, like the ones that are running California into the ground.

  2. Holly McClain? Had the “tipster” just watched Die Hard?

    1. My bet would be the copy had just watched Die Hard and the “tip” was fabricated.

      1. Copy -> cop

  3. One way to get warrant executions under control is to make shoddy warrants, and shoddy execution, rebound upon the authors and executors. How many hours were these cops ransacking the house to find nothing? One hour, two hours? Subject every cop involved to something similar any time in the next year. No warning. Keep the cop families out of it: if this family was three people, multiple that one or two hours by three. If the family wants to split that time into multiple raids, so be it. Their discretion.

    Or let each cop negotiate a deal with the family. How much money would he have to pay to avoid six hours of shoddy warrant terror? Sort of depends on how much of an asshole he was during the raid, doesn’t it?

    Or just flat bill cops $10,000 per hour of false warrant execution, plus restoration for all the damage they did.

    Until cops are held personally responsible, nothing will change.

    1. Or, at the very least, put this guy’s name on a list that says never to believe him when he claims he smells weed because he either lies or has no idea what he’s talking about.

      1. I mean, I’d love to see some harsher penalties for fucking stuff like this up and/or lying about it, but that seems unlikely to happen. I think that if the info for the warrant is bogus, they should be treated like any armed home invaders would.

        1. It would be nice to defend against bogus warrants with firepower, but they would always win. Maybe a simpler and more likely solution would be to compile a database of everyone connected with warrants that don’t bear fruit, so the next time they get on the witness stand, their sorry track record can be brought to the jury’s attention. But I doubt police or judges would cooperate.

    2. your final line says it all.

      These punks in government issued cute costumes have “qualified immunity” to get THEM off the hook and their employers ON the hook. As long as there are no consequences for phoney rais, they will contnue. As ever, subsidise something, you get more of it. And making the taxpayers foot the bill for the “punishment” of the gummit dweebs IS subsidising it.

      How’s about let the juries decide whether the coppers were dirty, ANd whoch ones get to pay how much of the damages awarded? In this case, the “push” on the job should fork over at least half, because it was his show. The clown making the young girl grovel in the mud in the front yard should be “invited” to make a substantial contribution to her college/carrer/home fund. The others who “went along to get along” and participated also need to pay up,. They should have been able to run a “sniff test” and realise this whole thing was bogus. And then they did nothing. They ARE complicit in the perpetration of these travesties of justice.

  4. dam can’t drive while black now can’t even enter a house while being black. These cops obviously have to much time on their hand. Fire them and end all swat usage except for hostage situations which was their original purpose

  5. I wouldn’t say they were “needlessly” terrorizing the family – the family is filing a lawsuit aren’t they? Obviously the family has refused to accept the reality of the situation and still has some bit of hope that this is not normal or acceptable behavior by the police. The terrorizations need to continue until the peasants get their minds right about who is the lord and master here.

  6. “Training and experience.”


  7. “white female named Holly was [McClain’s”
    It’s Gennaro. I go by my maiden name.

  8. Proposed constitutional amendment:
    “No SWAT team or similar unit of more than two officers shall be sent from a police building without a specific warrant describing the justification for extra force, co-signed by two judges, who must accompany the unit as it deploys to monitor the conduct of the unit.”

  9. Looking forward to the follow-up story about the unfortunate and untimely death of the cop who showed a little empathy during this charade.

  10. How many years now? Why don’t people just outright legalize the stuff. Not medical, not licensed dispensaries, just legalize it.

    They rolled out this medical program here and it is a complete failure. Nobody is going to the dispensaries. You need an Rx for a limited number of conditions. Reports are what they have is way overpriced. The investors are going to lose money.

    I can’t smoke it for work reasons and don’t really care about that but for cryin out loud all of this craziness over pot.

    1. Voting Libertarian says relegalize! It also says, in the imperative voice, to make the wrongdoer liable for restitution to the victim. Those are in the platform. Republicam sockpuppets never mention that, nor the leveraged, law-changing clout of every libertarian vote. Repealing bad laws–not hiring politicians–is winning!

      1. I mean, I’m generally in agreement, but the way this is written it really feels like it needs sarcasm tags.

    2. “You can’t legalize it. There is too much money in it.”

      Succinct, and gets to the root of current laws. They just want to wet their beaks.

    3. “Not medical, not licensed dispensaries, just legalize it.”

      C’mon. Everyone knows that no human activity can be trusted to functions as intended without gubermint regulation because it invariably degenerates into wild west anarchy, public safety crises, victimization and something something the children. Oh, yeah, and it will cost the economy 8 billion dollars a year in lost something or other.

  11. I’m sure procedures were followed and the county prosecutor will find nothing was done wrong. The civil jury might find differently but that’s no guarantee either.

  12. “a Black male…” ‘Nuff said for probable cause. Distribute automatic weapons to the Klavern, no bag limit, and don’t knock.

  13. They’re just lucky they didn’t end up like Dennis Tuttle.

    1. For a moment I thought that was a Brazil reference.

  14. these drug warrior cops are terrorists worse than ISIS and far more dangerous than the drugs they wage jihad on https://www.bdtonline.com/news/lies-bribery-obstruction-virginia-state-police-special-agent-convicted-in/article_977d2778-4d0e-11e9-9b93-bb1c45fc7614.html

  15. This sort of government live theatre is the precise stuff that needs to be trotted out as the first twenty or so exhibits in the case for ENDING the insanity they call “the drug war”. This is not making war on a natural weed, it is making war on WE THE PEOPLE.

    WHERE amongst all the enumerated powers we find in the COnstitution is there ANY basis for FedGov to have aught to say concerning what we the people do or do not put into our bodies?

    I’m listening………. hmmm.. not a sound. Just what I thought.

  16. Imagine how differently this would have turned out if the homeowners had a gun. They’d all be dead, the heroes in blue might have taken one or two bullets from the dangerous druglords for every five from their own people, and there’d be no lawsuit because you can’t be sued by dead criminal scum.

    But seriously.
    Is there any way to justify no-knock raids? Maybe if there was some credible evidence that terrorists were building a nuclear bomb in the basement, but pot though? That’s what gets me about this. Even if every single thing the cops believed to be true was true, even if they had a thousand pounds of pot stacked up in the living room, would that justify flashbang grenades and smashing down the door? It’s fucking pot! I don’t even buy into the Liberterian fetish for legalization but its just pot my dude. It’s like the jaywalking of illegal drugs. On what planet does any kind of pot growing operation necessitate a SWAT team?

    1. But SWAT raids are fun and exciting for the cops involved, And if you only used SWAT teams when necessary, i.e., rarely, it wouldn’t justify the cost of maintaining them and buying all the cool toys they get to play with.

      Then what would the cops do for fun? Something else despicable, no doubt.

      1. Sexually assaulting the detainees would move from a Thursday activity to a weekday activity, probably.

    2. “… even if they had a thousand pounds of pot stacked up in the living room,..

      Yeah, says the person who did not bother to think about the elementary school children and church down the street from those lurking pounds of pot. There should be a special law with an enhanced penalty to address such heinousness by proximity.

  17. I am making 10,000 Dollar at home own laptop .Just do work online 4 to 6 hour proparly . so i make my family happy and u can do

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  18. And the police will get immunity for being unqualified.

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