Ruby Johnsona 77-year-old grandmother and retired civil servant from Colorado, says she was home alone in January when a Denver Police Department SWAT team arrived in an armored vehicle with at least 8 officers wearing a full armor and carrying automatic weapons that tore his house apart in search of a missing iPhone.
Police found no stolen phones or any indication of criminal activity. Now Johnson is suing Gary Stabthe lead detective in the case, saying he used a ‘hastily prepared, stripped and misleading affidavit’ to obtain a warrant and conduct an ‘unlawful search’ of Johnson’s home that traumatized her, a complaint alleges recently filed.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 1 in Denver County District Court by attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says police were investigating a truck that was stolen from a nearby Hyatt. The truck reportedly contained four semi-automatic handguns, a military-style tactical rifle, a revolver, two drones, $4,000.00 in cash and an old iPhone 11.
When Staab spoke to the owner of the stolen vehicle, the man said he used the “Find My” app to track his phone, which “ringed” at Johnson’s address around 11:30 a.m. and 3:55 p.m. on the day. it was stolen, according to a sworn affidavit submitted by Staab.
However, a screenshot of the “Find My” app actually indicated that the phone was “ringing” somewhere near Johnson’s house and did not give a specific location. Despite this, Staab reportedly swore that the app screenshot “meant the phone was inside of [Johnson’s] lodge.”
“Basically, if a device’s location cannot be accurately determined, the user will see a blue circle around the device’s marker on the map. The size of the blue circle indicates how accurately the location of the device can be determined. For example, the larger the circle; the greater the inaccuracy,” the complaint states. “This blue circle covered an area spanning at least six different properties and parts of four different blocks in the vicinity of [redacted] Street.”
Staab reportedly did no other independent police work to corroborate whether the phone was actually inside Johnson’s home, opting instead to simply seek a warrant which was approved by the judge. Beth Faragher.
“On the authority of the illegally issued warrant, Denver police arrived at the home of 77-year-old Ms. Johnson, where she lives alone, with an overwhelming and intimidating display of unnecessary force. Confused and scared, Ms. Johnson opened her front door to the sound of a megaphone and the sight of swarming officers in militarized gear, an armored vehicle parked on her lawn and marked cars flanking her property. , the ACLU said in a statement. “Ms. Johnson and her 40-year-old household carry wounds from that day that have not healed. Johnson no longer feels safe in his own home. She developed health problems due to the extreme stress and anxiety the illegal search caused her.
Marc Silversteinthe ACLU of Colorado’s chief legal officer and one of the attorneys who signed the lawsuit, said several government actors had failed to protect Johnson’s civil rights.
“Detective Staab had no reason to seek a search warrant,” he said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit. “His supervisor should have vetoed it. The district attorney shouldn’t have given the green light, the judge should have dismissed it, and the SWAT team should have stayed home.
The suit alleges the search violated the state constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure and seeks compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Body camera footage from the raid shows Johnson being led from her home wearing a bathrobe and looking scared and confused as the tactical team search the house.
[image via court documents]
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