Ruby JohnsonA 77-year-old grandmother and retired state employee in Colorado, claims she was home alone in January when a Denver Police Department SWAT team arrived in an armored vehicle with at least 8 officers wearing full body armor and carrying automatic weapons that ripped. her home separately looking for a missing iPhone.
Police found no stolen phone or any indication of criminal activity. Now, Johnson is suing Gary Staabthe lead detective in the case, claiming he used a “hastily prepared, bare-bones, misleading affidavit” to obtain a warrant and execute and “illegal search” of Johnson’s home that left her traumatized, according to a newly filed complaint.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 1 in Denver County District Court by attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says police looked into a truck that had been stolen from a nearby Hyatt. The truck allegedly contained four semi-automatic handguns, a tactical military-style 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 “pinged” at Johnson’s address around 11:30 a.m. and 3:55 p.m. that day. . it was stolen, according to an affidavit filed by Staab.
However, a screenshot of the “Find My” app actually indicated that the phone “pinged” somewhere in the vicinity of Johnson’s home and did not give an exact location. Despite this, Staab allegedly swore that the app’s screenshot “signified that the phone was inside [Johnson’s] house.”
“Certainly, if the location of a device 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 shows how accurately the location of the device can be determined. For example, the the larger the circle; the greater the inaccuracy,” the complaint says. “This blue circle covered an area containing at least six different properties and parts of four different blocks in the vicinity of [redacted] Street.”
Staab allegedly did not do any other independent police work to confirm whether the phone was actually inside Johnson’s home, instead choosing to simply apply for a warrant that was approved by a judge. Beth Faragher.
“Under the authority of the unlawfully issued warrant, Denver police arrived at the home of 77-year-old Mrs. Johnson, where she lives alone, with an overwhelming and frightening display of unnecessary force. Confused and fearful, Ms. Johnson opened her front door to the sound of a seagull’s horn 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. “And Ms. Johnson and her home of 40 years carry wounds from that day that have not healed. Johnson no longer feels safe in her own home. She has developed health problems due to the extreme stress and anxiety the illegal search has caused her.”
Mark Silversteinthe ACLU of Colorado Legal Director and one of the lawyers who signed the lawsuit, said that multiple government actors failed in protecting Johnson’s civil rights.
“Detective Staab had no grounds 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 greenlit it, the judge should have dismissed it and the SWAT team should have stayed home.”
The suit claims the search violated the state constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure and seeks compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Body camera footage of the attack shows Johnson being taken from her home wearing a bathrobe and appearing scared and confused as the tactical team searches the home.
[image via court documents]
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