For Immediate Release: April 30, 2003
Contact Lauren Regan, AAL (541) 687-9180
Eugene Police Illegally Raid Homes with Tank; Prompts Federal Lawsuit
The victims of an egregiously false police raid, and their attorneys, announce an impending lawsuit against the Oregon State Police, Lane County Sheriff, Eugene and Springfield Police Departments, Portland Police Bureau, Oregon National Guard and others. In the pre-dawn of October 17, 2002, approximately 50 police officers from these agencies swarmed a residential neighborhood in Eugene, Oregon, USA, armed with automatic assault rifles and accompanied by a National Guard military Light Armored Vehicle, which looks like a tank. Police claimed to be searching for a marijuana growing operation within three homes.
Two couples, Marcella Monroe/Tam Davage, and Elizabeth Redetzke/Jor Havens were awakened by "flash-bang" grenades being hurled into the back yards of their homes located in a densely populated residential neighborhood, which caused immense explosions that shook the windows of surrounding homes. Without knocking, masked and armored SWAT police smashed in the doors of three residences. Police forced the residents from their beds without clothing and placed a black hood over the head of one of the women, while police ransacked their homes for hours.
The police found no evidence of a marijuana growing operation, but, in a blatant attempt to justify this outrageous invasion, arrested and cited the individuals anyway, thereby exposing them to felony criminal charges and the possibility of having their homes forfeited under Oregon drug laws. (See 12/5/02 article in the Register Guard newspaper.) Eventually all charges were dismissed by the State. The raids caused physical and emotional injuries to the individuals, as well asextensive damage to their property.
"The police clearly violated the 4th Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and false arrest. We intend to hold these police officers accountable, lest we allow them to further erode fundamental Constitutional rights, and put this community in jeopardy of serious physical injury at the hands of law enforcement," said Attorney Ben Rosenfeld.
Meanwhile, outraged and frightened citizens are asking why military "tanks" and tactics are now being deployed against U.S citizens in residential neighborhoods for purposes of search and seizure. One neighbor, a public school teacher, was walking to her car to go to work that morning, "we opened the front door to find a swath of police officers, a huge armored personnel carrier (i.e. tank), and several men in camouflage lurking around the shrubbery with assault rifles." said her husband. "I just want to make sure I'm not going to be shot leaving the house," the teacher said, gesturing toward the men with machine guns between her and her car. "I haven't shot anyone in two weeks," responded the officer.
"Either the police just really screwed up, or they should have done far more investigation before entering a residential neighborhood in this manner," attorney Lauren Regan said. "Before you drive a tank up to someone's house with 50 SWAT officers brandishing automatic assault weapons, you should be darn certain that you've got very dangerous pot growers in that house, and should be equally certain there is not a safer way to conduct such a raid. This, and other recent SWAT incidents, illustrate a total disregard for community safety where police are endangering the lives and safety of the neighborhood residents." Attorney Lauren Regan said.
The police attempted to defend what neighbors termed their "militaristic" raid in the 12/5/02 Register Guard article; claiming their approach with this raid was not much different, except in magnitude, than other drug raids they regularly conduct. Lieutenant Lee Thoming of the Interagency Narcotics Task Force contended, "Society at large wants us to do this, and the community at large wants us to do this."
Contrary to Thoming's assertion, the Whiteaker neighborhood association officially condemned the October raid at 5th and Adams. The Whiteaker Community Council president stated, "We all need to learn more about the encroachment of paramilitarized policing in the United States, we need to watch law enforcement, we need to watch out for each others' civil rights, and we need to work for a genuinely independent police review board. What is at stake is not only the livability of our city, but also -- potentially -- the very life of any one of us or our children."
Critics contend that military tactics, ideology and methodology are replacing traditional American civilian law enforcement. According to reports published by the National Lawyer's Guild and others, the number of people who have died at the hands of police increased 230 percent between 1990 and 1999. This frightening escalation of militarized police violence has led the cities of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Dinuba, California, to completely dismantle their SWAT teams, and Seattle, Washington, and Dallas, Texas, have curtailed the activity of their SWAT units, taking them off drug raids and suicide calls.
"This type of raid is contrary to the way our community wants the police to conduct themselves. The deployment of SWAT units should be limited to extraordinary circumstances such as a hostage situation, a sniper, or a bomb threat. We hope that Eugene will follow in the paths of several other cities and reign in the abuses perpetuated by rogue police agencies." Regan stated.
"There is a deep sense of betrayal and loss of trust. We believed that our police were supposed to protect our safety and our Constitutional rights. Instead they attacked us with machine guns without cause. They have destroyed my sense of security." Tam Davage said.
His wife Marcella Monroe added, "How can we ever feel safe again? What is happening to our country?"
Attorneys Lauren Regan of Eugene, Oregon, and Dennis Cunningham and Ben Rosenfeld of San Francisco, California, will be prosecuting these claims on behalf of the homeowners.