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SWAT team raided a frightened woman’s home and found no evidence, the complaint says. She wins $3.76 million

Ruby Johnson had been watching TV in her home for 43 years when one afternoon she heard the sound of a megaphone.

She opened her door, dressed in a bathrobe and hat after showering, and saw a Denver Police SWAT team armed with tactical rifles outside on Jan. 4, 2022, according to her lawsuit.

Although “scared and confused,” Johnson, a grandmother and a retired U.S. Postal Service employee, cooperated and answered officers’ questions about whether there were stolen guns or anyone else in her home, the lawsuit said.

After telling them she lived alone and nothing had been stolen, officers left Johnson in the back of a police car for hours while the SWAT team raided her home in Montbello, according to a complaint.

The officers, searching for evidence related to a truck theft and stolen items, did not find what they were looking for but destroyed Johnson’s property in the process, the complaint said.

Now, a Colorado jury has awarded Johnson $3.76 million in damages after she filed the lawsuit over the SWAT team raid, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado announced in a March 4 news release.

The jury decided that the search of Johnson’s home violated her “constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure,” according to the ACLU of Colorado, which represented the lawsuit.

This violated the state constitution, the ACLU said.

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The lawsuit was filed against Detective Gary Staab of the Denver Police Department and Sergeant Gregory Buschy of the DPD, the officers responsible for executing a search warrant at Johnson’s home “without probable cause or proper investigation,” according to the ACLU.

Denver police declined to comment on the jury’s verdict in a statement to McClatchy News on March 5. Direct contact information for Staab and Buschy was not immediately available.

The department previously told McClatchy News that “the Department of Public Safety and the Denver Police Department sincerely apologize to Ms. Johnson for any negative impact this situation may have had on her.”

“SWAT was involved in executing the warrant due to allegations that six guns were stolen and possibly located in Ms. Johnson’s home.”

Johnson, 78, won $1.26 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages in what the ACLU described as a “precedent-setting decision under a new statute allowing enforcement of the Colorado Constitution.”

“This is one small step toward justice for Ms. Johnson, but it is a critical case under our state Constitution, which confirms for the first time that police can be held responsible for entering someone’s home without probable cause ,” Tim Macdonald, the ACLU of Colorado Legal Director, said in a statement.

What prompted the SWAT team to search her home?

In January 2022, police were searching for a stolen truck after the owner told authorities it contained four semi-automatic handguns, a military-style tactical rifle, a revolver, two drones, $4,000 cash and an iPhone, according to the complaint 11 were in it. .

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When the owner used Apple’s “Find My” app to try to locate the phone, he said it “pinged” Johnson’s address, according to the complaint.

Staab used this as the “sole basis” to link the stolen truck to Johnson’s address, leading to what was described as a “militarized illegal search” of her residence, according to the complaint.

“The warrant authorizing the illegal search of Ms. Johnson’s home was issued based on Defendant Staab’s hastily drafted, bald, misleading statement and Defendant Buschy’s scribbled, illegible signature approving the statement,” the complaint states .

Johnson is seen with the SWAT team.

Johnson is seen with the SWAT team.

Her property has been damaged

While the SWAT team searched Johnson’s home, she was given no reason as to why she was being held in a police vehicle when the raid occurred, according to the complaint.

During the search, officers damaged Johnson’s property, including her garage door, which was destroyed with a battering ram, the complaint said.

Johnson's garage door.Johnson's garage door.

Johnson’s garage door.

To enter Johnson’s attic, officers broke a ceiling panel with the handle of her kitchen broom, according to the complaint.

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They also broke off the head of her doll statue, a gift given to her by her youngest son, the complaint said.

“The house was left in disarray,” the complaint said. “DPD’s unlawful search revealed no evidence of, or connection with, any crime or criminal activity.”

Johnson no longer lives in the home and is afraid to open the door to where she currently lives, according to the lawsuit, because the SWAT team raid traumatized her.

“Not only was her privacy violated and valuables destroyed, but her sense of security in her own home was taken away, forcing her to move from the place where she had put down roots and built a community for forty years,” says Deborah Richardson. , the executive director of the ACLU of Colorado said in a statement.

“While the outcome of this trial will not completely undo the damage of that fateful day, it brings us one step closer to justice for her and others who have had their lives turned upside down by police misconduct,” she said.

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