Remember the Third Amendment?
You know, the part of the U.S. Constitution that goes like this: “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
Well, a Henderson, Nev., family in a recent lawsuit claims that their Third Amendment rights were violated on July 10, 2011, when police officers commandeered their homes and arrested two family members for “obstruction.”
Note: The author of this story, Becket Adams, joined TheBlaze Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker to talk about the case during Monday’s Blazecast:
“Henderson police arrested a family for refusing to let officers use their homes as lookouts for a domestic violence investigation of their neighbors,” Reason explains.
The Las Vegas Review Journal provides details on the domestic violence situation police officers were dealing with on that blistering summer day:
Police had gone to the 300 block of Evening Side Avenue, near Horizon Ridge Parkway and the Las Vegas Beltway, for an alleged domestic violence incident at Phillip White Jr.’s home…
White was believed to have barricaded himself and a child inside his home at 363 Evening Side.
SWAT officers closed all entrances and exits to the neighborhood. The standoff lasted hours.
Police began to call people in their homes.
When officers called on Anthony Mitchell and asked if they could “occupy his home in order to gain a ‘tactical advantage’ against the occupant of the neighboring house,” he declined, saying he didn’t want to get involved.
Things turned ugly — fast.
“The officers banged forcefully on the door and loudly commanded Anthony Mitchell to open the door to his residence,” the official complaint reads. “Surprised and perturbed, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell immediately called his mother (plaintiff Linda Mitchell) on the phone, exclaiming to her that the police were beating on his front door.”
“Seconds later, officers…smashed open plaintiff Anthony Mitchell’s front door with a metal ram as plaintiff stood in his living room,” it continues. “As plaintiff Anthony Mitchell stood in shock, the officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor.”
Amazingly enough, the complaint gets worse:
Fearing for his life, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell dropped his phone and prostrated himself onto the floor of his living room, covering his face and hands.
Addressing plaintiff as “asshole”, officers, including Officer Snyder, shouted conflicting orders at Anthony Mitchell, commanding him to both shut off his phone, which was on the floor in front of his head, and simultaneously commanding him to “crawl” toward the officers.
Confused and terrified, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell remained curled on the floor of his living room, with his hands over his face, and made no movement.
Although plaintiff Anthony Mitchell was lying motionless on the ground and posed no threat, officers, including Officer David Cawthorn, then fired multiple “pepperball” rounds at plaintiff as he lay defenseless on the floor of his living room. Anthony Mitchell was struck at least three times by shots fired from close range, injuring him and causing him severe pain.
Police officers supposedly discharged a few pepperball rounds in the direction of Mitchell’s dog before allegedly locking the family pet outside for hours in the Nevada heat.
Anthony’s parents’ luck with the police wasn’t any better.
“Mitchell’s parents, Michael and Linda Mitchell, live in the same neighborhood and say they experienced a similar situation,” the Huffington Post reports.
“Michael says he went willingly with officers to the command center on the premise of making a phone call to the domestic violence suspect, but when he tried to leave, he was arrested. Meanwhile, Linda Mitchell says officers physically forced her from the home,” the report adds.
The complaint adds that law enforcement officials occupied both homes and “rummaged through the Mitchells’ belongings, including opening cabinets and using a water dispenser.”
Anthony, like Michael, was also arrested by Henderson police on charges of “obstructing an officer” and was forced to spend nine hours in jail.
The family’s claim that their Third Amendment rights were violated is a bit of a rarity in U.S. courts.
But Frank Cofer, the family’s lawyer, argues that the police had plenty of time to obtain the appropriate warrants. Remember, the standoff with White was an hours-long affair.
Cofer continued, noting that the family’s case hinges on the definition of “soldier.”
Do Henderson police officers technically count as “soldiers”? And can one say that they were “quartered” in the homes of the Mitchells?
“The lawyer said that police forces throughout the country, including local law enforcement, are employing military weapons and tactics and the facts of the Mitchells’ case shows the spirit of the Third Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was violated,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes.
“Ultimately, we want the case to go to a jury. That’s the type of vindication the Mitchell family wants,” Cofer said. “We definitely intend to see that the Mitchell family gets justice for the pain and humiliation they suffered.”
The Henderson police department, for its part, has declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying instead that it “doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits.”
Read the full complaint here. It’s wild:
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Featured image Getty Images. This post has been updated.