Late last year, the Blaze brought you the story of the first American said to have been arrested with the help of an unmanned aerial vehicle. Rodney Brossart from Lakota, N.D., had allegedly stolen some of his neighbors cows and the law enforcement used a Predator drone owned by the Department of Homeland Security to help survey the area before his arrest.
On April, 30, Brossart appeared in court where his lawyer called some of the events of the arrest unconstitutional and cited "guerilla-like police tactics," according to court documents obtained by U.S. News.
As background, here's what went down in late June 2011 according to our Dec. 2011 report:
According to a wire story on Stars and Stripes, in late June a sheriff went looking for six missing cows on the Brossart ranch, and three men brandishing rifles allegedly chased him off the property.
Fearing a standoff, the sheriff called in ”reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties.”
On top of all that, the sheriff also called in an unarmed Predator B (MQ-9 Reaper) drone, which belonged to the border patrol. He said the men on the ranch were carrying rifles, so law enforcement stood down for the night.
The next morning, the predator circled 2 miles above and, with its highly advanced sensor system, ascertained that the ranchers were unarmed. Police then swooped in and made arrests.
This was the first time that the predator — an unmanned aerial vehicle that has become the global symbol of America’s “War on Terror” — has been used to assist local law enforcement apprehend a U.S. Citizen on U.S. soil.
U.S. News reports Brossart's lawyer Bruce Quick said use of the drone was "outrageous" and that it was "dispatched without judicial approval or a warrant." State prosecutors responded saying the drone was used after warrants had been issued for Brossart's arrest and was within the authorities rights to employ:
"Unmanned surveillance aircraft were not in use prior to or at the time Rodney Brossart is alleged to have committed the crimes with which he is charged," state prosecutor Douglas Manbeck wrote.
Grand Forks SWAT team leader Bill Macki says that the department has had an agreement with the Department of Homeland security to use Predator drones for three years, and that it was called in to make the arrest safer for both Brossart and the force. He says that the department has "received training on the basic capabilities of the Predator" and that they have specific guidelines for "when [they] can or cannot use a drone."
Manbeck defends that assessment and wrote that the SWAT team used the drone properly."The use of unmanned surveillance aircraft is a non-issue in this case because they were not used in any investigative manner to determine if a crime had been committed. There is, furthermore, no existing case law that bars their use in investigating crimes."
UPI (via Huffington Post) reports Manbeck further clarifying that he knows "it's a touchy subject for anyone to feel that drones are in the air watching them, but I don't think there was any misuse in this case." U.S. News states most legal experts would agree drone surveillance does not violate the Fourth Amendment as an unreasonable search. It notes that even Quick agrees with this but said as drones become more prevalent in civilian law enforcement, their intent needs to be considered. "I think we need to think long and hard before we proceed down this path," Quick said.
Even still, Quick calls the drone a secondary concern compared to other measures employed by the police leading up to Brossart's arrest, including tasing. The prosecution stated Brossart resisted arrest and they had reason to believe the family was armed.
U.S. News reports Brossart's case will go to trial in June.
[H/T Huffington Post]