Nev. Family Claims Police ‘Quartered’ in Home; Suing on Third Amendment Grounds

by Ian Tuttle

First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights have all been in the news recently, from the Department of Justice’s specious warrants to Justice Kennedy’s DOMA ruling. But most people are probably not too worried about their Third Amendment rights.

Unless you’re a member of the Mitchell family. Anthony Mitchell, of Henderson, Nev., part of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, and his parents, Linda and Michael Mitchell, are suing the City of Henderson, the City of North Las Vegas, and several police officers from the police departments of both cities on the grounds that they “quartered” themselves in the Mitchells’ homes on July 10, 2011.

While the Mitchells’ Third Amendment case may be tenuous at best — it is very unlikely that police officers could be treated legally as “soldiers,” per the Bill of Rights’ phrasing — if the grievances enumerated in the Mitchells’ recently filed lawsuit are true, a hefty sum may be theirs in the not-too-distant future.

The complaint, filed in district court last week, alleges that Henderson police, responding to a domestic-violence call, asked to use Anthony Mitchell’s house to secure a “tactical advantage.” When Mitchell refused, police pounded on his door; seconds later, they burst through and, according to the district court filing, forced Mitchell to the ground at gunpoint. They then fired multiple “pepperball” rounds at him (and his dog) as he lay on the floor. Mitchell was arrested for “obstructing a police officer,” and his home was searched without a warrant and occupied.

The lawsuit also claims that police lured Michael Mitchell, Anthony’s father, from his home (adjacent to the site of the initial domestic-violence incident) on the pretense that they wanted him to contact the suspect, who had barricaded himself inside his home. Michael followed them to their “command center,” where he was informed that the suspect was not taking calls and that he would not be allowed to return home. Michael left the command center anyway a while later and walked toward an exit from the neighborhood, which had been cordoned off by a SWAT team. A policeman in a squad car told him that his wife had “left the house” and would meet him back at the command center. Michael returned and called his son, James, to pick him up. When Michael then tried to leave, he was arrested. “Officers had no reasonable grounds to detain [him],” the lawsuit states, “nor probable cause to suspect him of committing any crime.”

A few hours later, Linda Mitchell, Michael’s wife, was taken into custody when she refused to allow officers to enter her home without a warrant. The lawsuit alleges that, while Michael and Linda were held at the “Command Post,” police officers occupied their home, drinking from their water dispenser and consuming their food.

All charges against the Mitchells were subsequently dropped, but if the Mitchells’ allegations are true, the greatest danger to locals in Henderson, Nev., may be the police.

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