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News (Media Awareness Project) - US MO: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over SWAT Raid
Title:US MO: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over SWAT Raid
Published On:2011-11-21
Source:Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)
Fetched On:2011-11-30 06:04:29
JUDGE DISMISSES LAWSUIT OVER SWAT RAID

Whitworths Are Exploring Appeal.

A federal judge yesterday dismissed all 18 causes of action in a civil
lawsuit filed against Columbia police officers involved in a February
2010 raid.

The suit filed by Jonathan Whitworth, his wife, Brittany Whitworth,
and her son was scheduled for a Jan. 23 trial in federal court in
Jefferson City. U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey granted the
defendants' request for a summary judgment, dismissing all counts
alleged against the city of Columbia and the 12 police officers who
were on the scene during the SWAT raid.

"We always knew this was a tough case, but that doesn't mean we will
shy away from tough cases," said Jeff Hilbrenner, the Whitworths'
attorney. "The conduct of Columbia police was so extreme we thought it
needed to be reviewed by a court. The Whitworths will evaluate whether
they want to appeal the judge's ruling."

That evaluation will take place over the next few weeks, Hilbrenner
said. The Whitworths were disappointed in the ruling, he said.

Laughrey found few, if any, facts to support many of the allegations
in the complaint. She also found cause for tactics used by officers to
conduct the raid, force used against Jonathan Whitworth during his
arrest and the actions toward the wife and son to be proper.

The defendants' attorney, Christopher Rackers of Jefferson City,
declined to comment. Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton could not be
reached for comment.

The plaintiffs' lawsuit stemmed from a Columbia police SWAT raid of
the Whitworths' home in southwest Columbia. Police believed Jonathan
Whitworth was a major distributor of marijuana. Two of the family's
dogs were shot, one fatally, during the SWAT team's entry, and a small
amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found. Whitworth
pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia in April 2010 and
was issued a $300 fine.

His wife and her son, who was 7 at the time, were present during the
raid. Bullet holes, a dead dog and another wounded dog allegedly
amounted to thousands of dollars in damages, the suit claimed.

The lawsuit was seeking restitution for damages to personal property
and medical and veterinary expenses. It was filed in September 2010
against the 12 police officers who were at the raid for their
contribution toward an alleged violation of the plaintiffs'
constitutional rights.

The order also sheds light on the whereabouts of the wife and son
during Jonathan Whitworth's arrest. Brittany Whitworth and her son
were escorted outside the house after asking to be moved so they
couldn't see the dead dog, according to the order.

Officers complied with requests for blankets and shoes as they went
out to wait in a patrol vehicle for the next two hours. That car was
later moved upon the mother's request so the boy would not see the
dog's remains taken out.

Police complied with an additional request to allow Brittany Whitworth
to mop up the dog's blood and for officers to tell her son that "Nala
was alive and being taken to be a police dog." The mother and son were
allowed back into the home at the conclusion of the search, the order
said.
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