(Bob Unruh, WND) Two deputies in the Gillespie County, Texas, sheriff’s office stand trial on charges of unreasonable search and seizure after they staged a standoff with a local family, demanding to enter and inspect their home because of a tip from an unknown person.
The ruling comes from U.S. District Judge David Ezra, who left the charges standing against Deputy Sgt. Joe Hindman and Deputy Hunter Westbrook in a case brought by Huntly and Susan Dantzler.
The incident developed May 3, 2015, when an “unidentified male” called the sheriff’s office and claimed to have seen the Dantzlers’ son, Huntly Dantzler Jr., drinking with a woman in a Fredericksburg, Texas, bar.
The unknown person claimed the son put pills into the woman’s drink and she was highly intoxicated.
“The caller further reported that he has witnessed Huntly Jr. place pills in women’s drinks before and was concerned for the woman’s safety,” according to Ezra’s summation of the case.
However, there was no evidence of that, nor was the caller identified.
Instead, the officers went to the Dantzler’s home and demanded entry, a demand the couple refused, explaining their son was not there, nor was there any unidentified woman present.
Huntly Dantzler was handcuffed and put on the ground in the front yard while the officers browbeat his wife into finally allowing an officer to enter their home, although it was against her will.
The officers agreed to that condition, and they found no one during their inspection.
The couple subsequently sued the officers, and the judge’s decision now sets up a trial for the two.
“Having found that plaintiffs have alleged that the deputies violated the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights by detaining him without probable cause or reasonable suspicion that he was committing, or was about to commit, a crime, and that the right to be free from unlawful detention was clearly established at the time of Huntly Sr.’s detention, deputies Hindman and Westbrook are not entitled to qualified immunity,” the judge said.
The Rutherford Institute, which is defending Dantzler, said the case involves a warrantless raid, search, and the arrest of the homeowner “based on unreliable information from an anonymous source.”
“U.S. District Court Judge David Alan Ezra ruled that the officers’ actions as set forth in the lawsuit were based on inaccurate information from an anonymous source and violated the Dantzlers’ clearly-established constitutional rights,” the organization said.
“There are those who insist that if you’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, you should submit to police demands to search your person and your home, whether or not those orders are lawful,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.
“What makes this case so striking is the contrast between American citizens who not only know their rights but are exercising them and government officials – in this case, the police – who are either completely ignorant of what the law requires (namely, a search warrant and probable cause) or who don’t believe the laws of the land, namely the Fourth Amendment, apply to them.”
The Dantzlers were awakened at 6:35 that morning by a pounding on their door.
The officers demanded to see the Dantzlers’ son, even though they were informed he was not there.
“After the Dantzlers told the officers that no female was in their house, the officers demanded to be allowed to search the house so they could determine for themselves whether the Dantzlers’ son and the unnamed female were present. The Dantzlers refused to allow the police to enter and search their home and indicated that they should get a warrant if they wanted to do so. One officer then seized Huntly Dantzler, handcuffed him, pulled him away from the door and threw him to the ground. Alarmed by the treatment of her husband and the inherent coercion, Susan Dantzler allowed one of the officers to enter the house and look around,” the Rutherford Institute said.
“After searching the house and finding nothing, the officers left. Huntly Dantzler was compelled to seek medical care for deep gashes on wrists left by the handcuffs.”