Henderson, North Las Vegas police named in 3rd Amendment suit - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Henderson, North Las Vegas police named in 3rd Amendment lawsuit

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

A family in Henderson claims police forced their way into their houses during a SWAT team standoff at a neighbor's house.

Now they're suing the Henderson and North Las Vegas Police Departments, claiming their Third Amendment rights were violated.

The Third Amendment forbids the quartering of soldiers in private homes without the owner's consent, and it's a type of case that's not often seen in courtrooms.

"They didn't really ask to use their home, it was sort of 'let us use your home or we'll take you out and arrest you,'" said Benjamin Durham, plaintiff attorney in the case.

Durham represents Anthony, Linda and Michael Mitchell, who say Henderson and North Las Vegas police officers treated them unfairly almost two years ago.

In July 2011, SWAT officers surrounded a home in Henderson near Horizon Ridge and Gibson after a man allegedly barricaded himself inside with a baby.

To negotiate with him, police wanted to get into Anthony Mitchell's home.

According to Durham, officers called to get permission.

"[Anthony Mitchell] indicated to them he didn't want to be involved, didn't want to leave his house," Durham said.

Then police started knocking on his door, but Anthony Mitchell didn't answer.

"At that point SWAT took a metal battering ram basically and just smashed his front door in ... police then preceded to shoot him with pepper balls," Durham said.

Across the street, Durham said police did the same to Anthony Mitchell's parents, Linda and Michael Mitchell.

Durham said at the parents' house, police lured Michael Mitchell from his home to a nearby "command center," asking for his help to end the standoff.

When he discovered he wasn't needed, Michael Mitchell attempted to leave.

But Durham said police wouldn't let him, and he was handcuffed and eventually charged with obstructing an officer.

Police then returned to Michael Mitchell's house, where they allegedly removed his wife from the house after she refused to let them in without a warrant.

Police have since dropped all charges against the family.

Once inside, the Mitchells' lawyers said police made themselves at home.

"They drank water, ate food and left food on the floor," Frank Cofer, plaintiff attorney, said.

"This is the type of case that probably ultimately, no matter where it starts, can end up in the Supreme Court of the United States," said Bob Massi, FOX5 legal analyst.

Massi said Third Amendment cases are extremely rare, but the police departments can still win.

"They're going to be able to have to show ... there's certain thresholds of things that they did that do not fall within the Third Amendment that gave them the right to do this," Massi said.

Massi also said it might be difficult to prove the officers can be defined as soldiers.

But the Mitchells' attorneys disagree.

"They use military weapons and equipment. Seems like this really falls under the ambit of what the Third Amendment was meant to protect against," Cofer said.

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