I’ve long observed that every single one of the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights has at one time been ignored, abused or trammeled — except the Third, which prohibits housing soldiers in private homes.
Now the Third appears to have been stomped on with jackboots right here in Nevada.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Nevada a month ago, Henderson resident Anthony Mitchell and his parents Michael and Linda Mitchell accuse the Henderson and North Las Vegas police of commandeering their two homes, which are across the street from each other, to use as staging posts during an hours-long standoff with a domestic violence suspect holed up in a nearby home.
The suit claims a “deprivation of rights, privileges, and immunities secured to Plaintiffs under the Third, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
The way police these days armor themselves from head to toe while kicking in doors, shouting obscenities and intimidating commands, firing military-style weapons, the term “soldier” seems apropos.
According to the lawsuit, on the morning of July 10, 2011, Henderson police responded to a domestic violence call. At 10:45 a.m., an officer contacted Anthony Mitchell by phone and told him the police needed to occupy his home to gain a “tactical advantage.”
Mitchell said he did not want to get involved and did not want police in his home.
An hour later officers banged forcefully on Mitchell’s door and commanded him to open the door. Instead, Mitchell called his mother across the street. While he was on the phone, police smashed in his door with a metal ram, aimed weapons at him and shouted obscenities. Mitchell dropped to the floor and covered his face with his hands. Police shot him and his dog with “pepperball” rounds, which release a pepper spray.
“As a result of being shot by officers, Plaintiff Anthony Mitchell experienced psychological horror and extreme emotional distress due to his fear and belief that he had been mortally wounded by gunfire,” the suit says. “Further, in addition to the shock and bruising caused by the impact of the ‘pepperball’ rounds on his body at close range, the caustic and irritating chemicals released caused Anthony Mitchell to suffer extreme and prolonged pain in his eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin, as well as causing him to experience uncontrollable coughing and difficulty breathing.”
Though his mother could hear the shots and shouting on the phone, police “callously hung up the phone,” the suit said.
Anthony Mitchell was arrested for obstructing a police officer.
Meanwhile, police had asked Anthony’s father Michael to accompany them to a command center a quarter of a mile away, saying they wanted him to call the domestic violence suspect neighbor. He was then told the suspect was not taking any calls, but police refused to allow him to return home.
Three hours into the standoff, police entered Michael and Linda Mitchell’s backyard. They banged on the back door of the house and demanded that Linda Mitchell open the door.
She opened the door but told the police they could not enter without a warrant. One officer seized her by the arm, and other officers entered her home without permission. Police rummaged through her purse and forced her out of her house, marching the woman at a brisk pace to the command post in the 100-degree heat.
The suit describes Linda Mitchell as “physically frail and had difficulty breathing due to the heat and the swift pace,” adding that police “ignored her pleas to be released or to at least slow down, and refused to provide any explanation for why she was being treated in such a manner.”
When Michael Mitchell attempted to leave the command post to meet another of his sons, he was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a marked police car. He later was booked on charges of obstructing an officer.
Both Michael and Anthony Mitchell were held for at least nine hours and were required to post bond in order to be released. All criminal charges were ultimately dismissed.
The suit alleges there was no inquiry into the police officers’ actions and none was disciplined.
Charges against the holed-up domestic violence suspect have been dismissed, too.
When the Mitchells eventually returned home they found “cabinets and closet doors throughout the house had been left open and their contents moved about. Even the refrigerator door had been left ajar, and mustard and mayonnaise had been left on their kitchen floor.”
Made themselves at home.
Rest in peace, Third Amendment, beside the other nine.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read additional musings on his blog at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.