HENDERSON, NV — Police forcibly commandeered homes from two innocent families because they wanted to use the properties to surveil a neighbor. After their plan was denied by phone request, police conspired and executed a plan to break into the homes and arrest the innocent homeowners, a lawsuit reveals.
The incident took place on July 10th, 2011. The Henderson Police Department (HPD) was issued a complaint about suspected domestic violence. Police decided that they wanted use two neighboring houses to observe the suspect. In conjunction with the North Las Vegas Police Department (NLVPD), officers devised a plan to commandeer the home of Anthony Mitchell, as well as the home of his parents, Michael and Linda Mitchell — both living adjacent to the suspect. Each of them were innocent and uninvolved in the suspected crime.
A lawsuit states: “At 10:45 a.m. defendant Officer Christopher Worley (HPD) contacted plaintiff Anthony Mitchell via his telephone. Worley told plaintiff that police needed to occupy his home in order to gain a ‘tactical advantage’ against the occupant of the neighboring house. Anthony Mitchell told the officer that he did not want to become involved and that he did not want police to enter his residence. Although Worley continued to insist that plaintiff should leave his residence, plaintiff clearly explained that he did not intend to leave his home or to allow police to occupy his home. Worley then ended the phone call.”
Without permission, officers Christopher Worley (HPD), David Cawthorn (NLVPD), and Sgt. Michael Waller (NLVPD) allegedly plotted to take over the homes by force.
Officer Cawthorn’s official report described the plan: “It was determined to move to 367 Evening Side and attempt to contact Mitchell. If Mitchell answered the door he would be asked to leave. If he refused to leave he would be arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer. If Mitchell refused to answer the door, force entry would be made and Mitchell would be arrested.”
Police proceeded with their plan, breaching Anthony Mitchell’s front door with a battering ram. “The officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor,” the complaint stated. Mitchell’s account stated that NLVPD Officer Snyder gave him conflicting orders to both shut off his phone and to “crawl,” and that Snyder called him an “asshole.”
“Although plaintiff Anthony Mitchell was lying motionless on the ground and posed no threat, officers, including Officer David Cawthorn, then fired multiple ‘pepperball’ rounds at plaintiff as he lay defenseless on the floor of his living room. Anthony Mitchell was struck at least three times by shots fired from close range, injuring him and causing him severe pain.”
Officers then arrested him for obstructing a police officer, searched the house and moved furniture without his permission and set up a place in his home for a lookout, Mitchell says in the complaint.
Anthony Mitchell alleged that police also hurt his pet dog for no reason whatsoever: “Plaintiff Anthony Mitchell’s pet, a female dog named ‘Sam,’ was cowering in the corner when officers smashed through the front door. Although the terrified animal posed no threat to officers, they gratuitously shot it with one or more pepperball rounds. The panicked animal howled in fear and pain and fled from the residence. Sam was subsequently left trapped outside in a fenced alcove without access to water, food, or shelter from the sun for much of the day, while temperatures outside soared to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Then the police turned their attention to the second home, owned by Anthony Mitchell’s parents on the same street. Police lied and lured out Michael Mitchell, the father, requesting his help to negotiate the surrender of his neighbor. In actuality he was taken to a HPD command center and not permitted to leave. When he tried to walk off, he was arrested and charged with Obstructing a Police Officer.
With Anthony and Michael Mitchell detained, police commandeered the second home, still occupied by Linda Mitchell. When she told officers that they could not enter her home without a warrant, the officers detained her, dragging her off through the desert heat to a “command post”, despite her frail condition and pleas to stop. Police then rummaged through her home, her belongings, her purse, even leaving the refrigerator ajar.
Anthony and Michael Mitchell were booked and locked in jail for obstructing an officer. They were jailed for at least nine hours before they bailed out, they stated in the complaint. They claim the police filed the baseless criminal charges “to provide cover for defendants’ wrongful actions, to frustrate and impede plaintiffs’ ability to seek relief for those actions, and to further intimidate and retaliate against plaintiffs.”
None of the officers were fired, subjected to official discipline, or even inquiry, the complaint states.