Detective on the hook for faulty SWAT team raid
December 13, 2011
The 9th Circuit Court ruled Friday a Santa Maria couple can sue the detective whose faulty warrant led to a SWAT team storming their home in search of their son who was already in jail. [CourthouseNewsService]
The Santa Maria Police SWAT team, supported by the warrant, burst into the home of Hope and Javier Bravo Sr. at 5:30 a.m. in 2006 with flash grenades. Officers proceeded to point weapons at the Bravos and their 8-year-old grandson who fled screaming to the bathroom.
Based on a tip, Detective Louis Tanore determined that Javier Bravo Jr. had been one of several suspected gang members who stashed weapons used in a drive-by shooting and went to the courts with an affidavit to secure a warrant to search what the detective claimed was his last known address.
Tanore failed to note that the affidavit he used to secure the warrant said that Javier Bravo Jr. had spent the last six months in prison as part of a two-year sentence for receiving stolen property. Officers abandoned their raid after Hope Bravo produced a letter from her son mailed from prison.
The Bravos sued Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County and several individual officers and officials, alleging that the raid had violated their Fourth Amendment rights because it had been based on a false warrant. The Bravo’s settled with some of the defendants before the District Court ruled in favor of the remaining city and county defendants, including Detective Tanore.
“U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper found Javier Jr.’s incarceration immaterial to the raid and saw no evidence of recklessness, intentional or otherwise, on the part of Tanore,” Courthouse News Service said.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit in Pasadena unanimously reversed Judge Cooper’s decision noting that the SWAT team had no cause to serve a warrant without proof Bravo Jr. resided in the home.
The federal appeals court also concluded that Tanore’s “reckless disregard for the truth” led to the faulty warrant.
Tanore testified that he “reviewed Javier Jr.’s rap sheet in preparing the affidavit, and though he could not recall with certainty whether he had observed Javier Jr.’s two-year sentence, imposed on September 9, 2005, he acknowledged that he may have,” the ruling states.
“Given the importance of the custody status to the finding of probable cause for the search and to the justification for nighttime service,” Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wrote for the panel, “a reasonable jury could conclude that Tanore’s failure to mention Javier Jr.’s two-year sentence or to follow up and inquire about Javier Jr.’s custody status amounted to at least reckless disregard for the truth.”