The county’s drug task force raided the wrong San Bruno residence looking for a suspected gangmember and drug user after a traffic stop, throwing a female resident getting ready for work half naked on the front lawn and frightening her 93-year-old grandmother so much she had to be taken to the hospital, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed Thursday.
The search warrant for the Sixth Avenue home of Lisa and Jesse Yeager and Elizabeth Batchelor was based on Deputy Sheriff/Special Agent Mike Kinsella’s assertions it was the correct residence of a man whose car and occupants had drugs the previous month. However, a defense attorney for the family said Kinsella was either incompetent or lying because the wanted person did not live there and they did not know him.
“If they would have taken five minutes to really [conduct surveillance of] the place it is obvious that there are multiple units there,” said Paula Canny, attorney for the Yeagers and Batchelor who are suing for numerous grounds including civil rights violations, false imprisonment, battery, elder abuse and trespassing.
The suit names Kinsella, the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force, the Sheriff’s Office, San Mateo County, Sheriff Greg Munks, the city of San Bruno and its police department and San Bruno Police Chief Neil Telford.
The county has not yet been served with the suit but County Counsel John Beiers, who represents it and the Sheriff’s Office, said the officers have immunity because they acted reasonably and the search warrant was validly issued and executed. The officers didn’t know until after they served the warrant that the home was actually three separate units, he said.
“It’s always unfortunate when innocents are present when a warrant is executed, but it happens. The nature of the activity is that sometimes innocent people are present and inconvenienced,” Beiers.
But Canny said her clients were more than inconvenienced.
“You can’t do a crummy job of your job all in the name of the war on drugs,” Canny said.
The search of the Yeager and Batchelor residence was sparked by a June 18, 2013, traffic stop at Monte Diablo Avenue and Ellsworth Avenue in San Mateo in which officers reported smelling marijuana, finding marijuana and methamphetamine and noting that the occupants were dressed in gang clothes and appeared to be affiliated with the Sureños. Kinsella looked up the address of one occupant, Andrew Jiminez Uribe, and found it as 840 Sixth Ave., which he later wrote in the search warrant he had “personally” visited to confirm.
At 6:30 a.m. July 2, Lisa Yeager was dressed only in a bra and panties while dressing for work when the masked officers arrived with assault rifles, according to the suit that states she opened the door and was thrown into a wall with such force she lost control of her bladder.
Yeager was dragged from the home onto the front lawn where her dog had relieved himself and was restrained half naked in urine-soaked underwear for more than 15 minutes “for the whole world to see,” the suit stated.
Yeager’s adult son, Jesse, was similarly manhandled and ordered to “crawl on his knees in the dog feces to join his half-naked mother in clear view of the onlooking neighbors,” the suit states.
Elizabeth Batchelor, Yeager’s grandmother, finally begged the officers to cover her.
Once allowed back in the house after officers determined they were not in the Uribe residence, Yeager showed her bruised body and was told by an officer that “a little bit of ice and it will be OK,” the suit stated.
The family was told nothing more than the officers were looking for the home of someone arrested for methamphetamine sales, Canny said.
Batchelor was taken to the emergency room with shortness of breath and chest pain. She remains traumatized as does the entire family and their relationship with friends and neighbors is permanently damaged, Canny said.
The family filed claims against the county and city of San Bruno, both of which were denied.
San Bruno City Attorney Marc Zafferano could not be reached for comment.
Canny said all they wanted was an apology and acknowledgment of wrongdoing but that the county appears to prefer spending money to defend its employees’ behavior.
“My sense is they thought those people were gangbangers they don’t think that when they do this kind of stuff, even when you get it wrong, that anybody is going to call them on it,” Canny said.
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