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Judge rejects Boston request to toss suit by Brighton family whose apartment police smashed into with a battering ram by mistake

A federal judge ruled yesterday that a Brighton couple can continue their suit against the city over the way a BPD drug unit with a no-knock warrant smashed into their apartment with a battering ram at 4:30 a.m., and kept them handcuffed and lying on the floor in front of their young children for 20 minutes until the officers realized they had the wrong apartment.

Jean and Verlande Regis, who raised the specter of a similar 1994 raid in which a minister died of a heart attack, are seeking both damages and a requirement the city take steps this never happens again.

In her ruling, US District Court Judge Indira Talwani's summarized the Regises' account of what happened in their apartment at 41 Faneuil St.:

At approximately 4:30 a.m. on November 27, 2018, approximately 10-12 officers with the Drug Control Unit of the BPD executed a "no-knock" raid of the Regis's home. Although the officers possessed a warrant to execute a raid, the warrant was issued for an adjoining apartment, not the Regis's. The officers used a battering ram to forcibly enter the Regis's home without first knocking or otherwise announcing their presence. The officers forcibly entered the Regis's home in spite of the fact that their front door was conspicuously marked with their apartment number, which differed from the apartment number listed on the warrant.

Once inside, the officers first encountered Verlande Regis after she leapt from her bed upon hearing the sound of the door being broken down. The officers pointed their weapons at Verlande Regis, pushed her to the ground, and handcuffed her. While she was laying on the floor, several officers stepped on her and injured her hand. The officers then encountered Jean Regis as he lay in bed. An officer pointed his weapon at Jean Regis, ordered him out of bed, and handcuffed him with his arms behind his back. Because the Regis's four- and five-year-old children had been sleeping inside their parents' bedroom, the children witnessed their parents being restrained and handcuffed.

The officers also encountered the Regis's 15-year-old daughter. When M attempted to open her bedroom door, she was shoved back into her room by an officer's shield. An officer also aimed his weapon at M, ordered her to the floor, and handcuffed her with her arms behind her back.

Although none of the Regis family members matched the description of the intended target set forth in the search warrant, and none of the occupants resisted during the officers' intrusion into their home, the officers kept Jean Regis, Verlande Regis, and M handcuffed and lying on the floor for approximately 20 minutes. One of the officers then told the family and the other officers that they had entered the wrong apartment.

City attorneys asked US District Court Judge Indira Talwani to dismiss the case because courts have held a city cannot be held liable for the actions of its employees and to reject their request to replace "John Does" in the complaint with names of the specific officers involved, because they would have "qualified immunity" against a suit because they were just doing their jobs and therefore their names were irrelevant.

Yeah, no, Talwani said. While a city can't be legally blamed for what its employees do, it can be held liable for "failure to train" its workers, that a city failed to provide proper training on how to deal with specific types of events, for example, "a municipal actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of his action."

She said the Regises provided several examples of this alleged "failure to train," and so a jury should decide the question. These included "an absence of a city policy requiring officers to check the names of individuals on a warrant with the names of individuals residing in a unit that is being raided before executing the raid" and a lack of a city policy requiring officers to double check addresses before busting down a door.

She added:

The City Defendants argue that the complaint only describes an "isolated incident" and that the City's existing policies on executing no-knock raids, which the City attaches to its opposition, show "quite the opposite of 'deliberate indifference' with regard to ensuring entries at correct addresses." ... Maybe so, but these arguments go to the merits of Plaintiff's claims that there is a direct causal link between the City's policies and the alleged violation of the Regis's family's rights and that the City was deliberately indifferent to how their failure to train its officers caused the alleged violations under the federal Constitution. They do not undermine the sufficiency of the pleadings.

Talwani said the individual officers may indeed have qualified immunity against legal action. But that's a decision for a jury to reach and the argument doesn't change whether they are named or not, so Talwani rejected the city's argument to keep the Regises from adding their specific names to the complaint.

Neighborhoods: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon Judge's ruling182.78 KB
PDF icon Regis complaint69.41 KB
PDF icon City answer64.67 KB

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Comments

Who was being protected through this act, and who were they being protected from?

I can assure you all that I don't fear that the single most violent, sociopathic participant in the narcotics trade is ever going to break down the front door of where I live at 4:30 AM. So, why would I need for a police force to respond to anyone in kind?

We can't get COVID tests, but the money was there for a (expletive) battering ram. Sick priorities.

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Voting closed 67

agree up until the last sentence. the incident happened in 2018 waaaay before covid and the city can only provide as much tests as the state and the state can only provide as much as the feds/fda allow. and we all know how the fed are handling testing. so this point doesnt hold water for me, sorry.

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Voting closed 9

Then substitute in literally any other expenditure that the City of Boston could and should have made in November 2018. I didn't have to try hard to be right about this, and I didn't.

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Voting closed 27

Hate to say I agree with libertarians, but they have this one right:https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/1267267244029083648

If the city wants to shield officers from lawsuits, fine, but then it cannot shield itself from lawsuits.

Take responsibility for your fuckups like the rest of the grownup world has to.

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Voting closed 66

"They were just doing their jobs?" No, their job was to apprehend the occupants of 41 Faneuil St. Unit X. Breaking down the door and terrorizing the occupants of 41 Faneuil St. Unit Y was not their job.

Sick use of billable hours. That city attorney should stick their law license up their (expletive) with a straight face argument like that.

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Voting closed 31

But this case the police fucked up. The city didn’t fail to train the officers train on how to look at the number 4 on the search warrant, and then when a number 5 appears on the door not to knock that door down.

There is a difference between good faith mistakes and negligence or incompetence.

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Voting closed 19

Police have no knock teams for high risk entry. OK. Why are plainclothes officers (that are designed not to look like cops) doing no knock? That seems like a poor decision, but I don't know.

Another is if the police follow SOP, they're off the hook, pretty much. I get that.
So, would allowing plainclothes to do a no-knock be a poor decision on the part of the City (administration) that writes SOPs?
Further, I would think that incident command would bear sole responsibility for getting the damn address right.

So, problem might be negligence on the part of a specific individual, would he be covered or not?

Bottom line, everyone got lucky this time.

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Voting closed 13

If a suspect is suspected in carrying a firearm or there is specific knowledge that a firearm was used in the offense, then you would see special operations do the entry. Those guys have their guns out at all times and aren't always needed for search warrants like this.

The warrant teams also have tactics and entry training, they just aren't suited up with the gear necessary if they were to expect armed resistance.

In terms of getting the address right, I'm not sure this was the fault of the supervisor approving the search warrant, since the address listed on the warrant was correct. The issue was going to the wrong address. If incident command you mean the supervisor in charge of the search warrant, then yes you would be correct.

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Voting closed 5

I understand qualified immunity but I don't understand withholding their names. If you're a public servant the public has a right to know who you are.

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Voting closed 24

It seems to me that the cost of getting it wrong is a lot higher for innocent people than some incremental gains in getting it right.

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Voting closed 19

very badly. They obviously do need more training. I'd start with how to read numbers.

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Voting closed 36

"More training" is the pablum non-answer get outta jail free card of dirty, criminal, corrupt cops, EVERY TIME. Funny how none of that training seems to stick.

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Voting closed 7

For not saying "take responsibility for homeboys" this time.

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Voting closed 5

You need to include prosecutors, districts attorneys and attorneys general.

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Voting closed 2

The city can't be held responsible for the actions of its employees, and the cops have "qualified immunity" so they can't be held responsible for their own actions?

Just to be clear, even if this *was* the right apartment, a middle of the night no- knock raid is going to get civilians and cops killed.

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Voting closed 32

She was killed in March in Louisville. It was a flaming train wreck of fail. No knock, boyfriend charged with attempted murder (I think since dropped), guy they're looking for already in jail. Other than that, it went smoothly.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/05/21/fbi-open-investigation-into-death...

'Taylor, who was helping fight the coronavirus pandemic by working as an EMT at two local hospitals’ emergency rooms, was killed when three plainclothes officers entered her home late at night with a no-knock warrant, looking for illegal drugs. Believing the cops to be intruders, Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them and, when the officers returned fire, Taylor was hit eight times.'

The Brighton case was a wrong address. I understand 'shit happens' but that applies to hitting a rock with a lawnmower.
Maybe there's way too many of these no-knock warrants. They should be rare and served by tac teams, not plainclothes. Plainclothes, you break into my house, you look like a thug, not a uniformed cop. It puts everybody in harm's way.

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Voting closed 74

decades and decades of systemic abuse and bullshit excuses

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Voting closed 80

How can people be trusted with guns when they cannot even bother to get an address right before serving a no-knock warrant? This isn't the first time we have seen this but I cannot image if I smashed into the wrong person's home, I would be anything other than fired and in jail.

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Voting closed 20

I seem to recall comments on a post from a couple days ago applauding the BPD for apparently doing a better job of policing than other departments around the country, such as Minneapolis and Louisville. This family, the families of Jackie Johnson, Nathaniel Smith, Michael Pender, Levi Hart, Jose Hernandez, Christopher Rogers and the hundreds or even likely thousands of others affected by police brutality in Boston would disagree with that sentiment. Stop trying to give credit where it isn't due. ACAB.

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Voting closed 11

...who are you going to call when you need help?

Isn't it unfair to say "all [fill in the blank] are [fill in the blank]"?

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Voting closed 5

Anyone voluntarily associating themselves with the police, after decades or centuries of evidence that they’re all irredeemable racist shitbags, is complicit in whatever evil the department commits while “just doing their job.” You don’t have to put your knee on someone’s neck to be guilty of murdering him.

If you, a hypothetical new recruit, really objected to the thin blue line bullshit, you could do one of two things. You could try to change the system from within, in which case you’d be driven out of the department within the year without your pension. Or you could decide to keep your head down, toe the party line, and finish out your career as the eponymous B in ACAB.

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Voting closed 7

Funny!

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Voting closed 2

join us and stand up against racist and abusive behaviors. good cops call out bad cops. good cops encourage others to be better. good cops don't protect the bad apples.

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Voting closed 7

of other things you can do instead of calling the police.

Personally, I'm unlucky enough to have had to call the BPD twice; both times, they were completely unhelpful in any way, refused to listen to what I had to say, and I would have been better off not calling them. And that was when they thought I was the victim; I genuinely worry what would have happened if they had thought I was a perpetrator.

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Voting closed 4

Why would you not effin settle this?!

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Voting closed 20

And as we can see locally and nationally, they're just not capable of that until it's become clear that they can't do anything else.

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Voting closed 37

Among the many troubling allegations in this compliant & ruling, here's a further question: what happened to the actual targets of the no-knock warrant? Ramming down a door likely makes a lot of noise, giving criminals a heads up and time to escape, right?

Trying to imagine the police's point of view, perhaps adrenaline caused a mistake both as simple & dire as misreading a number . (Or put another way the number. The verification that the warrant matched the facts on the scene.) But as a citizen I expect those in authority to be aware of their unconscious and conscious biological biases and constantly train to overcome them. I also expect to be given information so I can make decisions about how my taxes are spent and how I vote. When information is withheld or covered up, I assume there's a reason people in authority do not want me to know what they're doing.

Being a police officer is not a right; it's earned through hard and often dangerous work. Police work is not for everyone.

But, life & liberty - those are rights. As is the right to peace on one's private property. And in this case the police officers infringed on citizens' rights. Repercussions for these officers' actions are warranted. The officers should be named.

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Voting closed 20

This begs the question: Do we have any idea how many of these "no knock" warrants the BPD executes every year?

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Voting closed 15

Libertarians and the fiscally conservative would truly want to know how much “ No knock” warrants cost in lawsuits. It is taxpayer money? Or the police could double check the address like Amazon “freelancers” do a hundred times a day!

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Voting closed 8