LOS ANGELES (CN) - Is it reasonable to think a home "burglar," after hearing police sirens, would turn on the porch light and walk out the front door with his slippers on - and his teenage "accomplice" would soon follow wearing only his underwear?
U.S. District Judge Otis Wright said a jury should decide that, and denied most of Los Angeles County's motion to have a civil rights complaint filed by a federal Immigrations and Custom Enforcement supervisor and his son, the victims of the mistaken police raid on their homes in 2013, dismissed.
Plaintiffs Raymond Kovacic and his son Jared had friends over at their home in Westlake Village in the early morning hours of July 31, 2013, when police - apparently investigating a suspected break-in at the house - woke them up. When the Kovacics went outside to see what was happening, they were treated as suspects and handcuffed while their home was searched, according to their complaint.
Raymond Kovacic is the assistant director of the Ventura ICE office and his home has a 7-foot block fence surrounding it. According to Wright's ruling, officers Jonathan Boden and Christopher Redenbaugh were on patrol in their car when they claim to have heard a loud crash.
The officers went to investigate and when they approached the front of the Kovacic home, they saw a person inside holding a flashlight who looked like he was robbing the place. They called for backup and soon more police arrived and a helicopter was overhead.
All the noise startled Raymond Kovacic, so he put on shorts and slippers, grabbed his wallet and ID and went outside to see what was going on. He turned on his porch lights and opened his door to officers with their weapons drawn, ordering him on his knees. He was handcuffed and taken to a patrol car while we tried to show them his wallet and tell them he owned the house.
Jared, then 17, opened the door, wearing only his underwear and a T-shirt, to see what was going on and he was detained. Jared says one officer was pointing a gun at his head from "not even a foot away," while half a dozen others had their guns trained on him.
"We got you Fred," the officers allegedly told Jared while he cuffed him. When Jared told them he was not Fred, one replied, "Well, if you're not Fred, then where's your sister?"
Three guests were then handcuffed and then the residents were told a dog would be sent in to get the other guest, who police were told was a heavy sleeper, if he did not come out himself. The officers finally went into the home and conducted a sweep before finally realizing that their mistake.
According to Wright's ruling, what was said and done during the exchange are in dispute. After being released, a sergeant allegedly told Raymond Kovacic that they were only responding to a security alarm. When Kovacic told him he didn't have one, the sergeant changed his story and said they'd heard a loud crash.
Deputy Redenbaugh claimed that one of the house guests told him that he had accidentally slammed a sliding glass door and had been using his cellphone to pack his bags to leave without waking the other guests.