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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Says Marshals Spilled Grandma’s Ashes

NASHVILLE (CN) - A man claims U.S. marshals spilled his grandparents' ashes on the floor of his home in an abusive search for a fugitive who looks nothing like him, and who hadn't lived there for 5 years.

Bart Pike sued the United States of America in Federal Court for the marshals' actions in "Operation Falcon," led by a U.S. marshal with help from state and local police.

Operation Falcon was "a nationwide fugitive apprehension initiative," aimed primarily at violent criminals, gang members and sex offenders, according to the U.S. Marshals' website.

In his case, Pike says, it was a boneheaded, abusive raid.

Pike says he "answered the pounding on his front door" in Hendersonville, Tenn., at about 9 a.m. on June 27, 2009, to find a "Task Force" outside, "several police cars and officers." He opened his door and stepped out onto the porch.

"One of the Task Force members asked if they could come into his home and search it," the complaint states. "Pike asked them if they had a warrant. The Task Leader replied he had a warrant but refused to show it to Pike. The arrest warrant, obtained by Pike later, named Elwood R. Johnson on a charge of probation violation. The physical description on the arrest warrant is nowhere close to that of Pike. The Task Leader negligently failed to review the physical description of Elwood R. Johnson on the arrest warrant before authorizing other officers to wrongfully trespass into Pike's home. Before Pike could object further, he was shoved aside and the other officers went into Pike's home without his permission.

"Pike was told they were looking for a person who had lived in his home about five years before. Pike told them he was not that person and objected to their presence. Pike told the officers that he did not know the person they were looking for and asked the officers to leave.

"The officers ignored Pike's request for them to leave, and began to search his home. A state trooper negligently broke the remote to Pike's T.V. set and threw it to the floor. Over Pike's objection, the officers negligently opened a cremation urn containing Pike's grandmother's ashes and a box containing his father's ashes spilling the contents thereof. The officers tossed about Pike's bed mattress, negligently tore one of the interior doors of the house off its hinges, and in the process badly damaged Pike's antique guitar. The negligence of the task leader and officers under his control was the proximate cause of the damage to Pike's real and personal property.

"After damaging the inside of Pike's home and his personal property, the officer left, having never obtained Pike's permission to enter his home and never having shown Pike the supposed warrant."

Pike says he "sought psychological counseling for his emotional distress."

He demands $300,000 in damages for trespass, negligence and emotional distress, plus costs.

He is represented by Phillip Davidson, whose law firm did not respond to a request for an interview.

A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals told Courthouse News that the service does not comment on pending litigation.

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