MIDLAND, Texas (CN) – Two storm-chasers say a sheriff’s deputy assaulted, tortiously interfered with and defamed them and endangered their lives while they were helping the National Weather Service track “a fast-approaching tornado.”
Brian Barnes and Renee Fournier sued Crane County and its Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Robert DeLeon and his deputy (and son-in-law) Jeffrey Ellison, in Federal Court.
The storm-chasers, who have a business doing that, say Ellison arrested them on May 6, 2008, as the tornado approached. “The deputy approached them and prevented them from assisting the citizens of Crane, Crane County, Texas, and then proceeded to insult both; arrested Barnes, assaulted Fournier, defamed them, placed them in immense danger by driving into the core of the tornado storm with blinding rain and golf-ball sized hail; and tortiously interfered with their business,” according to the complaint.
Barnes was arrested and spent the night in jail, and “It was assured that he received the worst conditions possible by the Crane Sheriff Department and Crane County Jail,” the complaint states. “Plaintiffs had a stormchasing business that was defamed along with their good and well-recognized name for using their technology to primarily assist others. … Barnes has never been formally charged for the alleged basis that led to all these unfortunate claims for relief.”
The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for illegal arrest and detention, excessive force, and constitutional violations. They are represented by Richard Alvarado of Midland.