(CN) – A depressed Army reservist who made a phone call for help says dozens of police responded by surrounding his home and arresting him, vandalizing and searching his place without a warrant, seizing his dog and killing his tropical fish.
Matthew Corrigan, who lives alone with his dog, sued the District of Columbia in D.C. Federal Court.
Confronted with a massive police presence after his plea for help, Corrigan says, he denied officers permission to enter his house, but they entered and trashed it anyway, saying, “I don’t have time to play this constitutional bullshit!”
Corrigan says the debacle started on Feb. 2, 2010.
“Corrigan telephoned what he believed to be the ‘Military’s Emotional Support Hotline’ because he was depressed and had not slept for several days,” the complaint states.
“The number Corrigan called was in fact the National Suicide Hotline. When he stated that he was a veteran, he was asked if he had firearms, to which he said yes. He said nothing about being suicidal or using a firearm or threatening anyone. After a short conversation, Corrigan hung up, turned off the phone, took prescribed sleeping medication, and went to bed.
“At approximately 4 a.m. in the morning of Feb. 3, 2010, Corrigan awoke because he heard his name being called over a bullhorn. There were floodlights outside his front and back doors and an estimated 8 police officers in the back yard and 20 in the front yard.
“Corrigan turned on his phone and found that Officer Fischer of the 5th District was calling him, asking him to come out, which he did at about 4:50 a.m., locking the door behind him. He was handcuffed and put in the back of a SWAT truck.
“When Officer John Doe I (upon information and belief, Officer John Doe I is Lieutenant Robert Glover) asked Corrigan for the key to his apartment, he informed the officer: ‘There is no way I am giving you consent to enter my place.’ Officer John Doe I stated: ‘I don’t have time to play this constitutional bullshit!’ and ordered that Officers John Does II-V, members of the Emergency Response Team (ERT), enter the apartment.” (Parentheses in complaint).
Corrigan says police took him to a VA hospital, broke his front door and entered his apartment without a warrant, where they confiscated his guns, vandalized his place and took his dog to an animal shelter.
“Although the officers had no information that there were explosives in Corrigan’s home and the home had been secured, John Does VI-X, the Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team, entered Corrigan’s home without a warrant and searched for explosives,” the complaint states. “The EOD team opened closed containers and used X-ray equipment to search closed containers.
“After the initial warrantless search, the EOD team brought in a dog to search for firearms.
“During the search of Corrigan’s home, John Does II-XV seized three firearms and numerous rounds of ammunition for those firearms and others. The three firearms were a rifle, which was unloaded and trigger-locked in a locked hard-side container under his bed, a hand gun which was in a hard case in a drawer in the closet, and another handgun which was in a zipped bag on the shelf at the bottom of a clothes rack (pillows and blankets were on top and next to the bag). The locked cases were taken but the broken latches were left on the floor. The ammunition was stored in a sealed plastic crate and the rest was in boxes, in their original packing, in a milk crate, which was stored under a sleeping bag in a utility closet.
“Corrigan’s eyeglasses were broken and thrown in a corner.” (Parentheses in complaint).
Corrigan says he spent three days in the VA hospital, because “having weapons pointed at him upon leaving his apartment triggered his PTSD hyper-vigilance and caused irregular heartbeat.”
After he was released from the hospital and determined not to be a suicide risk, Corrigan says, police arrested him and put him in jail, where he remained for almost 2 weeks.
“When Corrigan returned to his apartment 16 days after being seized, he found that John Does I-XV had left the front door unlocked and unsecured, had left the electric stove on, had cut open every zipped bag, had dumped every box and drawer, had broken locked boxes from under the bed and the closet, and emptied shelves into piles in each room. All his tropical fish in his 150 gallon aquarium were dead.”
Corrigan seeks more than $500,000 in damages for constitutional violations.
He is represented by Richard Gardiner, of Fairfax, Va.