Orange County, California officials have agreed to pay almost $730,000 to a woman who claims sheriff deputies barged into her house without a warrant, slammed her face into the ground, seized her children, and took her to jail.
The resident is Nancy Butano, 35. The incident took place in 2010 when three South County deputies responded to a call from Butano’s neighbors. The neighbor told police a man had threatened them with a knife. When deputies arrived, they determined the threatening man was Butano’s boyfriend Paul Luddy.
Luddy was arrested by deputies after he stepped out of the couple’s house. He did not have a knife on him. Two of the deputies then called Butano out to talk with them. Butano declined, saying she was on a very important business call. The deputies continued to ask Butano to come to the door, but she repeatedly refused.
According to the lawsuit, the deputies then entered Butano’s home despite not having a warrant. They cursed and screamed at Butano and told her to get off the phone. Butano told the deputies she did not invite them inside and did not want them there.
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One of the deputies then grabbed Butano and dragged her to the backyard of her house. There, he slammed her head against a sauna before pounding her head into the ground five times while handcuffing her.
As Butano was taken to the squad car, a neighbor asked the officers why the woman was being arrested.
“She’s a bitch…she wouldn’t go with the program,” an officer replied.
Butano was taken to jail and held there for a day before being released on $500 bond. No charges were ever filed against either Butano or her boyfriend. Her two 18-month-old toddlers were held at the Orangewood Children’s Home for six days before being released back to her.
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Court officials hope the settlement teaches the Orange County Sheriff’s Department some valuable lessons about exercising more caution when entering resident’s homes. The Sheriff Department's record isn’t encouraging though. In the past four years, the department has spent $5.7 million in taxpayer money settling lawsuit claims.