The Lake Stevens, Wash., police department has another debacle on its hands, this one a lawsuit from a woman who says that officers “barged” into her house, held her and her infant son for seven hours and turned the place upside down searching for what they said was stolen power generator they’d seen advertised on Craigslist.
Though according to the Everett Herald newspaper, records show the officers obtained a warrant, the woman charges that they didn’t have it when they “barged through [her] front door to her residence and began to search her entire home,” the lawsuit alleges.
The police department denies the allegations, saying that everything the officers did was lawful. Officers entered the home before getting the warrant to see if anyone besides the woman was at home.
But one of the cops who carried out the search, Steve Warbis, recently cost the city $100,000 in a lawsuit over a similar incident.
Warbis and fellow officers traced what they said was a stolen generator to the home of Janet Moreno-Toro, 38, who has no criminal history and has lived in that same house for 14 years. It turned out that she had the generator, but she bought it from a pawn shop unaware that it was stolen.
She alleges that when officers first arrived, they kept her out of her house for four hours to “clear the residence” of any potential threats to officer safety. They returned later with the warrant and searched the place for another three hours.
In the previous case, the Lake Stevens department settled a lawsuit brought by Brandon Fenter, who said that Warbis and another cop, James Wellington, burst into his home without a warrant.
Warbis said, “Remember me?” as he arrested Fenter on a driving charge from the previous day.
According to Fenter’s lawsuit, Warbis was in civilian clothes and with his family walking on the incorrect side of the road when he waved Fenter down. Without identifying himself as police officer and asking neither for Fenter’s license nor registration, the lawsuit alleged, Warbis told Fenter he was driving recklessly.
The next day, Warbis and Wellington burst into Fenter’s home without a warrant and arrested him on the driving charge, which was later dismissed.
Wellington also had been the subject of previous misconduct allegations, including a drunken incident at a Yellowstone National Park hotel.
In a separate incident in 2012, Warbis and another man got in an argument at a bar in Everett, Wash., after two female friends of Warbis were asked not to lean on a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda in the parking lot by the classic car’s owner.
Warbis confronted the Barracuda owner and a fight somehow ensued. At some point during the brawl, the man shot Warbis in the forehead with a stun gun.
Sources: Seattle Times (2), Everett Herald (2)