The rote recitations of excuses for the use of force usually fly because they have some connection to reality, at least for those inclined to believe whatever the police say. But once in a while, the story crosses a line of absurdity that would make for a fabulous joke, if only it hadn’t actually happened. It happened in Laguna Beach.
From the OC Weekly:
When Marilyn Injeyan–a 5-foot-3 and 125 pound, 71-year-old retired school teacher without a criminal record–opened her front door, officers donning ballistic vests and pointing flashlights and assault weapons stormed inside.
The SWAT Team was there. Hi, SWAT Team. What brings you to Ms. Injeyan’s home?
Acting on rumors in June 2011, a Laguna Beach Police Department SWAT team investigating a minor stink bomb attack in their city conducted a full-force raid on a Rowland Heights residence in Los Angeles County.
Rumors? A “stink bomb”? Come on, you were there to collect contributions for the widows and orphans fund, or maybe a charity beer bong party. Seriously.
But the heavily-armed [Sgt. Robert] Rahaeuser, who’d later claim he considered the unarmed, elderly woman a real threat to his safety, grabbed the lady’s arms, forced them behind her back and twisted them up while handcuffing her.
The sudden, unexpected force caused Injeyan to wet her pants and left her suffering large, torn rotator cuff injuries in both shoulders that required multiple, costly surgeries as well as extensive rehabilitation.
Because it was rumored that this 71-year-old former schoolmarm was the dreaded “stink bomber”? You hurt this old woman? This isn’t funny anymore.
To city and police officials in Laguna Beach, the SWAT raid on Injeyan was a “valid” tactic “in connection with the investigation of a domestic terrorism incident for which her son was a person of interest.” (According to court records, the son was never charged.)
Domestic terrorism? So a stink bomb is now the weapon of choice for terrorists?
Police and city officials also argued that cops should enjoy immunity protections for their conduct because they have to make “split-second judgments” in potentially dangerous situations–like, they asserted, their contact Injeyan.
“[Rahaeuser] was unsure of what awaited him inside the plaintiff’s home, including who was present, or whether any of the occupants would be armed,” wrote Philip D. Kohn, a lawyer representing the City of Laguna Beach.
Armed? With rumored stink bombs? And this might harm the SWAT team by subjecting its brave and dedicated warriors to an unpleasant odor? There is assuredly an unpleasant odor here.
Indeed, Kohn believes it is “irrelevant” whether Injeyan “posed some sort of threat” or not because cops conducing search warrants in present-day America don’t have to justify their decisions to use force.
This notion, that police no longer need to “justify” force in “present-day America,” is the sort of horribly misguided, terribly dangerous and legally fallacious assertion that will certainly bring the wrath of the law down upon the Laguna Beach Police. As if the treatment of Ms. Injeyan wasn’t bad enough.
No doubt her suit against the cops for excessive force will result in a huge damage award in her favor. Because this is America, and the police can’t do such things, and statements like this cannot go unpunished.
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell claimed she studied the case “in a light most favorable” to Injeyan but decided to grant pre-trial summary judgment for the police.
“The Court finds that [Laguna Beach police] enjoy immunity from the excessive force claims,” opined O’Connell, who also declared that cops have a “cloak of immunity” even when acting “maliciously and without probable cause.”
Say what? Well, sure, some incompetent buffoon of a judge rubber stamped a warrant based on a rumor, because reading papers or thinking or actually doing the job he was paid to do is far too much work. But “maliciously”? Since when are the police immune for malice?
O’Connell then made sure Injeyan won’t ever try to hold the police accountable again.
She ordered the woman to pay the defense legal bills or justify why she can’t.
You can’t make this shit up. And no, the joke isn’t funny at all.
H/T Marilou Auer