‘Wrong house’ raid costs county $325K
The couple baby-sitting their grandchildren when police mistook their home for a drug dealer’s residence has been awarded a $325,000 settlement, their attorney said yesterday.
Police had been tracking a package that allegedly contained 11 pounds of marijuana that had been picked up at the Koloa post office by a man who was driving a Toyota truck on March 15, 2005, according to court documents.
Though police followed the car onto Kaumuali‘i Highway and onto a private road with seven houses, when the transmitter inside the box went off indicating the package had been opened, police had lost visual contact with the vehicle.
That’s when, without a warrant authorizing entrance into the home of William and Sharon McCulley, but rather with an “anticipatory search warrant” that authorized them to search any property where the marijuana was transported, police entered their home.
Though the Toyota truck they had been following and the transported box wasn’t at the McCulley’s home, police then threw Sharon McCulley on the ground next to her grandchild and handcuffed her, pressing a gun so hard into her head it left a circular mark, according to the complaint.
Her husband, William McCulley, who has a severe nerve disorder and has a walker and leg brace, was also ordered to lie on the ground, but was unable to do so quickly because of his disability. Thrown to the ground by an officer, William McCulley’s implanted electronic shocking device to alleviate pain malfunctioned causing him to convulse, court documents state.
Attorneys Michael Green and John Rapp said in addition to the pain and suffering the McCulleys endured, their privacy rights were violated.
In addition, they alleged that police not only failed to ensure they were entering the right home authorized by the warrant, but also committed assault and battery, trespassing, and negligently inflicted serious emotional distress upon the McCulleys. According to court records, the box that was picked up at the Koloa post office by David Hibbitt, who drove away in a Toyota truck, was in a home about two houses down from the ‘Oma‘o residence inhabited by the McCulleys.
The three residents of that home, including Hibbitt, who pleaded guilty to first-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, were arrested on drug-related charges in the case.
Rapp said though the settlement doesn’t allocate a specific amount for each portion of the claim, he did say the grandchildren also suffered trauma from the incident.
“It was as though the bad guys were coming in after them,” he said. “It was very frightening to them.”
Rapp said looking forward, he thinks future similar incidents can be easily avoided.
“When the officers lost sight of this marijuana package, they should have called off the search,” he said.
Rapp added that he thought Capt. Ale Quibilan was forthcoming in trying to assess what went wrong and trying to help prevent it from happening again.
“More preparation, more training, having the most qualified doing the job,” he said.