People of color—especially Black folks, and especially Black men and Black trans women—face an absolute onslaught of violence from law enforcement. Implicit bias and structural racism infiltrate all aspects of life, from, saying, interviewing for a job to being disciplined as a student to being accused of a crime. And these biases absolutely do come into play when Black folks are targeted and abused by the police. No, it’s not every single cop. But if a few bad apples can ruin the bunch, well… I think history speaks for itself.
And it’s far from distant history. It’s the present. One example of many comes to us from Denver, Colorado, where, as reported by NBC News, Ruby Johnson, an elderly Black woman, survived a raid on her home that included a SWAT team in military gear (including a K-9 and tactical rifles) demanding that she exit her home. Johnson is suing the Denver cop who ordered the SWAT raid on her home on Jan. 4, who her suit alleges illegally issued the raid warrant based on a “hastily prepared” and “bare-bones” affidavit that was ultimately “misleading.”
According to the suit, which was filed by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado in Denver District Court, Johnson, who is a 77-year-old grandmother, is suing Denver Police Department Detective Gary Staab in his “individual capacity.” According to the suit, the detective ordered the raid on her home after the “Find my” Apple app incorrectly pinged her residence as the location of six stolen firearms and an iPhone.
Per the complaint, the “Find My” app generally refers to an approximate location. In this case, the complaint alleges that the location image included in the affidavit actually covers a handful of properties across four blocks, which include but are not limited to Johnson’s house. The complaint argues the app isn’t meant to be used by law enforcement in this way. The complaint also alleges that Staab specifically did not try to corroborate the alleged location of the stolen items before issuing the raid.
“Defendant Staab presented his false characterization of the screenshot’s meaning as an objective fact,” the complaint states in part, as highlighted by NBC News. “And omitted the particular facts and circumstances that contradicted it.”
According to the news outlet, the owner of the missing firearms and phone (plus several thousand in cash and two drones) was staying at the Denver Hyatt hotel when the items were stolen. All items were allegedly in the owner’s truck which was reportedly stolen from the parking garage of said hotel.
Per the complaint, Staab spoke to the owner of the missing items over the phone, and the owner said the “Find My” app suggested Johnson’s address twice the day before. From there, Staab made the call for the raid. But, per the complaint, it seems that the ping was for that vicinity, not necessarily specifically within Johnson’s four walls.
The filing alleges that officers used a battering ram to “destroy” the door (and door frame) of her back garage in spite of Johnson informing them of how to properly open the door. The complaint also alleges that they rummaged through her home and personal items.
Did they find the missing items? No. They didn’t. They found no evidence of criminal activity at all.
As pointed out by local station 9News, Johnson lived in the Montbello area of Denver, where much of the population is Latinx and Black. It’s fair to ask if this would have happened this way if Johnson lived in a whiter neighborhood (hint: probably not). Johnson’s daughter, Gwen Brunson, said in a recent interview with the station that she feels her mother was “mentally, emotionally” assaulted and that she was “so upset.”
Johnson has said she was (understandably) scared when she saw the SWAT team outside of her house. She had apparently been watching TV when she heard the bullhorn calls for her to come outside. Per The Root, Johnson stayed with her family in Texas for several months after the incident, because she was (again, understandably) traumatized. According to the filing, she is seeking unspecified damages as well as a jury trial.
You can catch local news coverage below, including a brief interview clip with Brunson speaking about her mom’s experience.
This content was originally published here.