A SWAT team gathers outside the home of a domestic disturbance in Jacksonville. (Source: WTEV)
JACKSONVILLE, FL — A woman says a SWAT team kicked her out of her home and then helped themselves inside to gain a “tactical advantage” over a neighbor who was under investigation.
Deborah Franz was told to leave her home on Sunday, February 2nd, when there was a domestic disturbance in the mobile home across the street. A neighbor had allegedly gotten physical with his father and displayed a handgun. The reaction was a paramilitary force cordoning off the block and forcibly evacuating neighboring homes for the rest of the day.
“The cop goes ‘You all need to leave, you can’t be in your house,’” Franz told WTEV.
Franz left for 6 hours while police blockaded the street. Little did she know that controlling the scene meant taking over homes not involved with the investigation.
When she returned, she says she “froze” when she opened her door and her belongings had been obviously tampered with. Her television had been moved and her Xbox game console disconnected. Window drapes had been pulled to the floor.
Franz believed she had been victim to a home invasion. Then it dawned on her that the home invaders were working for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
The SWAT team had broken into her home to obtain a tactical advantage against the suspect next door. Franz wasn’t even so much as notified of the entry.
Her complaint to the department drew only a press release promising police would review their own actions to make sure that they were “legally sound” and performed “in the best interest of the safety” of police and the community. It would not be the first time that officer safety has been trumpeted as an excuse for infringing citizens’ rights.
SWAT spent hours holding its standoff, bringing in heavy machinery resembling a forklift, and threatening the suspect over loudspeakers. Embarrassingly, it turned out that the house they were focused on had been empty the whole time. When SWAT crashed in after 5 hours, the suspect, Michael K. Farrell, had already left. The siege of Glen Gardener Drive had not stopped the suspect from leaving.
A similar case of police commandeering multiple homes of innocent people took place last year in Nevada. The families involved sued the department for violating the 3rd Amendment. No update has been made available on the case.
It does not bode well that the police can operate outside the law when it suits their tactical advantages and safety objectives. Is there an exemption for police officers in the breaking and entering laws in Florida? Does the 3rd Amendment apply to police seizing homes?
Has the 4th amendment been changed to read: “The right of the people to be secure in their houses against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated — unless it gives the government a tactical advantage”?
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