A search for a fugitive sex offender led police to her house in north Minneapolis. When a stray bullet hit an officer, they thought someone inside was shooting.
A north Minneapolis woman whose dog was shot 10 times and whose house was ransacked by Minneapolis police officers has sued the department, alleging that the incident earlier this year was set off after a failed police pursuit of her fugitive brother.
One officer was hit in the leg by a stray bullet as a trio of officers shot the dog on the night of March 30, and in the confusion that followed, a large group of officers arriving at the scene thought someone in the house had shot the officer, according to the suit.
The suit charges that enraged officers then ransacked the house, breaking windows and doors, damaging furniture, ripping a large-screen TV from the wall and dumping a fish tank onto the floor, killing the children's pet fish and hermit crabs.
Leah Anderson's suit, filed May 24 in U.S. District Court, alleges violations of her constitutional and civil rights and asks for compensatory and punitive damages of at least $300,000.
The Police Department's internal affairs unit has opened an investigation of the incident, a police spokesman said Friday. No department leaders were immediately available for comment.
In her suit, Anderson says that on the evening of March 30, she had several out-of-town guests staying at her home in the 1600 block of 22nd Avenue N. because her mother's funeral had just taken place.
About 9:30 p.m., her brother, a convicted sex offender named Roosevelt Montgomery, came to the house uninvited. He had fled his halfway home and, unknown to Anderson, was fleeing police officers, the suit says. He was told to leave and ran out the back door, the suit says.
Moments later, three police officers who were in pursuit of Montgomery arrived. Later that night, police said the three were working with Department of Corrections officers on the pursuit.
As Anderson's husband met the officers in the front yard, the family's 8-month-old pit bull appeared. Anderson's husband said he would collect the dog and called for it, but the officers called out "Pit bull!" and began shooting, striking the dog in the head, legs and body and fatally injuring it, the suit said. A bullet or bullet fragment struck one of the officers in the leg, and another dog also was shot and wounded.
The officers radioed that one of them had been shot, and soon approximately 30 officers arrived at the house, according to the suit. Anderson and her family and guests were handcuffed or placed on the ground before they were led away, the suit said.
Anderson said she discovered the damage to her home when she returned several hours later. She said she then met with Minneapolis police Sgt. Jerry Wallerich to complain. According to the lawsuit, he told her that the police action was done out of revenge due to the police officers' mistaken assumption that someone in the house had fired at them and advised her to sue the department to recover her losses.
The following afternoon, on March 31, several officers who did not have a search warrant returned to Anderson's home, the suit says. They threatened the home's occupants, used a racial epithet and told one person that it was lucky it wasn't dark outside or they would put that individual in the hospital, according to the suit.
Anderson then called Wallerich, who told her to hand her phone to one of the officers. Anderson claims in her suit that she could overhear Wallerich telling the officers that they didn't have a warrant and should leave the home immediately.
The Minneapolis Police Department's Policy & Procedure Manual states that any damage that occurs to an occupant's home during a search must be reported to a supervisor and photographed. The officers' alleged language would be a violation of the department's professional code of conduct. The manual also states that while serving a search warrant, officers must return a house to some semblance of order, with drawers placed back in dressers, and so on.
Matt McKinney 612-217-1747