Ruby Johnson sues Denver police detective over SWAT raid

Ruby Johnsona 77-year-old grandmother and retired officer in Colorado, claims she was home alone in January when a Denver Police Department SWAT team arrived in an armored vehicle with at least 8 officers in full body armor and automatic weapons, who tore into her home in search of a missing iPhone.

Police found no stolen phone or evidence of criminal activity. Now Johnson is suing Gary Stabthe lead detective in the case, claimed he used a “hastily prepared, naked, misleading affidavit” to obtain an arrest warrant and conduct an “illegal search” of Johnson’s home that left her traumatized, according to a recently filed a complaint.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 1 in Denver County District Court by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says police were investigating a truck that was stolen from a nearby Hyatt. The truck reportedly contained four semi-automatic handguns, a military tactical rifle, a revolver, two drones, $4,000.00 in cash and an old iPhone 11.

When Staab spoke to the owner of the stolen vehicle, the man said he used the Find My app to locate his phone, which was left at Johnson’s address between about 11:30 a.m. and 3:55 p.m. that day. pinged” it was stolen, according to an affidavit by Staab.

However, a screenshot from the Find My app actually showed that the phone was “pinging” somewhere near Johnson’s home and didn’t give an exact location. Still, Staab allegedly vowed that the screenshot from the app “means the phone is in it [Johnson’s] A house.”

“Crucially, when a device’s location cannot be pinpointed, the user sees a blue circle around the device’s marker on the map. The size of the blue circle shows how accurately the device’s location can be determined. For example, the larger the circle; the greater the inaccuracy,” the complaint reads. “This blue circle encompassed an area that spanned at least six different properties and portions of four different blocks nearby [redacted] Street.”

Staab allegedly did no other independent police work to confirm whether the phone was in fact at Johnson’s home, instead simply applying for a warrant, which was approved by the judge Beth Faragher.

“Pursuant to the illegally issued warrant, Denver police arrived at the home of 77-year-old Ms. Johnson, where she lives alone, with an overwhelming and intimidating display of unnecessary force. Confused and frightened, Ms. Johnson opened her front door to the sound of a bullhorn and the sight of swarming officers in militarized gear, an armored vehicle parked on her lawn and marked cars flanking her property,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Both Ms Johnson and her 40-year-old home carry wounds from that day that have not healed. Johnson no longer feels safe in her own home. Due to the extreme stress and anxiety caused by the unlawful search, she developed health problems.”

Markus Silbersteinthe legal director of the Colorado ACLU and one of the attorneys who signed the lawsuit said several government actors have failed to protect Johnson’s civil rights.

“Commissioner Staab had no reason to apply for a search warrant,” he said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit. “His manager should have vetoed it. The district attorney should not have given the green light, the judge should have denied it, and the SWAT team should have stayed home.”

The lawsuit alleges that the search violated the state constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure and is seeking damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Body camera footage of the raid shows Johnson being taken from her home in a bathrobe, looking terrified and confused as the tactical team search the home.

[image via court documents]

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