Woman, 78, Wins $3.76 Million Verdict Against Police After Her Home Was Wrongly Raided By SWAT

by Gee NY

A landmark verdict has been reached in favor of a 78-year-old woman, Ruby Johnson, who sued two police officers following a wrongful SWAT team raid on her home in Colorado.

The jury awarded Johnson a staggering $3.76 million under a groundbreaking Colorado law that allows individuals to hold police accountable for violations of their state constitutional rights.

The verdict was delivered late Friday in state court in Denver, with the announcement made on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado, which provided legal support to Johnson throughout the lawsuit.

The case stemmed from a traumatic incident in which a SWAT team, acting on faulty information, forcefully entered Johnson’s home while searching for a stolen truck.

According to court documents, the search warrant was obtained based on inaccurate information provided by Detective Gary Staab.

Staab failed to disclose that the location provided by the Find My app, which led police to Johnson’s home, only offered a general area where a phone could be located, not a precise address.

Johnson, a retired U.S. Postal Service worker and grandmother, recounted the harrowing experience of hearing commands over a bullhorn while she was in her bathrobe, having just stepped out of the shower on January 4, 2022.

Upon opening her front door, she was confronted with an armored personnel carrier parked on her lawn, police vehicles lining her street, and officers in full military-style gear with rifles and a police dog.

During the raid, police used excessive force, employing a battering ram to access Johnson’s garage despite her instructions on how to open the door.

They also damaged her property, including breaking ceiling tiles to access her attic and vandalizing a doll that resembled her, causing significant emotional distress.

The lawsuit was brought under a provision of a police reform bill enacted in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, marking the first significant case to go to trial under the new law.

This legislation granted individuals the right to sue police officers in state court for violations of their state constitutional rights, bypassing the legal hurdles posed by federal court, including qualified immunity.

While the Denver Police Department, not directly implicated in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the verdict, Johnson’s attorney, Tim Macdonald of the ACLU of Colorado, emphasized the profound psychological and emotional toll inflicted on his client.

Johnson’s sense of safety in her own home, where she raised her children, was irreparably shattered, leading to health issues and eventual relocation.

For Johnson, the verdict represents a measure of justice and accountability in the face of egregious police misconduct, signaling a pivotal moment in the ongoing fight for police reform and the protection of individual rights.

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