By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — A Lake Stevens woman has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Lake Stevens and four of its police officers, including one cop who was the focus of an expensive settlement over alleged civil rights violations.
The woman claims that officers forced her out of her home in February and illegally searched her property. The officers reportedly were investigating allegations that the woman had a stolen generator in her house.
Court records show that the officers obtained a search warrant from a Snohomish County Superior Court judge authorizing them to enter the home and seize the generator, if found.
The woman alleges, however, that the police “barged through (her) front door to her residence and began to search her entire home” without first securing the warrant. She alleges that the officers refused to leave and later forced her and her 1-year-old out of the house.
“You can’t go into a home without a warrant unless it’s an emergency situation. Clearly this wasn’t,” Lake Stevens attorney Justin Monro said.
The woman first filed a claim with the city. The case was moved to federal court in September.
“The claims in the lawsuit are unfounded and all the police department actions occurred in the course of a lawful investigation,” City Administrator Jan Berg said Tuesday.
Police say they were contacted by a man who believed his stolen generator was being sold on Craigslist. The man had arranged to meet the seller. The man met with police who instructed him to go to the house and look at the generator under the guise of wanting to buy it. They told him to try to look at the serial number and instructed him to report back to them, court papers say.
The man met with police about 10 minutes later, and said that generator was his.
Police went to the house. The man who was selling the equipment had left but they found a woman at home. They told her she needed to leave because they were getting a search warrant, court documents said.
Police say they walked through the house before getting a warrant to see if anyone else was inside.
“When I checked the downstairs of the residence, I did observe at least one additional power tool case on the floor,” one officer wrote.
No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the search.
The lawsuit names four police officers including Steve Warbis, whose behavior during a June 2011 arrest prompted close scrutiny of the department and a $100,000 settlement in a civil rights lawsuit.
He and fellow officer James Wellington were accused of illegally arresting a man who argued with an off-duty Warbis about the man’s driving.
Warbis also was investigated for a drunken brawl in Everett in 2012. Wellington is operating under a “last chance” agreement as a result of several investigations into misconduct, including being prosecuted for a drunken disturbance inside a hotel at Yellowstone National Park.
Last month, Wellington’s conduct became an issue in the prosecution of a man accused of killing Seattle teen Molly Conley. Prosecutors initially wanted Erick Walker’s attorney to agree to restrictions about how he used information about Wellington’s credibility.
The city was hit with another lawsuit this month. This one came from within the police department. Sgt. Julie Jamison alleges that the department retaliated against her after she complained of sexual harassment.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.