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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grandmother has unsecure Wi-Fi, and someone uses connection to post threats to local police department. Police respond with flash grenades and a raid. Grandmother sues

Burn marks — the remnants from one of the flash grenades used by the Evansville Police Department — remain in the front entryway of a home at 616 Powell Avenue on Friday morning. Two of the devices — used to disorient possible suspects — were used by SWAT members when they entered the home of Louise Milan Thursday afternoon. Milan and her 18-year-old daughter, Stephanie, were home at the time. Law enforcement officials handcuffed the mother and daughter before questioning them and eventually releasing them at the scene.

Grandmother sues city, police department over June flash grenade incident 

Police were looking for person who posted threats on Internet

 — A 68-year-old Evansville woman, who was at home with her granddaughter last June when police in SWAT gear tossed in flash grenades into her home and forced their way inside to serve a warrant, has filed a lawsuit against the city and the Evansville Police Department.
Police came up empty-handed in a search for evidence about threatening Internet posts but only after damaging the house, handcuffing the woman and her granddaughter and seizing their computers, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court at Evansville.
The lawsuit charges that police violated Louise Milan’s constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure, that police were negligent and that the incident caused Milan emotional distress.
The actions of the officers “were done with malicious intent to cause severe mental and emotional distress to Milan,” according to the lawsuit.
It names the city, police department, Police Chief Billy Bolin and “unknown officer of the Evansville Police Department and SWAT team” as defendants.
Attorneys for the city and for Milan could not be reached for comments on Monday. However, Bolin said the city has already paid for damage to the house that was caused by the raid.
“On June 21, 2012, the Evansville Police Department and officers of the EPD and its SWAT team executed a search warrant for computer devices and raided Milan’s residence with a local television news crew in tow to memorialize the raid,” according to the lawsuit.
Only Milan and 18-year-old Stephanie Milan were home at the time.
The lawsuit continues: “The officers smashed Milan’s window and storm door and threw in two flash-bang grenades that created property damage in addition to the destroyed window and storm door. The officers used flash-bang grenades despite the fact that [there] were no threatening suspects visible. Milan and her daughter were ordered on to the floor at gunpoint, handcuffed and paraded in front of their neighbors into police vehicles. Both were detained and questioned by the officers.”
After confiscating their computers and a cellphone, it was later determined that someone remotely accessed the home’s wireless Internet connection and the Milans were not involved.
“I’ve met with the Milan family several times. They are nice people,” Bolin said.
The officers were executing a search warrant looking for evidence of who made anonymous Internet posts threatening the Evansville Police Department only to learn after the forced entry that the posts were not made from inside the house in the 600 block of East Powell Avenue.
Police later arrested Derrick Murray, a suspected local gang leader who lived nearby in his mother’s house. He admitted in federal court earlier this month that he used his smartphone to connect to a wireless Internet router in Milan’s house and post the threats. Access to the router connection was not protected by a password.
After the incident, Bolin told the Courier & Press that police had definitely traced the posts back to an Internet address associated with the house and had no way of knowing if they were made from within. Police noted at the time that the threats mentioned using guns and explosives.
Speaking generally, he said that anytime special teams or SWAT personnel are needed, police have to act in a way that ensures officer safety.
“We don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know what is going to happen. We have to to act as if it is going to be a serious threat,” Bolin said.
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