A case of mistaken identity has landed several Mesa police officers in a federal lawsuit brought by a woman claiming they harassed her and unlawfully entered her home while searching for a man who used to live there.
In the lawsuit which was transferred to U.S. District Court on June 11, Beth Hovland says she grew tired of the repeated harassment that began in January 2008 and ended last fall, when police claimed to have an arrest warrant and threatened her with jail outside her home for nearly an hour."It's scary the power they have," Hovland said in an interview. "I would hope they would live under their oath and protect and serve, and do their job properly. I had to uproot my family and move away from this."
Named in the suit are the city and the police department; Officers Glen Heslip, Galvin Tanner, Daniel Beutel; and Detectives Rich Elmore, Isaac Brenneman and Ron Davis. Each have denied the claims in court documents.
Hovland claims the harassment began in January 2008, when a probation officer showed up looking for a man wanted on outstanding warrants.
"I explained that I didn't know him," Hovland said of the man who previously lived at the home she was renting.
Several hours later, Hovland's daughter called her at work stating "police officers had surrounded her house and were yelling this person's name and demanding he come out," she states in her lawsuit.
Officers were seen from her backyard exiting the back door of the unoccupied home, the lawsuit states.
Last July 20, two police officers knocked on Hovland's door and again asked where the wanted man was. They questioned her for about a half-hour.
"Beth made it clear to the officers that she has never known this person and requested that her address be taken off any future searches for this individual," the lawsuit states.
The following month, detectives Davis and Elmore returned to the home, telephoned inside and spoke to Hovland's son and ordered him to come outside. The son stated he couldn't come outside because his mother wasn't home.
The detectives "forced" their way into the garage and made their way through to the kitchen door from the garage. "They had neither a warrant nor legal reason to force their way into Beth's home," the lawsuit states.
However, Hovland was home and folding laundry, when she came out and found Davis and Elmore standing "uninvited" in her kitchen.
"Beth had a confrontational encounter with the detectives that lasted nearly two hours. She repeatedly demanded the detectives show a search warrant to enter the house and demanded they leave if they did not have a warrant," the lawsuit states.
Police returned three hours later, accompanied by detective Brenneman and questioned Hovland for 20 minutes, as they argued over a car mirror she claims the officers broke while in her garage.
About 11:30 p.m. August 27, Hovland was awoken by officers Buetel, Heslip and Tanner at her front door. The officers claimed to have a warrant for Hovland's arrest on an outstanding red-light camera ticket, which she said was dismissed.
Buetel gave Hovland two choices: go to jail and pay the fine or go to jail and see the judge. She also claims she was subjected to taunts and threats outside her home.
Despite the incident, "no warrant existed for Beth Hovland's arrest," the lawsuit states.
The officers had the woman stand outside for about 55 minutes, which aggravated a knee condition because she's under doctors' orders not to stand longer than 10 minutes.
In her initial claim against the city, Hovland's attorney, Keith Knowlton, offered to settle the incidents for $150,000. However the plaintiffs have rescinded that offer.
"People who have been wronged by the police need to come forward. If officers feel they can get away with things, they will," Knowlton said.
Mistaken identity leads to lawsuit against Mesa police
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