AUSTIN, Tex. — The Rutherford Institute has filed a Fourth Amendment lawsuit against Texas police officers who, after being denied entry to a private home without a warrant, arrested the homeowner, placed him in handcuffs, threw him to the ground for refusing to allow police to search his home, and then carried out a warrantless raid on his rural home.
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Rutherford Institute attorneys allege that police officers with the Gillespie County (Tex.) Sheriff’s Department violated the constitutional rights of Huntly and Susan Dantzler when they demanded entry into the Dantzler’s home during a search for a missing woman. Although the Dantzlers informed the police that no woman was present in their home, the complaint alleges that police ignored the couple’s request for a search warrant prior to entering their home, resulting in an illegal search, seizure and arrest.
“There are those who insist that if you’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, you should submit to police demands to search your person and your home, whether or not those orders are lawful,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “What makes this case so striking is the contrast between American citizens who not only know their rights but are exercising them and government officials—in this case, the police—who are either completely ignorant of what the law requires (namely, a search warrant and probable cause) or who don’t believe the laws of the land, namely the Fourth Amendment, apply to them.”
Huntly and Susan Dantzler, who live in a rural area of Gillespie County, were awoken at 6:35 a.m. on May 3, 2015, by a pounding on their door. Upon opening the door, the Dantzlers encountered two police officers, one wearing a badge indicating he was a “hostage negotiator.” The officers demanded to see the Dantzlers’ son. Although the Dantzlers informed the police their son was not at the house, the officers repeatedly demanded to speak with their son. The police officers then informed the Dantzlers that they believed their son was with an unnamed female whose health might be in jeopardy, and the officers wanted to check on the female.
After the Dantzlers told the officers that no female was in their house, the officers demanded to be allowed to search the house so they could determine for themselves whether the Dantzlers’ son and the unnamed female were present. The Dantzlers refused to allow the police to enter and search their home and indicated that they should get a warrant if they wanted to do so. According to the complaint, one of the officers then seized Huntly Dantzler, handcuffed him, pulled him away from the door and threw him to the ground. Alarmed by the treatment of her husband and the inherent coercion, Susan Dantzler allowed one of the officers to enter the house and look around. After searching the house and finding nothing, the officers left. Huntly Dantzler was compelled to seek medical care for deep gashes on wrists left by the handcuffs.
In coming to the defense of the Dantzlers, Rutherford Institute attorneys are challenging the search of the Dantzlers’ home and Huntly’s subsequent arrest as a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. Institute attorneys are also challenging the contention by police that the Dantzlers were not under arrest, pointing out that if a person can’t walk away from a police encounter of their own volition, then for all intents and purposes, they’re under arrest from the moment a cop stops them.
Affiliate attorney Jerri Ward of Garlo Ward, P.C., is assisting the Institute with the Dantzlers’ defense.