LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Attorneys filed four new federal lawsuits Thursday alleging that Little Rock's use of no-knock warrants in police drug raids violated the U.S. Constitution.
Civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump and Mike Laux said the lawsuits against the City of Little Rock and officers with the Little Rock Police Department demonstrate police falsely obtained affidavits and were unreasonable in their searches of residences, including the home where 82-year-old Faye Hernandez and her grandson's girlfriend, Candice Caldwell, lived.
In that case, Caldwell said police used explosives to enter the house when the older woman, for whom Caldwell is a caretaker, was at a doctor's appointment. Video security footage from the February 2018 incident shows Caldwell asking police not to shoot her dog as officers enter her room.
The suit claims officers were looking for methamphetamine, but only found a glass pipe. Caldwell was arrested for possession of an instrument of a crime; her charges were eventually dropped.
Unlike a regular warrant, officers are not required to announce themselves when serving a no-knock warrant.
Some of the complainants, including Caldwell and Derrick Davis, had previously alleged misconduct and had tried to join an earlier suit filed by Crump and Laux, but were denied by a judge. After the judge refused to allow more plaintiffs, the lawyers withdrew the original suit.
City attorney Tom Carpenter did not respond to a request for comment. A Police Department spokesman declined comment.
Little Rock police said in June that the department was overhauling its policies for obtaining no-knock warrants. Police must now use more detailed information in determining if a warrant should be a no-knock one. The department also will more thoroughly vet cooperating individuals and include more levels of supervisory approval for no-knock warrants.
Police said the department served 95 narcotics warrants in 2018 — 57 of them no-knock ones. Through June 12 of this year, only six no-knock warrants were served, out of a total of 29.
Laux said he has "great faith" in the city's new police chief, Keith Humphrey, and Mayor Frank Scott, who announced the new policies. The attorney said he is "encouraged by the relative scarcity" of no-knock warrants served this year.
Crump and Laux originally raised the issue of no-knock warrants in a suit filed by Roderick Talley, who claimed police lied to obtain an affidavit before using explosives to enter his apartment and storming through it. Laux said the lawyers no longer represent Talley, who was arrested last month after filming a traffic stop in southwestern Arkansas.
Talley was also arrested in November after authorities say he struck a sheriff's deputy with a vehicle after arriving late for a court date and attempting to flee. At the time, Talley and his lawyers disputed the accusation, saying the deputy put his hands and torso on the hood of the car and slid off as Talley drove away. That case is awaiting trial.