February 9, 2023

Ruby Johnson was wearing a bathrobe, hat and slippers watching TV when a SWAT team showed up at her front door in January and asked through a loudspeaker for anyone in the household to raise their hands, according to court documents.

SWAT teams and Denver police arrived at Ms. Johnson’s home in an armored vehicle with a German Shepherd. Court records show that some of the officers, wearing tactical gear and armed with rifles, used ramming hammers to knock on the door of Ms. Johnson’s rear garage and caused damage inside the home.

Johnson, 77, waited in a police car as police searched for stolen goods. After a few hours, the police left. Their searches were fruitless.

In a lawsuit filed last week, Ms. Johnson, a retired U.S. Postal Service worker who lives alone, said Detective Gary Staab sought a search warrant based on inaccurate information in the Find My app. The suit says the mobile app helps track lost or missing Apple products, such as iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, leading him to believe the stolen items were in her home.

Ruby Johnson, wearing a bathrobe, hat and slippers, was watching TV when the SWAT team showed up in front of her house.Credit…KUSA-NBC 9 News

Mark Silverstein, Ms. Johnson’s attorney and the ACLU legal director in Colorado, said Monday that Detective Stubb, the only one named in the lawsuit, should not have filed for a warrant.

“Detectives did not prove the facts required for the search,” Mr Silverstein said. “His supervisor should have vetoed it. The DA should not have approved it. The judge should not have approved it, and the SWAT team should have stayed home.”

The Denver Police Department said in a statement Monday that it has opened an internal investigation and is working with the Denver District Attorney’s Office to provide officers with training on warrants based on apps like Find My.

“The Department of Public Safety and the Denver Police Department sincerely apologize to Ms. Johnson for any negative impact this situation may have had on her,” the department said, adding that it hopes to “resolve the matter” without further litigation .

Detective Staab, who remains with the police department, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. It is unclear whether he has a lawyer.

He was assigned on Jan. 4 to investigate the truck, which had been reported stolen the previous day, according to court documents. The owner told police the truck contained four semiautomatic handguns, a tactical military rifle, a revolver, two drones, $4,000 in cash and an iPhone 11, the documents said.

According to court documents, the detective interviewed the truck’s owner, Jeremy McDaniel, who told him he used the Find My app to search for his iPhone the day before and placed the missing phone in the an address.

Mr McDaniel, who could not be reached on Monday, also told Detective Staab that he drove past the address in a rented car but did not see his truck. Mr McDaniel told detectives he suspected his truck might be in the family’s garage.

The Find My app is said to help Apple product owners find the “approximate location” of lost items App’s Legal Terms. The tool relies on a combination of cellular, Wi-Fi and GPS networks, as well as Bluetooth data, to show users the estimated location of lost items.

If the item cannot be pinpointed, the approximate location may be specific enough to identify a home or wide enough to include several buildings. In reviews of the app, many users reported success in finding lost items, while others said the app was inaccurate.

Apple, the developer of the Find My app, did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit on Monday.

The lawsuit includes a screenshot of the “Find My” app that connects Mr. McDaniel’s cell phone to one home, but the radius includes parts of other homes and two streets spread over four block sections.

“The screenshots provide no basis for believing that McDaniel’s iPhone was likely at Ms. Johnson’s house, rather than at any of several neighboring properties, or abandoned by a passing driver on a nearby street,” the lawsuit said. say.

About three hours after interviewing Mr. McDaniel on Jan. 4, Detective Staab obtained a search warrant, and Denver police and SWAT officers were soon on Ms. Johnson’s lawn.

After the raid, “Ms. Johnson couldn’t bear to stay in her house,” the lawsuit said, “so she lived nearby with her daughter for a week and then at her son’s home in Houston for several months.

Ms. Johnson has since returned to her home, but she is considering moving because she was “anxious living alone at home and afraid to answer the door,” the lawsuit said.

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