Henderson police believed family was sharing their movements with suspect

Henderson police officers arrested members of the Mitchell family they believed were communicating the position of a SWAT team to a barricaded armed suspect.

The Mitchells, who last week filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the police department and others, said they had done nothing wrong when Henderson police broke into their two homes without warrants on July 10, 2011.

The family refused to let SWAT officers use their homes, in the 300 block of Evening Side Avenue, near Horizon Ridge Parkway and the Las Vegas Beltway, to perform surveillance in what authorities suspected was an ongoing domestic violence incident involving a neighbor.

Officers then manhandled Linda Mitchell and arrested her husband, Michael Mitchell, and her son, Anthony Mitchell, charging them with obstructing a police officer, family members allege.

Police also shot Anthony Mitchell and the family’s dog, Sam, with a “pepperball gun,” similar to a paintball gun that holds pepper spray.

However, the incident and arrest reports for Anthony Mitchell and his father, Michael Mitchell, released Tuesday by police paint a different picture of the incident.

Police said Michael Mitchell on three occasions used his cell phone to communicate law enforcement positions to Phillip White, Jr., the target of the domestic violence investigation. The two men were friends, police said.

Officers said Michael Mitchell also set off his car alarms to “distract, annoy, and obstruct the emergency response” and refused to comply with their commands to stay inside his home.

When officers contacted Michael Mitchell on the phone he “went off on tangents that included the North and South in the Civil War,” according to police.

Anthony Mitchell, who lived across the street and a couple of houses down from his parents, also refused to listen to officers who asked him to evacuate and was believed to be communicating police positions to White, according to the reports.

A North Las Vegas police report showed Anthony Mitchell had extended his middle finger toward the officers and was taking photos or video of the officers positions. North Las Vegas SWAT assisted Henderson police in the case.

And when officers rammed their way into Anthony’s home they found him wearing body armor, with numerous guns and bullets around the house. The officers said they shot him with the pepperball gun while he was lying on the ground, because he refused to drop a cell phone and show his hands to officers.

The reports, totalling 17-pages, were redacted of any information about White and his case, because it was sealed.

The Mitchells’ lawyer, Frank Cofer, said the police reports should be viewed with skepticism. The charges against Anthony and Michael were “meritless” and dismissed with prejudice once presented in Henderson Municipal Court, Cofer said.

Henderson police spokesman Keith Paul said the department does not comment on pending lawsuits.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, said the Mitchells’ constitutional rights were violated, including their Third Amendment right that prohibits soldiers from quartering in a home without the homeowner’s consent.

The lawsuit names five Henderson police officers, the city of Henderson and its then-Police Chief Jutta Chambers, as well as unnamed North Las Vegas police officers and their chief.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, but does not state a specific amount of money.

Cofer has said the unusual tactic of citing a Third Amendment rights violation fits the case, even though Henderson police are not a military force.

The lawyer said that police forces throughout the country, including local law enforcement, are employing military weapons and tactics and the facts of the Mitchells’ case shows the spirit of the Third Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was violated.

The Mitchells want the case to go to a jury, Cofer said.

The lawsuit is littered with language that would indicate a military operation was under way in the residential neighborhood.

Police told the Mitchells they needed to “occupy” their home in order to gain a “tactical advantage” against their neighbor, the lawsuit stated.

Police never obtained warrants, but entered both homes and rummaged through the Mitchells’ belongings, including opening cabinets and using a water dispenser, according to the lawsuit.

Linda Mitchell was forcibly pulled away from her home when one officer grabbed the arm of the physically frail woman, the lawsuit said.

Anthony and his father, Michael, were jailed for about nine hours at the Henderson Detention Center before they were bailed out.

Meanwhile, White, the man at the center of the reported domestic violence incident that sparked the standoff with police, was arrested on one count each of domestic battery-first offense and coercion.

However, Henderson Municipal Court records show that on Nov. 1, 2011, both charges against White were dismissed with prejudice and that the case was sealed.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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