of USE-ALL-TOYS!!! department
Is it possible to arrest an unarmed homeless without destroying the residence in which he is hiding? For the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and Clovis PD (and far too many other law enforcement agencies), the question remains rhetorical.
David Jessen’s farm felt the full and combined force of two law enforcement agencies and all their playthings last June. According to his court case [PDF], a homeless man was evicted from a vacant house nearby after he was discovered sleeping in the closet. He left peacefully but was soon spotted by the construction crew who broke into Jessen’s house. The construction worker, God bless him, called the police because he thought they could to help.
Jessen was notified shortly thereafter. He drove home to find four cars from the sheriff’s office parked outside his residence (one of them “on the lawn” because of course it was) and a deputy yelling at his house through a megaphone . According to deputies, the homeless man refused to come out and threatened to shoot anyone who entered. Jessen was asked if he had any guns in the house. He replied yes, but two were unloaded and had no ammunition and the third was hidden so well “only he could find it”.
Jessen was asked to move his van and leave the area for his own safety. The deputies also asked for a house key and the opening of the garage before he left. Jessen and his family drove to a friend’s house about 400 yards away. Several hours later, he was told he could go home. Here’s what Jessen came back to:
As David drove home from Jensen, David counted approximately fifty-five (55) or more law enforcement vehicles. David was then ordered to park along Rolinda Avenue north of his home and walk home. On his way home, David was stopped by someone from SWAT who told him the “operation” was over. A second Fresno County Sheriff Deputy, whom Jessen is informed and believes and, based on information and belief, was a lieutenant, handed David a card. and said “we have insurance for that.”
We’ll stop there for a moment and consider the effect it must have on the recipients. This is basically a message telling them that their stuff has been damaged/destroyed. Not that the law enforcement agency cares. That could mean higher bounties, but every officer involved still has a decent residence to go home to, unlike “civilians” like Jessen, whose homes are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Insurance in the hands of officers like these is an authorization slip rather than a liability stamp.
A third Fresno County Sheriff Deputy showed David the damage and David was overwhelmed with the severity and extent of the damage to the residence. The damage to the Jessens’ residence was massive and extensive. The extent of the damage to the Jessens’ home was unreasonable and unwarranted, unnecessarily implemented to capture a singular homeless, surrounded, unarmed, starving, who posed no danger to anyone and who cooperated in leaving the residence of the neighbors earlier.
Here’s the full list of what local law enforcement deployed to handle a single resilient homeless person:
a. Used over 50 vehicles;
b. A K-9 unit,
vs. Two helicopters;
D. two ambulances;
e. A fire truck;
F. A crisis negotiation team arriving in a large motorhome, which the claimants are told and believe included communications equipment and other support equipment;
g. A robot;
h. Killer team; and
I. Rescue SWAT Team – Clovis City Police.
Now the officers might have feared the homeless man had armed himself with one of Jessen’s guns, despite his assurances that they were well concealed/unloaded. Even so, they had many options available that didn’t include doing all the things they did instead.
a. Ripped out the wrought iron door and interior door of the Jessens’ home office;
b. I removed the wall from the foundation office;
vs. Broken office window;
D. Gassed the bathroom near the office;
e. Broken the sliding glass door of the house for the entrance of the “robot”;
F. Ripped the wrought iron door of the laundry room;
g. Gassed the laundry room;
h. Flash bombarded the laundry room and the business office, smashing six (6) windows;
I. Gassed the kitchen;
d. Gassed the main bathroom;
k. Gassed the sewing room;
I. Gassed the bedroom in the northeast corner of the house; and
M. Destroyed over 90 feet of exterior fence with a SWAT vehicle.
For reasons known only to the sheriff’s department, a deputy continued to search for a handgun hidden in Jessen’s collapsed residence. He was only able to “recover” after receiving specific instructions over the phone from Jessen to locate him. All weapons were immediately returned to Jessen, making this latest search – which took place nearly two hours after Jessen received an insurance card and a smashed home – particularly pointless.
In total, the intruding homeless man cost Jessen a window, an ice cream bar, milk, and half a tomato. According to the lawsuit allegations, the two law enforcement agencies recorded more than $150,000 in damaged property. Jessen alleges a long list of constitutional violations, but also something a bit more, if true:
All of these military-like activities were implemented and completed without Jessen’s request, approval or consent. Jessens is informed and believes the training operation was undertaken because the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and/or the Clovis Police Department had, by accident, found the perfect location to conduct a training exercise in a rural house.on a dead end street in rural Fresno County where ‘civilians’ were not present, ‘civilians’ were not going to congregate, ‘civilians’ were not going to observe or interfere with the assault military training against the Jessen home and the situation posed no risk of injury to the officers. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and the Clovis Police Department took this chance opportunity to participate in a live-action training exercise..
Unless something startling emerges from the discovery during litigation, this claim is unlikely to survive. And chances are it won’t survive a first reading. Jessen is probably safer staying in the constitutional lane. But there’s a shred of truth to the allegation, even though there was no provable intent to use Jessen’s house as a SWAT team training ground. Law enforcement spends a lot of money on tools and tactics that are rarely deployed. Recognizing a chance to take out all the toys for a ride isn’t necessarily a conspiracy…it’s just what happens when you have more power than restraint. It’s what turns a “dead end” in which the suspect is armed with half an ice cream bar into a virtually unusable house.
Filed Under: clovis, david jessen, fresno, police, police abuse