Criminal Justice

Will Civil Rights Leader Arnwine Sue over Police Raid? Her Lawyer Won't Say

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A lawyer representing Barbara Arnwine, the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, won’t say whether her client is planning to file a lawsuit over a police raid on her home three days before Thanksgiving.

But Atlanta lawyer C.K. Hoffler, who is representing Arnwine along with Florida plaintiffs lawyer Willie Gary, does say her client isn’t letting the matter die. “We can’t discuss our strategy going forward, but she does intend to fight this,” Hoffler tells the ABA Journal. “I think that’s the best way of putting it.”

Arnwine has told radio interviewers that police held her and other family members at gunpoint during a raid that lasted three hours, according to a report on Police refused to show a warrant, Arnwine said, and didn’t believe her when she identified herself as a lawyer. When she cited her Fourth Amendment rights, Arnwine told interviewers, one officer allegedly responded, “The Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply here.”

Arnwine “asked for a copy of the warrant and they basically told her that she needed to get out of the way,” Hoffler tells the ABA Journal. No one, including Arnwine’s 80-year-old mother, was allowed to use the bathroom during the three-hour ordeal, Hoffler says. Other family members living at the home include Arnwine’s brother, who is a disabled vet; her son; and two nephews.

Hoffler says the alleged civil rights abuse is the “ultimate irony” given Arnwine’s position as “an advocate for the voiceless.”

Police searching the home were looking for items related to a Nov. 4 armed robbery at a Popeyes restaurant, according to a search warrant (PDF) unsealed Nov. 25 and released by the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department. An arrest warrant (PDF) names Curtis Lamar Ford as the suspect. Hoffler confirmed that Ford is Arnwine’s nephew.

Police conduct during the raid “was just atrocious, even if arguably they had probable cause with respect to the nephew”—a point that is not being conceded, Hoffler said.

According to the arrest warrant for Ford, police found a skeleton mask during the search resembling one worn by one of two armed robbers at the restaurant. Officers also found a drawstring bag containing coins like the one used by the robbery suspect, the warrant says.

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