A federal jury has awarded $30,001 to a Powell woman, finding the Powell Police Department used her a human shield in violation of her constitutional rights during a search of her home for drugs two years ago.
The jury also found that two officers who deployed a flashbang in the home’s master bedroom did so in a potentially unsafe manner.
A federal jury has awarded $30,001 to Tricia Wachsmuth in her civil rights lawsuit against the Powell Police Deparment, finding that officers unsafely deployed a flashbang and used her as a human shield while executing a search warrant at her home two years ago.
The jury rejected Wachsmuth's claims that the officers didn't knock and announce their presence and immediately entered the East North Street home. The jury determined police knocked, announced, and waited a reasonable amount of time before ramming open the door and that their plan to enter was constitutional.
Plaintiff requests $590,000, defense asks for dismissal
At press time Wednesday, a federal jury was mulling whether the Powell Police Department violated the constitutional rights of a city resident when they searched her and her husband’s home for drugs two years ago.
The case was handed to an eight-member jury just after 1 p.m., following 11 days of testimony and arguments in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming in Cheyenne in a lawsuit brought by the woman, Tricia Wachsmuth.
The Powell police officers who deployed a flashbang during a 2009 search of a Powell couple’s home for drugs did not know exactly where the device would land before deploying it, but they were comfortable no one was in the area, they testified last week in a federal civil rights trial over the police department’s actions in the search.
Two of the Powell police officers who participated in the 2009 drug search of Tricia and Bret Wachsmuth’s Powell home say they were concerned Tricia Wachsmuth was allowed to lead the officers into the home’s basement before it was cleared. However, they and the other officers who entered the basement that night agree that Tricia Wachsmuth went willingly and was not forced to do so.
Plaintiff Tricia Wachsmuth continued to present her case against the city of Powell and 11 Powell police officers last week, eliciting testimony from a Park County Sheriff’s lieutenant who believed police were using too much force in searching the woman’s home and from a police-practices expert who said police made a “mountain out of a molehill.”
Opposing attorneys and the woman suing the city of Powell and 11 Powell police officers for alleged civil rights violations laid out their cases for an eight-member federal jury in Cheyenne on Tuesday.
On Feb. 24, 2009, Powell police officers executed a search warrant for a marijuana grow operation at the East North Street home of Bret and Tricia Wachsmuth. During that search, they used a battering ram to knock down the door and deployed a flashbang in the master bedroom.
A Powell woman’s claims that the Powell Police Department used excessive force in searching her home for illegal drugs are being presented to a federal jury in Cheyenne this week.
The jury will be asked to help determine whether Powell police violated Tricia Wachsmuth’s constitutional rights in seizing two marijuana plants in a February 2009 search of her and her husband Bret’s home.