Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Breaking, Entering And...

Surely one of the most troubling stories I've read.

A Botetourt County couple is seeking $10 million from a sheriff's deputy they say stole into their 10-year-old daughter's bedroom one night this month and terrified the girl.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Roanoke yesterday, Mark and Cheryl Hunsberger said Mark Hunsberger bolted into their screaming daughter's bedroom at 1:16 a.m. Feb. 2 to find Deputy J.A. Wood, in uniform, aiming a flashlight at the girl while another man tried to yank the bed covers off her.

"The child was terrified, and Mrs. Hunsberger spent some time comforting their daughter," according to the lawsuit. "When Mrs. Hunsberger said something about calling the police, Deputy Wood responded, chillingly, 'I am the police.'"

The couple have resorted to the lawsuit over apparent police inaction over their complaint.

Botetourt Sheriff Ronnie Sprinkle said the lawsuit does not tell the whole story. "We had a reason to be there, but I'm not going to say any more."

Wood told the Hunsbergers he had knocked on the door for 30 minutes but no one answered, yet the Hunsbergers heard no knocking, according to the suit.

The lawsuit states that neither Wood nor the man who accompanied him had a warrant to enter the Hunsberger home. The suit seeks $10 million as compensation for the violation of their constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure.

Mark Hunsberger ordered Wood and the unidentified man, named as defendant John Doe, to leave, and the Hunsbergers later learned that "several other deputies apparently waited outside the Hunsberger home while Deputy Wood and John Doe broke into the Hunsberger home," the suit states.

The suit states that, after ordering Wood and the other man to leave, Mark Hunsberger dialed 911 to report a break-in. A deputy came to the home and took their criminal complaint, but the Hunsbergers have heard nothing about it since, according to the suit. The suit also states that the couple now believe the deputy who responded to their call might be related to the unidentified man who accompanied Wood.

The suit states that the Hunsbergers received a letter from the sheriff's office saying the incident would be investigated, but they have received no word of the inquiry; nor have they received any explanation as to why Wood was in their daughter's bedroom.

If police did have good reason then why have they not needed to enter the home again? This story stinks- and the fact that a police officer was able to go into a child's bedroom while an unidentified accomplice tried pull the covers off her- without even a warrant or any apparent consequences is outrageous. And it begs the question- what would have happened if the parents had been out of the house for the evening?

Who watches the watchers?

UPDATE - More details here.

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