ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - An Albuquerque man and his wife have sued police and the chief of the department, alleging that officers violated their civil rights when they ordered them out of their home at gunpoint and put them in handcuffs.
Brendan Rogillio and his wife, Renee Diamond, claimed police ordered them out of their home at gunpoint in August 2010 after following a tip about a robbery in which a man stole cash and a digital scale from a store. The Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/Mfde77 ) that a woman who had gotten the license plate number from a truck involved in the robbery gave it to police, who used it to find Rogillio's address.
The couple was not involved in the robbery, and Rogillio didn't match the description of the Hispanic robbery suspect; Rogillio is fair-skinned and has strawberry blond hair.
Even so, police began surveillance on his home within a half-hour of the robbery and watched as Rogillio arrived home from an errand, chatted with a neighbor and went inside. Diamond got home 40 minutes later.
Police didn't obtain a search warrant but used a loudspeaker to order the couple out of the house with their hands in the air. Rogillio, a mechanical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, came out and was immediately handcuffed and questioned.
Diamond, an attorney, was showering when police ordered the couple out of the house, so she came out in a towel. She was handcuffed with her hands behind her back, and a female detective helped cover her when her towel kept slipping off, the lawsuit said. Diamond asked to be put into a police car so she wasn't exposed.
An officer then brought a witness to the home, who said Rogillio was not the man who committed the robbery.
The couple eventually was released, though the lawsuit claimed that police continued to point guns toward their home and followed Diamond inside.
Police deny wrongdoing, and their actions were upheld as reasonable by the Police Oversight Commission.
"Why order them out of their home?" the couple's attorney, Shannon Kennedy, said. "Why wait until he's home and make his wife emerge at gunpoint? At any point, they could have just walked up and said, 'Did you witness anything?' Instead they use it as an opportunity to play SWAT with an innocent couple."
The couple's lawsuit alleged that the department's administration has adopted a de facto policy allowing officers to use overwhelming force, such as pointing assault weapons at citizens, while maintaining that the intrusion is minimal.
The lawsuit names individual officers and leadership, including Chief Ray Schultz.
Supervisors at the Police Oversight Commission said that an "investigative detention," such as in this case, does not require probable cause.
The city acknowledged in a court filing that officers did not attempt to get an arrest warrant or a search warrant. But it says that no warrant was required.
And although Rogillio may not match the description given by one witness as Hispanic, the city said that at least one witness gave a different description.
The city acknowledges some of the facts but denies claims of unlawful entry, warrantless arrest, excessive force and overall improper training.
"They did not have any personal involvement or knowledge of any areas of constitutional violations as alleged ... and therefore have no liability," the city's court filing said.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Operation Gingerbread arrived in Albuquerque Tuesday for an event to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
A Colorado company is recalling 45 tons of meat and poultry products a federal agency says were produced under unsanitary conditions.
An Albuquerque man is behind bars accused of holding up an assisted living home.
KRQE News 13 is hosting a phone bank for Toys for Tots! To help and make a donation please call 505-768-2299 between 4 and 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Santa Claus made a special trip to Presbyterian Hospital Tuesday to visit some sick kids, and he made quite an entrance arriving by helicopter.
Meet Meggie, this week's Pet of the Week. If you're interested in Meggie or any other furry four-legged friend, call the Animal Humane Association of New Mexico at visit the Animal Humane website.