Police entered the home on June 21st, searching for a suspect who they say had made online threts against the police.
After searching the house, and arresting the people inside, police discovered the actual suspect did not live there and had accessed the home's wi-fi remotely.
Now, the owner of that home, Louise Milan, has filed a lawsuit saying police violated her rights by performing the search. The lawsuit states officers' actions were reckless, intentional and malicious. It also calls for the city to pay for damages and injuries, but does not list a specific dollar amount.
Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin responded to the lawsuit in this statement:
As most of you probably know, we are being sued regarding the investigation into online threats made against our officers and the community. There has been a lot of public discussion about the use of our SWAT team during the investigation. While we look forward to our day in court, we would like to make a statement to reassure the citizens of Evansville that we are a professional agency. Our actions during that investigation, while not popular with everyone, were based on information gathered from multiple sources. Some of the details of the investigation have never been discussed publically because the criminal case was still active. Although the suspect in the criminal case has just pleaded guilty, this civil suit will prevent us from releasing some of those details until we go to court.
Here are some of the concerns we want to address:
During this and any investigation, we follow the information. We went to the house because that is the address the threats came from. Despite the wording used by local media, we did not go to the "wrong house" nor did we "mistakenly" go to that house. The suspect admitted he was using that IP address to post the threats. That is where the information led us.
The SWAT team was used because of the nature of the threat. It is easy to question this decision after the fact because we did not encounter any threats while securing the home. We feel fortunate that nobody tried to harm us, but now that is being used against us. Our SWAT team is used to secure houses for search warrants on a regular basis. We are glad they rarely end in violence. But just because they do not end in violence does not mean the use of the SWAT team was excessive.
We repaired the damages to the home that day. Someone else's criminal behavior created this event. We knew the suspect would not come down and repair the damages. We repaired the damages because walking away and saying "sorry about your luck" was not the right thing to do. Notice the criminal who created the incident is not being sued.
We included the media because the public has an interest in what we do. You only have to look at Evansville Watch to see the level of interest in what is going on around Evansville. People have long complained about the veil of secrecy they felt the police have operated under. We were trying to remove that perception and have received negative feedback because of it. We have done numerous other things in the last year to open up to the public and allowing the media to be there was just one of those things.
We ask that people allow all of the facts to come out in court before passing judgment. We appreciate the community involvement in our efforts to make Evansville a great place to live. We could not do it alone.