City and Minister Settle Excessive Force Suit Against TPD

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UPDATED
By Julie Montanaro
September 22, 2014

A minister who sued Tallahassee Police for excessive force has agreed to settle the case just weeks before trial.

Kevin Hawkins claims officers held him and his children at gunpoint as they searched the wrong house looking for a marijuana grow house.

This is the video a jury will never see. It was taken by a member of the TAC team. It shows what happened when Tallahassee Police served a search warrant at a home on Idlewild Drive in August 2010.

The man on the ground is minister Kevin Hawkins.

"As soon as I opened the door, they snatched me out the door, slammed me down to the concrete," Hawkins said the day he filed the suit on September 27, 2013.

Hawkins talked to us about it last year. He says officers went on to hold his 15 year old daughter and nine year old son at gunpoint while they searched the home and ultimately realized the man they were looking for lived in the apartment behind the house.

"They didn't say anything. When they were done, they wrapped up what they wrapped up the way they wrapped it up and just simply left," Hawkins said in September 2013. "No mistake, no apologies given whatsoever."

Hawkins sued the city in federal court but decided to settle for 45-thousand dollars when he realized the trial could be delayed well beyond its October 6 date as officers fight for qualified immunity.

"I thought the case had strong jury appeal," Hawkins attorney James Cook said, "but when you are trying to get something like that behind you, the delay is agonizing."

Hawkins attorney says they have emails to prove officers knew about the apartment behind the home but did not include it a search warrant signed by the judge.

Police did not find any drugs at Hawkins' home and court records show they ultimately arrested the man who lived in the apartment behind the home for drug possession.

We tried to reach City Attorney Lew Shelley for a comment on the settlement, but have not yet received a response.

When the suit was first filed, Shelley said there was no record that indicates the house had been sub-divided and because the Hawkins family had just moved in, the utilities were not in their name.

"We had reason to believe that there were drugs and that there were guns in the house, and so we always respond in force when we believe that that those items are present for officers' safety, I do not believe that there was false imprisonment or illegal use of force," he said the day the suit was filed.


UPDATED
September 27, 2013
By Julie Montanaro

A minister is now suing the Tallahassee Police Department for excessive force saying officers held him and his two children up at gunpoint during a search of the wrong house.

The federal lawsuit was filed this morning.

Kevin Hawkins says he and his two children were home that day in August 2010. His daughter was in the shower, his son was in his room watching tv when he heard someone bang on the door.

"Open the door, we're gonna kick the blank blank blank down, open it now," Kevin Hawkins said as he recounted what happened. "As soon as I opened the door, they snatched me out the door, slammed me down to the concrete."

Police reports show officers had a search warrant for 1033 Idlewild after getting a tip there was a marijuana grow house "in an apartment behind the house."

Hawkins lawsuit contends that apartment - with the number 1033 and a half - had a separate entrance, a separate tenant and a separate utility account. The suit claims police had a name and a picture of the man they were looking for but confronted Hawkins at gunpoint anyway.

"It was a large armored looking vehicle facing the front door, long long black rifles, all of them had guns," Hawkins said.

Hawkins says the officers pointed those guns at his 15 year old daughter as she stepped out of the shower and then at his 9 year old son and held all the three under armed guard for nearly 45 minutes while they searched the house, never allowing the teenage girl to put on anything but a towel.

"Angry, frustrated, shocked, totally shocked that a mistake of this nature could happen with such danger involved," Hawkins said.

"Before they break into somebody's home - and that's what happened here - they should be very certain that they've done their work right, that they're going to the right place," Hawkins' attorney Stephen Masterson said.

Police didn't find any drugs at Hawkins' home.

When they wrapped up "they simply left," Hawkins said, "no mistake, no apologies given whatsoever."

The man who lived in the apartment behind the house came home while police were still there, arrest papers say. According to police reports, when officers searched the man's apartment, they found marijuana and prescription drugs and say the man admitted to recently dismantling a marijuana growing operation there.

Police ultimately arrested the man who lived in the apartment behind the house for drug possession. Attorneys say he was sentenced to two years on probation for it.

Tallahassee Police referred all questions about the search and the lawsuit to the city attorney.

Lew Shelley says the police did investigate and did get a lawful search warrant for 1033 Idlewild.

Shelley says there is no record that indicates the house had been sub-divided and because the Hawkins family had just moved in, the utlities were not in their name.

"We had reason to believe that there were drugs and that there were guns in the house, and so we always respond in force when we believe that that those items are present for officers' safety, I do not believe that there was false imprisonment or illegal use of force," he said.

Shelley says the city tried to resolve this case before it wound up in a lawsuit, but could not.

We'll let you know when the case is scheduled to be heard in federal court.


By: Julie Montanaro
September 27, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A Tallahassee minister has just filed an excessive force lawsuit against the Tallahassee Police Department.

He claims officers confronted him and his children at gunpoint, but searched the wrong house.

Kevin Hawkins filed the civil rights suit in federal court this morning. Hawkins says when he answered a knock at the door of his home on Idlewild Drive back in August 2010, officers threw him to the ground, cuffed him and then confronted his 9 and 15 year old children at gunpoint inside.

Hawkins says he tried to tell officers they had the wrong guy and the wrong house.


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