The Massachusetts State Police secured a search warrant for an apartment in Worcester; that warrant was based upon information received from a confidential informant that dangerous individuals had been observed in the residence and that firearms also were present in the apartment. The combination of dangerous individuals with access to firearms made the warrant a high risk endeavor, so the State Police contacted the Worcester Police Department in order to request that the Worcester Police Department SWAT team make entry into the residence so that the search warrant could be executed by the State Police.
The plaintiffs lived in the apartment at the time of the warrant execution. According to them, there were no weapons in the apartment and, while one of the targets of the warrant previously lived in the apartment, he had moved months earlier. The plaintiffs claimed that they were guilty of no wrongdoing and that their civil rights were violated when law enforcement officials broke open their door and entered the apartment with guns drawn in the early morning hours. The plaintiffs contended that they were treated harshly and improperly by law enforcement, including having guns pointed at them, having profanities uttered at them and, for some plaintiffs, having been handcuffed until the residence was secured.
RJA Attorney Andrew Gambaccini represented four members of the Worcester Police Department, one detective and three members of the SWAT team, in connection with the civil rights lawsuit in federal court. All claims against the detective were rejected on a motion to dismiss shortly after the filing of the action. The claims against the SWAT team members proceeded through discovery, after which point a dispositive motion for summary judgment was filed on behalf of those SWAT team members.
In a ruling issued on October 1, 2019, federal Judge Timothy Hillman granted the SWAT team members’ motion for summary judgment, ruling that the SWAT team members were authorized to make entry into the residence based upon a facially valid search warrant and that the actions of the SWAT team within the apartment, including the pointing of weapons and the handcuffing of plaintiffs, were appropriate, lawful and did not violate the rights of any of the plaintiffs. All of the civil rights and tort claims made by the plaintiffs against the defendants consequently were dismissed prior to trial.