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Lawsuit Accuses Police of Harassment

November 13, 1998|S.J. CAHN

The city of Simi Valley and the city's Police Department have been accused of violating the civil rights of two residents who say they were harassed and illegally detained during a search of their home in February.

According to a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Oct. 19 on behalf of Jose Mena and his daughter, Iris, Simi Valley police officers entered the Mena home in the 1300 block of Patricia Street without a valid search warrant, "destroying property unnecessarily, ransacking it, pointing guns at plaintiff Iris Mena."

The suit names the city of Simi Valley, Police Chief Randy Adams and Officers Darin Muehler and Robert Brill as defendants.

City Atty. David Hirsch said nothing the police did was improper and the city plans to fight the suit.

The Menas' attorney, James S. Muller, said police on Feb. 3 were searching for a suspect who was renting a room in the Menas' house as part of the city's routine gang sweeps.

Because the officers knew who they were after, the suit alleges, the warrant "was overbroad, obtained in bad faith . . . [and] not supported by probable cause."

According to Iris Mena, who was 18 at the time of the incident, she and her father did not know the suspect well and were surprised when police said he was a suspected gang member.

Once inside the house, Muller added, police refused an offer to unlock doors and instead broke their way into the rooms.

Also during the search, the police "detained and arrested plaintiff Iris Mena without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity," according to the suit.

Muller said those allegations are based on the police handcuffing Iris Mena for more than an hour during the search.

Hirsch said police records of the search will prove the charges are false.

The suit also charges the city and police with engaging in a pattern of harassment of minority residents.

Although the suit does not include evidence of any such pattern, Muller said he included those charges so he could question city officials and police officers about their conduct in an effort to determine whether race-based harassment exists in Simi Valley.

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