A homeless couple is set to receive a $4.1 million award after a federal appeals court determined that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies violated their rights when they busted into a shack and fired 15 shots at them.
On Wednesday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the deputies violated the couple’s Fourth Amendment rights in 2010 when they stormed the shack, which was in the backyard of the home of a friend of Angel Mendez and Jennifer Garcia.
Mendez’s injuries from the shooting resulted in the amputation of his leg below the knee. Garcia, who was five months pregnant at the time, was shot in the back, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Police, who entered without a warrant, started firing when they saw a gun in the shack. It was actually a BB gun that Mendez used to chase off rats that entered the shack, the Times reported.
Deputies had insisted that the shack was not subjected to the Fourth Amendment, which deals with unlawful search and seizure. The federal judges disagreed, saying that the Amendment covers all structures that have links to a residence.
“The deputies here should have been aware that the shack in the backyard was being used as a separate residence,” Judge Ronald M. Gould wrote. “The deputies were told that a couple was living behind the house, and the shack itself was surrounded by an air conditioning unit, electric cord, water hose and clothes locker.”
The law enforcement officers were searching for a wanted parolee who had been seen in the neighborhood, the Times said.
The deputies also entered the main residence without a warrant, detaining its owner. The owner reportedly had no link to the parolee.
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