In one of the most egregious examples of police excess and violation of law perpetrated by HPD in recent times, two separate security systems from two different homeowners caught an HPD police officer and another uniformed officer illegally break into a Harris County home, destroy their surveillance system, illegally search the home with no one there, illegally go through their mail, and leave the home with the door open before the homeowners arrived back to their residence. All of this illegal activity, conducted without probable cause, without a search warrant, without any permission from anyone, and the destruction of the homeowners private property, including their security system, was captured on the homeowners backup system and by a neighbors system as well. In addition, the activities occurred outside the city limits of the City of Houston.
The homeowners brought the highly disturbing proof to HPD officials who were dismissive of the charges in spite of the damning tapes. As a consequence of HPD officials failure to take appropriate remedial action, Robin Custer, the homeowner, filed suit on Thursday, March 02, 2017, through a team of attorneys from the Houston area led by well-known trial lawyer Brent Coon in Harris County State District Court.
On March 5th, 2015, Robin Custer’s husband arrived at their property in Highlands, Texas at 2:30 pm to find their home had been invaded, and their security cameras disabled. Robin Custer quickly left work and joined her husband at their home. Fortunately for the Custers, their security camera footage was saved to a DVR. In addition, the Custer’s neighbor had recorded security camera footage that also captured the events. Upon reviewing the DVR security footage of the day, the couple were shocked by what they saw.
The Custer's security camera videos, as well as the neighbor’s video, clearly shows a Houston Police Department (HPD) patrol unit pull into the family's driveway, with two officers exiting the car and surveying the Custer's home. One of the officers is seen in a Houston Police Department uniform, while the second officer is wearing a tactical vest marked “POLICE”. One of the officer's used his police flashlight to force open the couple's front door. Next the officer began walking around the house disabling each of the Custers’ security cameras. Both officers then entered the home for several minutes, then exited the property, removed the couple's mail and then left. The front door was left wide open by the officers. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Custer arrived home from work and the same HPD patrol unit was seen driving by the house with knowledge that the Custers were then at home. The officers never went back to speak to the Custers.
The lawsuit, filed by Brent Coon and Associates, and two other area law firms, is brought pursuant to various statutory and common law actions, most notably Sec. 42 USC §1983, entitled the Civil Rights Act, the critical language of which is as follows:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
Brent Coon, attorney in charge of the matter, was quoted as saying, “I am astonished by two things. First, that the very people who we as a community trust to protect us would ever engage in this type of illegal activity, and second, that their superiors did not seem to think it was a big deal when brought to their attention by the homeowners. This was a home invasion. Those words strike fear in every resident in every town in America. The mere thought that someone would trespass on private property without invitation, authority or notice, and then bust in without knocking or gaining permission, is a terrifying act of aggression. Had anyone been home, they would have been within their rights to shoot the invaders, and had firearms been engaged this incredible incident could have turned out much worse for all concerned. The officers didn’t belong there. They didn’t have a search warrant. The homeowners had done nothing wrong or illegal. The officers clearly desired to break in to the home knowing their conduct was illegal. They clearly thought they had covered their tracks by destroying the surveillance system at the residence. They were wrong. Had not the system had a backup, or a neighbors camera also capturing the activities, Ms. Custer would have ironically probably called the police to investigate”.
The plaintiff is suing for negligence and gross negligence as the officers committed various acts of negligence and caused physical and emotional injuries and damages to Plaintiff’s personal property.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and pursuant to Rule 47, the Plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary relief.
Click below to watch the actual video of the break in or to review a copy of the lawsuit.