EVANSVILLE – SWAT officers raided a 68-year-old Evansville woman’s home, ordered her to the floor at gunpoint, and handcuffed and paraded her in front of neighbors and TV cameras because they wrongly believed she was behind a series of violent online threats against police, a federal lawsuit contends.
Investigators later learned the anonymous threats had not been made by the woman, Louise Milan, but by a suspected gang leader who lived nearby and who admitted in court he had used his smartphone to connect to Milan’s wireless Internet connection. Milan had not protected the connection with a password.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Louise Milan said the officers violated her constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure, that officers were negligent and that she has suffered emotional distress.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Evansville accuses police of callous indifference to citizens’ rights and alleges officers acted with reckless disregard by failing to verify the source of the threats before taking action.
Police seeking the source of the anonymous threats traced them to Milan’s Internet router and executed a search warrant at her home on June 21, smashing a window and storm door and hurling in two flash-bang grenades then forcing their way inside, the lawsuit said. Only Milan and her 18-year-old daughter, Stephanie, were home at the time.
The police had brought a local television news crew in tow to memorialize the raid, according to the lawsuit.
Milan and her daughter were ordered onto the floor at gunpoint, handcuffed and paraded in front of their neighbors into police vehicles before being detained and questioned, according to court documents. Police confiscated the women’s computers and a cellphone.
Police Chief Billy Bolin, who is named in the suit, told the Evansville Courier & Press that investigators had traced the threats, which mentioned using guns and explosives, to an Internet address associated with the home and had no way of knowing they hadn’t been made from inside.
We don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know what is going to happen. We have to act as if it is going to be a serious threat, Bolin said.
The Milans’ suit contends that force was unnecessary because there was no visible threat at the time of the raid, but Bolin said police have to act in a way that ensures the safety of officers.
Bolin said the city has already paid for damage to the house that was caused by the raid.
I’ve met with the Milan family several times. They are nice people, Bolin said.