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Tue, Jan. 28

Howell files suit vs. PANT, officials

The claim, as well as the lawsuit, is against the Prescott Area Narcotics Task Force (PANT) management committee, which includes Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, police chiefs from nine police departments, Yavapai County Sheriff Buck Buchanan, Arizona Department of Public Safety Lt. James Gerard, and seven police officers who were assigned to PANT at the time of the incident.

"We are now moving on a civil case," Shaw said, adding that they are in the beginning stages of discovery and deposition. "I've already sent my request to serve documents" related to PANT policy and training manuals, its procedures and intergovernmental agreement, Shaw added.

The lawsuit alleges that officers obtained a search warrant based on inadequate probable cause because "it was based upon an unreliable informant and insufficient and untrue facts obtained by (PANT officer Kel) Palguta."

Based on that information, a judge issued a warrant for a search of Bryan Keith Kelly, who has never lived or resided in the plaintiff's home, the complaint alleges.

In addition, the officers entered Howell's home without proper knocking and announcing of police presence with a reasonable waiting period, the lawsuit states.

Not knowing who was breaking into his home because he, his wife Patti and their son were asleep, Howell fired a round in self defense and defense of property and family, the lawsuit states.

The officers then forcibly arrested Howell and detained his wife and their teen-age son and questioned them in a rough and hostile manner, which inflicted physical injuries, the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit spells out 10 different claims for relief including unreasonable search and seizure, excessive force, false arrest, assault and battery, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, which the plaintiffs allegedly suffered as a result of the officers' conduct.

Shaw said the defendants' lawyers may call his client to give a deposition, but added that "He (Howell) has the right to take the Fifth (Amendment) so long as the criminal case is pending."

Shaw said he doesn't plan to call many witnesses to testify because he and Ray already interviewed a number of them when they gathered information for the criminal case.

Prescott City Attorney John Moffitt, who is representing Police Chief Robert Reed, Assistant Police Chief Dave Benner and former PANT Sgt. Pete Hodap, said "it is going to take a number of months of intensive discovery before we can make a call whether it is a valid case."

"From what we can see in the lawsuit as well as the original claim, we do not think that our officers did anything wrong," he added.

James Jellison and Larry Crown, attorneys from an insurance pool who are representing Polk, Buchanan and Prescott Valley Police Chief Dan Schatz, were unavailable for comment.

The defendants have 20 days from the day they receive the complaint to file their answer and 60 days to respond to the documents' request. Shaw said the defendants from the tri-city area were served on Dec. 30, while others received the complaint on Jan. 2.

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