Worse Police Search Ever?


I’ve been reporting on the rampant misconduct and abuse in America’s law enforcement agencies for nearly a decade now and I’ve written about some horrifying stories. This may be the most blatantly abusive instance of an illegal search I’ve ever encountered. Try not to cringe and become enraged reading this:

The incident began January 2, 2013 after David Eckert finished shopping at the Wal-Mart in Deming. According to a federal lawsuit, Eckert didn’t make a complete stop at a stop sign coming out of the parking lot and was immediately stopped by law enforcement.

Eckert’s attorney, Shannon Kennedy, said in an interview with KOB that after law enforcement asked him to step out of the vehicle, he appeared to be clenching his buttocks. Law enforcement thought that was probable cause to suspect that Eckert was hiding narcotics in his anal cavity. While officers detained Eckert, they secured a search warrant from a judge that allowed for an anal cavity search…

While there, Eckert was subjected to repeated and humiliating forced medical procedures. A review of Eckert’s medical records, which he released to KOB, and details in the lawsuit show the following happened:

1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.

Throughout this ordeal, Eckert protested and never gave doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center consent to perform any of these medical procedures.

If these allegations are true, every single one of the officers involved and the judge who signed the warrant should be removed from their jobs and brought up on torture charges. Every single doctor involved should be stripped of their medical licenses immediately.

Comments

  1. Trebuchet says

    You left out the part where the doctors sent him a large bill afterwards, for his “treatment”.

  2. zero6ix says

    My local news pretty much confirms that Eckert will be suing the Deming police into oblivion. In their defense, the cops say that a sniffer dog smelled “something” on his seat, so that’s their flimsy umbrella for the oncoming shit storm.

    And New Mexico used to be so cool. As a designated driver, I was pulled over for a “rolling” stop once, but the cop was all, “You keep driving those drunks home, because you’re responsible.” I suppose it’s a good thing I wasn’t clenching.

  3. cptdoom says

    I’d like to know where the Justice Department is in this case. Clearly the local authorities cannot be trusted to investigate this series of crimes, but one would think the civil rights violations in this incident would be sufficient to have the federal government looking at criminal charges. It’s pretty much a given that Eckert will be getting a large sum of $$, if only from the “medical professionals” who compromised their ethics entirely to participate in this travesty, but that’s not enough. They should do jail time – doctors, police, the judge, the lot of them.

  4. unbound says

    Probably a safe bet that the victim wasn’t white.

    Of course, everyone except the supreme court knows that the drug dogs have an extremely high false-positive rate and are actually mostly useless.

    The bill was the most astonishing part to me.

    So very, very many people that need to be fired in this. Police officers involved, judge involved, hospital personnel involved who performed the search (some did refuse at least), hospital administrators for sending the victim the bill.

    What country do I live in? I’m really not sure anymore…

  5. says

    It’s worse than that. They actually did this to someone else!

    Police reports state deputies stopped Timothy Young because he turned without putting his blinker on.

    Again, Leo the K-9 alerts on Young’s seat.

    Young is taken to the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, and just like Eckert, he’s subjected to medical procedures including x-rays of his stomach and an anal exam.

    Again, police found nothing, and again the procedures were done without consent, and in a county not covered by the search warrant.

    We’ve learned more about that drug dog, Leo, that seems to get it wrong pretty often. He might be getting it wrong because he’s not even certified in New Mexico.

    If you take a look at the dog’s certification, the dog did get trained. But his certification to be a drug dog expired in April 2011. K-9s need yearly re-certification courses, and Leo is falling behind.

  6. daved says

    It gets even better — the searches were done outside the hours in which the warrant was valid (it had expired by then), and they were done outside the jurisdiction (wrong county, I think) in which the warrant was issued.

    It turns out that Eckert did have some sort of criminal record involving previous drug charges, though apparently at least some of those charges were dismissed. Anyway, I think we can count on his collecting a very large amount of money from all parties involved, though I’m still betting that virtually nobody loses a job over this, except maybe Eckert.

  7. Abby Normal says

    I’m impressed with the new professionalism in today’s police force. In my day they’d have just raped him with a billy club and maybe, if he was lucky, they’d let him see a doctor afterward.

  8. A Hermit says

    You left out the part where the doctors sent him a large bill afterwards, for his “treatment”.

    I thought you were joking before I watched the video…

    I hope he gets everything those doctors own in the lawsuit.

  9. Pteryxx says

    It turns out that Eckert did have some sort of criminal record involving previous drug charges, though apparently at least some of those charges were dismissed.

    If you’re going by the CNN article for that one, mostly it’s based on police statements they made to get the search warrant:

    Eckert was told he could go home after a third officer issued him a traffic citation. But before he did, Eckert voluntarily consented to a search of him and his vehicle, the affidavit states. A K-9 dog subsequently hit on a spot in the Dodge’s driver’s seat, though no drugs were found.

    “Hildalgo County K-9 officer did inform me that he had dealt with Mr. Eckert on a previous case and stated that Mr. Eckert was known to insert drugs into his anal cavity and had been caught in Hidalgo County with drugs in his anal cavity,” the affidavit said.

    While CNN could not immediately corroborate that claim, a search of Eckert’s criminal history found he’s been arrested several times on drug possession charges, though many of those charges were dismissed.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/06/justice/new-mexico-search-lawsuit/

    But according to Eckert’s lawsuit, on a previous stop he asked the officer “am I being detained” and had his car seized and a drug dog sent to alert on it (and no drugs were found, natch.) Having a dog alert was apparently enough to put ‘suspected drug carrier’ in his file, to make it more likely he’d get searched on any subsequent stop.

    See also:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2013/02/22/supreme-court-gets-it-wrong-on-drug-dogs/

    For example, in a survey of drug dogs used by police departments in suburban Chicago published last year, the Chicago Tribune found that when a police dog alerted to the presence of drugs during a traffic stop, a subsequent search turned up narcotics just 44 percent of the time. In stops involving Hispanic drivers, the dogs’ success rate dropped to 27 percent.

    This raises some interesting questions: Why are drug dogs more likely to submit an innocent motorist to the indignity of a thorough roadside search if the motorist happens to be Hispanic? Are drug dogs racist? Do they racially profile? Of course not. But their handlers probably do.

  10. rory says

    It’s hard to imagine how I’d react to such a horrible violation, but I like to think I’d be reasonable. I’d accept a settlement with no monetary damages, if every single person involved was immediately fired, and every doctor or medical care provider involved had their license revoked. Methinks I’d end up with the money.

  11. iknklast says

    I’d like to know where the Justice Department is in this case

    They were too busy reading Eckert’s e-mail to take any action.

  12. says

    I am going to start marketing to police departments a line drug detecting coins. You flip it and if it lands with pot leaf side up, then there is reasonable suspicion that the driver has drugs on him or in the car. If it lands with the thumbs up side up, then the driver clean.

    This device is 50% accurate, which is a good 6% higher than drug dogs. It does not require feeding or housing, either. You can pet it and say “good boy”, but that is optional.

  13. tbp1 says

    Try not to cringe and become enraged reading this:

    Actually I think getting enraged is pretty much morally obligatory in this case.

  14. smrnda says

    The police have NO accountability to the general public. I think every single police officer should be audio and video recorded during ALL moments in which they are on official duty, that all of these recordings should be available online, and that the public should be permitted to vote off the force cops abusing their authority. Let’s subject them to the same intrusions into rights as they subject the general public too.

    Aside from this being government sanctioned rape, it’s also the case that a decent sum of $ was spent raping this citizen.

    Also, any doctors who have participated in this behavior have violated the ethics of their profession and should have their licenses revoked.

  15. says

    3 enemas, 2 digital probes, 2 x-rays, and colonoscopy in a pear tree. At least give them points for persistence.

    At what point do you think someone, one of the doctors, a nurse, or one of the cops, finally suggested, “Hey, maybe he isn’t hiding drugs in his ass.”?

  16. magistramarla says

    I don’t know how a trainer could get a dog to not sniff a seat with interest.
    My GSD is a highly trained mobility service dog, but he still loves to go up to a chair or couch and take a long, happy sniff. I try to keep him from doing this in someone’s home or when we go to an important event, but it’s just part of being a dog, for goodness sake.

  17. gopiballava says

    Somebody needs to explain to the dog’s handler that a dog sniffing a butt is not “alerting” to drugs.

  18. eric says

    @15:

    I like to think I’d be reasonable. I’d accept a settlement with no monetary damages, if every single person involved was immediately fired, and every doctor or medical care provider involved had their license revoked. Methinks I’d end up with the money.

    That is not being reasonable; reasonable in this case is getting all of that, plus reasonable compensation to make up for your suffering, plus an additional punitive award on top so that future police officers and doctors will stop, think, and question orders for horrific conduct rather than simply following orders.

  19. timberwoof says

    Some drug-sniffing dogs consciously lie.

    Several years ago there was the US version of a BBC program “Airport.” A drug-sniffing dog went totally apeshit over a styrofoam container. He was pointing and indicating serious drugs in it. So the cops opened it up … and found frozen crayfish. Although legal at the time to ship, the cops confiscated the shipment.

  20. pocketnerd says

    Thus spake ZaraPteryxx:

    But according to Eckert’s lawsuit, on a previous stop he asked the officer “am I being detained” and had his car seized and a drug dog sent to alert on it (and no drugs were found, natch.) Having a dog alert was apparently enough to put ‘suspected drug carrier’ in his file, to make it more likely he’d get searched on any subsequent stop.

    Sounds to me like the local cops had Eckert marked as a troublemaker (e.g. insufficiently deferent) and were looking for an opportunity to teach him his place.

  21. says

    @29

    By the last enema all he’d be shitting out was the enema itself and some of the mucusy stuff that lines the rectum and colon. Very uncomfortable and *very* unhealthy.

  22. greg1466 says

    …after law enforcement asked him to step out of the vehicle, he appeared to be clenching his buttocks. Law enforcement thought that was probable cause to suspect that Eckert was hiding narcotics in his anal cavity.

    Gee. I would have thought it was probable cause to suspect he had to go to the bathroom.

  23. Ichthyic says

    Of course, everyone except the supreme court knows that the drug dogs have an extremely high false-positive rate and are actually mostly worse than useless.

    FTFY

    it’s not even that dogs have a worse track record than flipping a coin, it’s that dogs can be used to deliberately ABUSE search and seizure rules. you can’t even do that with a coin (well, unless it’s a two-headed one).

    the SCOTUS decision upholding the use of dogs is just another in a long line of bad decisions they have made on law enforcement issues. Decisions that utterly ignored the science presented directly to them on the subjects involved.

  24. Ichthyic says

    Sounds to me like the local cops had Eckert marked as a troublemaker (e.g. insufficiently deferent) and were looking for an opportunity to teach him his place.

    that fits with what is known about the previous stop the police performed on Eckert.

    he frankly should have filed suit on them THEN.

    well, hopefully the publicity surrounding this will help clean house in NM.

  25. Doug Little says

    Decisions that utterly ignored the science presented directly to them on the subjects involved

    That reminds me of the bomb sniffing devices that were sold to Iraq.

  26. wscott says

    It gets even better — the searches were done outside the hours in which the warrant was valid (it had expired by then), and they were done outside the jurisdiction (wrong county, I think) in which the warrant was issued.

    IANAL, but I *think* that as long as they’ve started the search during the time covered in the warrant, the fact that it “takes longer than anticipated” is permitted. But I’m not sure of that – anyone know? The wrong county thing is more blatantly illegal.

    One piece of good news – it looks like the reason they had to go to a different county was because doctors at the local hospital refused to conduct the search, calling it unethical.

    Nitpicky legal question: assuming the search had been done within the terms set out in the warrant, doesn’t that protect the officers, and probably the doctors from prosecution and/or lawsuit? The city or county that issued the warrant might be liable, but I don’t know how you prosecute the police for carrying out the Court’s order, unless you can show they exceeded its scope. (Not saying I like that conclusion, but…)

  27. Ichthyic says

    That reminds me of the bomb sniffing devices that were sold to Iraq.

    sounds like a good story? haven’t head that one.

  28. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    Leaving aside for the moment the flimsy grounds for search and the illegality of the warrant, I fail to understand why they felt any further action was necessary after the X-ray. Even then, the first manual search should surely have clued them in. This is just fucked.

  29. DrVanNostrand says

    @Thumper
    That’s kind of what I thought. The warrant was EXTREMELY flimsy, so something noninvasive like an X-ray might be reasonable. But the fact that the X-ray showed absolutely no indication of drugs in the intestines immediately undermines “probable” cause. As the guy at Popehat pointed out, the most terrifying thing about this whole scenario is that it is very possible that, legally speaking, everyone will be able to claim that they were acting in good faith (“We had a warrant!!”) and a judge will find that there was no wrongdoing. It just shows how fucked up and deferential to police the judiciary has become when it comes to “The War on Drugs”.

  30. Pteryxx says

    Popehat has *excellent* coverage of this, with analysis of the search warrant justification:

    http://www.popehat.com/2013/11/07/what-is-the-quantum-of-proof-necessary-for-police-to-rape-and-torture-you-in-new-mexico/

    Mr. Eckert asserts that drugs were never found in his anus by any law enforcement agency. If true, that suggests someone lied – the K-9 officer who allegedly told Officer Chavez that, or Officer Chavez. A warrant premised on material false information is invalid. In deciding whether false information was provided to the court to secure the warrant, consider this: the Hidalgo County K-9 officer’s report on the incident here doesn’t mention any such knowledge about Eckert and doesn’t say he conveyed any such information to Officer Chavez. Do you think that would have made it into his report if he had? [Edited to add: A sharp-eyed commenter points out that Hidalgo County Officer Orozco says on page four of this report that he informed Chavez that Eckert had a drug history — but once again, there is a very glaring absence of any statement that he knew that Eckert had hidden drugs in his rectum.]

    You can read Officer Chavez’ reports of the incident here and here.

    and to follow up on DrVanNostrand at #39:

    So: these cops got a warrant that vaguely allowed a search in David Eckert’s anus for drugs. Even though searches found nothing, the cops and doctors continued to escalate to steadily more invasive procedures into David Eckert’s body to find drugs. Yet, under the “good faith” exception, their reliance on the warrant might be valid if the warrant was valid. Moreover, as Prof. Kerr explains, the cops might be able to rely on the qualified immunity that government employees tend to enjoy when they do things like subject us to involuntary anal probing.

    Some people are citing this incident for the proposition that it is terrifying that police officers and doctors would break the law and violate a suspect’s rights. I submit there is something far more terrifying about it: the prospect that a court might find that Mr. Eckert’s rights weren’t violated at all, and that he has no recourse for a team of cops and doctors raping and torturing him.

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