By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Two Park County Sheriff’s deputies are asking that a lawsuit filed against them over the detention of a Missouri family in 2017 be dismissed.
Robert Cooke and Brett Tillery, in a motion filed in U.S. District Court, argued in part they cannot be sued for the detention of the Hemry family because they were doing their jobs as law enforcement officers at the time and as such are immune from being sued.
“Defendants were engaged in assisting with a lawful investigative detention and seizure necessary to resolve reports of a potentially violent fugitive in the vehicle, while also ensuring the safety of the officers and during the stop,” said the motion to dismiss the lawsuit. “The investigatory detention did not turn into arrest, and the use of force was not excessive under the circumstances.”
The lawsuit filed in July stems from allegations that Brett and Genalyn Hemry and their daughter, all of Independence, Missouri, were held at gunpoint for almost one hour after Brett Hemry was mistakenly identified as a suspect in a triple murder in Idaho.
The Hemrys were stopped by National Park Service rangers after leaving the east gate of Yellowstone National Park. Brett and Genalyn Hemry were later detained in the back of Park County Sheriff’s deputies cars. The three were allowed to leave when Brett Hemry was allowed to display his identification, about an hour after the stop occurred.
The Hemrys sued Cooke and Tillery, along with the Park Service rangers involved.
In their request that the portion of the lawsuit against them be dismissed, Cooke and Tillery said the Hemrys’ lawsuit did not specify what they did to violate the Hemrys’ rights.
“There are no facts alleged that would indicate, under the deference afforded to law enforcement in such circumstances, that the … defendants had knowingly violated any clearly established rights,” the motion said.
The motion said the lawsuit claims “completely miss the required allegations of who did what to whom and when.
”The lawsuit alleged officers pointed guns at Brett and Genalyn Hemry and forced them to walk to the Park County Sheriff’s deputy’s cars, but the motion to dismiss said Cooke and Tillery were not specifically identified as the officers who took that action.
“A general assertion that ‘a defendant’ or ‘one or more defendants’ did this or that is insufficient to satisfy the plausibility standard of pleasing in federal court,” the motion said.
In addition, police officers enjoy some immunity from lawsuits when they are doing their jobs, the motion said.
The detention of the Hemrys was justified given the danger posed by the murder suspect who was still at large, the motion said, and it was ended as soon as officers were able to determine Hemry was not the wanted suspect.
“Given the violent nature of the crimes (the murder suspect) was suspected of committing, as well as the specific reporting that tied him to a vehicle matching the description of the one driven by the Hemrys, it was reasonable for the officers to make the stop, and take the time necessary to thoroughly and cautiously determine the identity of the occupants in a manner that ensured the safety of the officers and the public,” the motion said. “While having guns drawn on them and being handcuffed was understandably disturbing to (the Hemrys), these actions were reasonably necessary under the circumstances to resolve the suspected connection with Bullinger and protect public safety.”
The motion also denied that excessive force was used during the detention, along with claims that the Hemrys were subjected to false imprisonment.
“While (the Hemrys) were briefly detained in their Toyota, and later Mr. and Mrs. Hemry were placed in the law enforcement vehicles to verify whether (the murder suspect) was in the (Hemrys’) car, to identify Mr. Hemry, and the absence of any connection with (the murder suspect), they were never taken to jail or otherwise imprisoned. In fact, they were free to go soon after Mr. Hemry’s identity was confirmed.”