Deputies Caught on Camera Entering Home after Cutting Wires to Outside Cameras
Lawrence J. Smith
A West Virginia attorney claims sheriff's deputies assigned to a drug and fugitive task force unlawfully entered a client’s home without a warrant and has the video to prove it.
Civil rights attorney John H. Bryan said that upon finding nobody home, the Putnam County sheriff's deputies cut the wires to external cameras outside the home and entered through a window.
However, they missed one external camera as well as one hidden camera in a room that captured the deputies rummaging through it. Bryan said the sheriff's department told him no official record exists showing deputies entering his client's home.
In his video posted to his YouTube channel January 15 (and posted below), Bryan alleges three deputies with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Enforcement Unit broke into a client’s home after unsuccessfully serving him with a summons and complaint in a civil suit. The entry occurred on Aug. 15 around 11:15 a.m. at the farmhouse where the client lives outside of Hurricane, a suburban community along Interstate 64 between Charleston and Huntington. Bryan has not identified the client.
In the course of their visit, the video shows the deputies, with flashlights in hand, looking around, taking pictures and conducting a field test of a substance found in a vase. According to Bryan, it was the cremains of a friend the client kept in an urn.
Off-camera, the deputies remove all of the client’s firearms from storage and lay them on appliances. The time-stamp on the hidden video as well as an exterior camera that didn’t get cut shows deputies being on the client’s premises for about 25 minutes.
According to Bryan, the deputies neither left a warrant nor contacted the client about the summons and complaint. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request he later sent, Bryan says he received a phone call from PCSD claiming no record of the deputies’ visit, including a search warrant.
Under state law, a government agency is required to post details about FOIA requests it receives, and its response to a database maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office. A search shows the last entry PCSD made was in March 2017 in response to an inquiry from a reporter about a fatal shooting the previous October.
The video, which is about 8 minutes in length, concludes with an undated segment from WCHS-TV 8/FOX 11’s “The Fugitive Files.” In segment, host Leslie Rubin explains that SEU consists of four plain-clothes deputies who act on tips sent to PCSD’s anonymous drug tip-line, serve warrants and track fugitives.
“Just recently, the group became deputized to work with the U.S. Marshal’s CUFFED (Cops United Felony Fugitive Enforcement Division) Task Force,” Rubin said.
“The Marshal’s Service – not only do we work with them, but they are willing to come to our county and serve warrants as well,” said SEU Sgt. Brian Hall.`
Neither Sheriff Steve Deweese nor Michael Baylous, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of West Virginia, were immediately available for a comment about the video.
Bryan says he “will be filing a federal lawsuit in the near future." Watch the video below.