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NYPD sued for raiding dead man’s apartment at least 12 times, trying to arrest him

Published time: May 07, 2014 20:07
Reuters/Gary Hershorn

Reuters/Gary Hershorn

The New York Police Department keeps raiding a man’s apartment, thinking they have him dead-to-rights with an arrest warrant. Except the man has been dead since 2006. Now his widow is suing the NYPD to get them to stop.

Karen Fennell says NYPD officers have raided her Brooklyn apartment at least a dozen times since her husband, James Jordan Sr., died, including four times already this year. The raids were happening so frequently that Fennell was “forced to take the extraordinary step of affixing James E. Jordan’s Death Certificate on their front door indicating that James E. Jordan passed away in March 2006,” the lawsuit says.

But still, the raids did not stop.

"On virtually each and every occasion that defendant officers unlawfully entered into the plaintiffs' home, they proceeded to perform a warrantless search of the said home," the suit continued.

“I tell them over and over, ‘James isn’t here! He’s dead! It’s that simple. What’s so difficult to understand about that?’ ” Fennell told the New York Post. But the cops still enter and ransack the house. “They tell me to be quiet or they’ll lock me up. So they go through my entire house, turning out drawers, looking in closets, harassing my children and asking them terrible questions.”

“I can’t hide anyone in my apartment. It’s not big enough for that,” she said. “But they keep coming and insisting that he’s in my house.”

During one such warrantless raid, in July 2013, police arrested Fennell’s son James Jordan Jr. and his friend Anthony Solis for fourth degree weapons possession and other unspecified charges. The lawsuit says that neither plaintiff had committed a crime and that the officers did not recover any contraband.

“I told them that my father was gone,” Jordan Jr. said to the Post. “They just didn’t believe me. When they came in, they came in like a riot team. It was like a raid. Six officers rushed into the apartment and woke me up.”

The younger Jordan and Solis were interrogated for several hours, and officers kept asking Jordan “to provide them with information concerning drugs and guns in his neighborhood and concerning certain individuals who James doesn’t even know.” The two men were released, but directed to appear in court to defend what the lawsuit calls “false charges.” Those charges were eventually dismissed, but not before the two men appeared in court multiple times, the suit contends.

The suit names 20 officers (listed as John Doe and Jane Doe 1-20), and says, “That each and every officer and/or individual who responded to, had any involvement and/or was present at the location of the search, arrest and assault described herein knew and was fully aware that the search was illegal and that the plaintiffs did not commit any crime or offense, and had a realistic opportunity to intervene to prevent the harm detailed above from occurring.”

Fennell, Jordan Jr. and Solis are making claims against the NYPD officers on grounds involving the Fourth, Fight and Fourteenth Amendments, and contend the NYPD failed to train, supervise and discipline the officers involved with the raids.

Reason.com argues that the NYPD had no interest in the deceased Jordan, but were actually focusing on his son.

“But if police are actually interested in the younger Jordan yet have nothing on him, the cops may well know what they're doing,” managing editor J.D. Tuccille wrote in a blog post. “They may well be using the raids in search of a man they know to be dead in order to squeeze the real target of their interest.”

But Jordan Jr. has no criminal history, according to the Post. Jordan Sr. did have a minor criminal record, including three sealed arrests in 1996. One of those arrests was for turnstile-jumping.

Since the lawsuit was filed in federal court last Friday, the NYPD has admitted they were dead wrong, the New York Daily News reports. A police spokeswoman told the Daily News on Tuesday that Jordan’s four warrants, for ignoring public-drinking summonses, will be tossed. Another source told the paper that precinct cops knew about the death certificate but failed to update paperwork.

Of course, New York Magazine offers another, snark-filled explanation for the officers’ actions: “Maybe they’re just looking for the right way to tell Fennell that her husband is secretly alive and wanted for a major crime somewhere.”