- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A Lincoln couple who say police illegally raided their home, damaging it and seizing their life savings and other property before returning most of it, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the city, Lancaster County and several law enforcement officials.

David Tarrence and Tamara Geis filed the lawsuit after filing a $2.7 million claim last year that officials declined to pay. The lawsuit says law enforcement officials seized $224,000 in cash, firearms and a coin collection from a safe in the couple’s home in 2014. Police believed Tarrence’s brother had a large amount of marijuana and cash that he kept at Tarrence’s house. Tarrence and Geis were never charged with a crime.

The lawsuit says police did not have a search warrant when they initially entered the home, restrained Tarrence and then forced him and Geis to leave while officers waited to obtain a search warrant. While waiting for the warrant, one police investigator went back into the home for an extended period, the lawsuit contends.

That officer drafted an affidavit for the search warrant seeking things he had “already found … apparently because he had actually searched the home without first obtaining a warrant,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also says police cut into and destroyed the safe, damaging some firearms and coins in it, and that police smashed carbon monoxide detectors set off by the saw used to cut into the safe “as opposed to taking the more logical step of removing the batteries.”

Lincoln City Attorney Jeffery Kirkpatrick said it is not unusual or a violation of anyone’s constitutional rights for police to show up someplace where they think a crime has been committed, and then wait for a search warrant to be issued.

“I would expect that we would be not in agreement that we owe them anything,” Kirkpatrick said.

Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly declined to comment, saying he had not seen the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount, claiming authorities violated Tarrence’s and Geis’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, to not be deprived of liberty or property without due process and to be free from excessive force and false arrest.

Tarrence’s brother was sentenced to a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of about 20 pounds of marijuana, but was acquitted of a federal drug dealing charge.

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