Buffalo, NY — Jake Reinhardt and his pregnant fiancé, Taylor Schmieder, and their 3-year-old daughter were sound asleep in their home last month when loud banging on their door and yelling men echoing in their front yard shook them out of their slumber. When Reinhardt answered the door, he was staring down the barrel of a gun and surrounded by a half dozen armed thugs.
“Open it up or we’ll kick it in!” the man a the door yelled.
Reinhardt said he was terrified as he slowly walked toward the front door, and asked “Who’s that?”
The man outside raises his gun toward the front door and again screams, “Open the door, now!”
Reinhardt explained to WIVB that he saw several Buffalo police officers standing on the sidewalk before he opened the door, which put him at ease enough to open it. He thought they simply had the wrong home.
However, when he opened the door — shirtless and shoeless — two men in tactical gear pointed guns at his chest.
Though the people on the sidewalk were Buffalo cops, the two people pointing guns at Reinhardt's chest were bounty hunters. They were being escorted by the cops, who condoned this behavior to look for Reinhardt's brother who missed a court date for a measly $5,000 bond.
To be clear, Reinhardt's brother Luke, was not someone on America's most wanted as the response would indicate. He was wanted over a few misdemeanors, one of which was a suspended driver's license. What's more, Luke had already made arrangements to turn himself in but wanted to make sure he made his doctor's appointment beforehand and police were aware of this.
Nevertheless, with the permission of the police and without the permission of Reinhardt, and also without a warrant, the bounty hunters then entered the family's home and proceeded to hold a pregnant Schmieder at gunpoint as she held on to her 3-year-old daughter. The armed thugs then demanded the mother and daughter separate while pointing guns at them both.
“I was terrified,” said Taylor Schmieder, Reinhardt’s fiancé. “Neither of us had any idea what was going on.”
Luckily for the family, the entire police-sanctioned home invasion was captured on their surveillance system. After experiencing this tyrannical invasion first hand, Reinhardt — who said he is an outspoken supporter of police — had to speak out and turned over the footage to WIVB.
“These are people who took an oath to serve and protect the community,” he said.
“And in my eyes they aided in nothing short of an armed home invasion. They were all responsible. It was an egregious attack on my home and my family and my civil rights.”
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The family has since sought legal representation and are pursuing civil action against those involved.
The police "stood by, aided, abetted, assisted, helped and participated in an armed home intrusion without a warrant and didn't stop these thugs from holding toddlers at gunpoint, and a pregnant woman, and they think that's OK?" said attorney R. Anthony Rupp III, who represents the home's occupants in their lawsuit against the City of Buffalo, Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood, the police officers, bail agents and the bail company among others.
“They participated in gunpoint armed search, a midnight rousting of two young families with screaming babies, and it’s utterly outrageous,” Rupp said.
Showing just how egregious of a scenario this was is the fact that the cameras caught the actual officers talking about the bounty hunters — not having a clue of where they were from or who they were after.
“I don’t know what agency that is either,” one of the officers said.
“Me either. They’re from PA, I think he said,” the other office replied.
One would think that if cops are going to escort armed thugs into a home occupied by children — who would be held at gunpoint by said thugs — they would at least know who or at least where these thugs were from. They did not.
“I can’t believe that trained officers from a professional police agency would conduct and assist in helping other people conduct an armed intrusion into a home without checking to see if that’s okay,” Rupp said.
Naturally, the department is defending the officers, claiming that escorting armed thugs in an act of terror against an innocent family, is by the book.
“Based on my initial review of this, the officers did not knock on the door, they did not request the homeowner let these individuals into their home and from that point on the only question left in terms of a criminal matter is whether or not [the bounty hunters’] entrance and means of gaining entry into that residence was appropriate,” Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo said of the situation.
The pregnant mom and the 3-year-old who will likely develop PTSD probably beg to differ.
Despite the captain condoning the act, a supervisor who showed up on the scene that night was recorded saying something entirely different.
“This is a failure on our part,” the supervisor said to Reinhardt. “I don’t know if it’s not enough training or what with our guys. They should have clarified any type of entry into a home. It’s very serious in nature.”