Santa Clara, CA — The taxpayers of Santa Clara will be shelling out a massive $6.7 million to settle a federal civil-rights lawsuit that was entirely preventable had a rogue cops not decided to violate their oaths and kick down the door of a family's home—with no warrant.
On April 12, 2016, Danielle Burfine was in her home when multiple Santa Clara officers came to her door and demanded entry into her home to arrest Burfine's 15-year-old daughter. They had no warrant.
Instead of simply going back to a judge and obtaining a warrant to constitutionally arrest the young woman, Sergeant Gregory Hill took it upon himself to kick down their front door. Because Burfine was attempting to prevent the officers from entering her home without a warrant, she was thrown down, causing her to hit a stone pillar which broke her leg, according to the lawsuit.
“This shocking video shows obvious excessive force, wrongful entry without a warrant, and extreme callousness as Danielle broke her ankle and cried in pain,” attorney Michael Haddad said.
As the video begins, Hill and Burfine are involved in a standoff as the mother refuses to allow the officers in her home until she sees a warrant. Santa Clara police claimed they had a right to enter the home of the teen on the basis of “on-view charges.” This term typically refers to a crime or evidence that an officer witnesses directly. However, the alleged crime was over a week old by this time, so it did not apply in this instance.
“This is not like they were in hot pursuit of a suspect running from a crime,” Haddad said. “They were clearly in a zone where they now required a warrant.”
But these officers felt no warrant was needed, so now the taxpayers are shelling out millions to pay for their careless mistake and brutality.
The officers tried to be polite even as they began kicking at her door. However, the fact that they were nice to her while violating her rights does not dismiss the outcome of this scenario.
“We’re going to arrest her. That’s going to happen,” Hill says before breaking into the woman's home. “You’re going to want to stand back, because I don’t want you to get hit by the door when I kick it.”
Burfine replies, “No I’m not moving, and you do not have permission to kick down my door.”
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Instead of listening to reason, Hill kicks down the door, Burfine is assaulted and then the mother can be heard yelling “No you are not allowed to come into my house!” before she falls and screams, “My ankle just broke! My leg just broke!” In the video, we can see the bone pushing outward on Burfine's pant leg—a horrific sight indeed.
The city asserts that Burfine “lost her footing, tripped off the front porch and fractured her ankle.” However, even with body camera footage of the incident, they chose not to contest the lawsuit and settle for this record amount.
“Although there was significant disagreement about the extent of the injury, there was no dispute that the plaintiff sustained a broken ankle in the course of the entry to the plaintiff’s home without a warrant,’’ City Attorney Brian Doyle said in a statement. “The city’s insurer determined that the most prudent course of action was for it to pay an amount that would result in settlement.”
As Mercury News reports, Haddad contends the aggressive confrontation was retaliation against Burfine for not allowing police to fully interrogate her daughter in the days after the fire and refusing on multiple occasions to discuss the case without their attorney present.
After her injury, Burfine can be heard saying, “I was simply doing what my attorney asked me.”
This should have been a cut and dry arrest as no one disputes that Burfine's 15-year-old daughter is guilty of the crime of arson for setting a snack shack on fire at Santa Clara High School—because, after this incident, she was found guilty of arson. However, because police chose to use force instead of the law, the taxpayers are now giving $6.7 million to this woman.
According to Haddad, Burfine developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a chronic pain condition he said “is likely to be permanently disabling.”
As Mercury News reports, Haddad was also the attorney in a civil-rights case that ended last year with Santa Clara reaching a nearly $500,000 settlement with a family who sued claiming that police illegally searched their home multiple times in 2014, based on theft suspicions that never materialized.
“Now they’ve catastrophically injured an innocent mom,” Haddad said. “Will they finally fix their training and procedures?”
Below is the infuriating and hard to watch video illustrating what can happen when cops choose to go rogue instead of following the law.