Salt Lake City, UT — Imagine that you have just sat down to eat dinner with your family when your home is surrounded by militarized police, heavily armed and dressed in riot gear. Imagine these police are looking for a person who does not live in your house. Now imagine that you try to tell them this but they don’t listen and then break down your door, trample your family, hold guns to your kid’s head and taser innocent parents. For the Yanez family, no imagination is necessary as this is exactly what happened to them.
On August 20, 2018, the Yañez family sat down at the table to eat dinner when more than a dozen agents with the Utah Division of Adult Probation & Parole (AP&P), dressed in military-style gear and carrying assault-style weapons surrounded their home and demanded entry. The agents claimed to have a warrant but would not produce one despite repeated requests from the family.
When the family refused to let them in without first seeing the warrant, the police decided it was time to break down the doors and come in.
What happened both before and after police entered the home was captured on video and is now the subject of a lawsuit against the AP&P and the executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections.
According to the lawsuit, once the heavily militarized agents entered the home, they tackled the mother, Maria, with a riot shield; pinned the father, Munir, to the ground and repeatedly shocked him with a Taser; pointed an automatic rifle at a child before handcuffing him; and forced the other two children to leap from the kitchen window.
The videos taken by the family show agents tackling 53-year-old Maria Garcia and her husband, 57-year-old Munir Yañez. Officers handcuffed Garcia and shocked Yañez with a Taser as he cried out in agony, all of which can be heard on the videos, one of which was recorded by their 17-year-old son.
The boy filming the incident must have angered the officers who then pointed guns at his head.
“As defendants entered the home, three defendants pointed assault rifles at (the 17-year-old’s) head, despite the fact that (he) did not pose a threat to the safety of them or any other officer,” the suit said. “(He) froze in fear at the sight of the weapons.”
“These shocking acts against the Yanez family in their own home is beyond the bounds of constitutional protections,” explained John Mejia, Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah. “No more Utah families should be subjected to these kind of excessive tactics.”
In a press release, the ACLU explained how officers likely knew the person they were looking for — the son of two of the plaintiffs — did not live there and had been told on multiple occasions, after showing up at the residence, that the man they were looking for does not and has not lived with the family for a long time.
According to the lawsuit, AP&P agents had approached the Yanez family several times about the location of their oldest son. That son had not lived with the family for quite some time. When agents arrived at the house again on the night of the incidents, the family refused to let them inside without a warrant and demanded that the agents leave the property. Instead, more and more agents, including some wearing body armor and carrying assault-style rifles, arrived at the home and escalated tensions by falsely telling the Yanez family they could enter their home at will. When the family refused to let them enter, the agents surrounded the home, broke down the front and back doors simultaneously using extreme force, and detained the family members, including children. The person the agents were looking for was not in the home.
Despite the person of interest not being in the home, according to the lawsuit, cops tore the home apart for two hours, stole the family’s money, and taunted them before falsely arresting Yañez and his son.
The complaint also alleges that “the agents stole $7,000 in savings that the Yañez family planned to use to pay for their only daughter’s Quinceanera party”; that agents taunted Yañez, who is a U.S. citizen, on the way to jail telling him that he’d “be back in Mexico tomorrow”; that Garcia saw agents place a kitchen knife where her adult son had been tackled and handcuffed in an effort to justify his arrest; and that Garcia was told she “must know where her son is because you are a Latina.”
“It is every family’s worst nightmare. You sit down to dinner as a family, and then agents storm into your home and brutally attack you in front of your children. We cannot allow this type of behavior by law enforcement to go unchecked. Crowell & Moring stands with the Yanez family in bravely pursuing these claims to ensure that this does not happen to other Utah families,” said S. Starling Marshall, Partner at Crowell & Moring LLP.
Below are the videos taken from two different angles showing this most horrifying raid on an innocent family.