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Preface:

This story is amazing in so far as how it came to be, the details and conflicting views from the police and homeowner, as well as the ultimate results as things occurred that night and later upon conclusing of the police investigation toward wrong doing.
Be warned this is a very long read as it includes _three_ successive news stories that all are relevant to each other and the story overall. I cannot post one without providing the other two for sake of complete context.

Original report
TimesDispatch.com said:
Couple sues deputy after terrifying night
Botetourt family says 2 men entered home without a warrant

BY REX BOWMAN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

Feb 24, 2007

ROANOKE -- A Botetourt County couple is seeking $10 million from a sheriff's deputy they say stole into their 10-year-old daughter's bedroom one night this month and terrified the girl.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Roanoke yesterday, Mark and Cheryl Hunsberger said Mark Hunsberger bolted into their screaming daughter's bedroom at 1:16 a.m. Feb. 2 to find Deputy J.A. Wood, in uniform, aiming a flashlight at the girl while another man tried to yank the bed covers off her.

"The child was terrified, and Mrs. Hunsberger spent some time comforting their daughter," according to the lawsuit. "When Mrs. Hunsberger said something about calling the police, Deputy Wood responded, chillingly, 'I am the police.'"

Botetourt Sheriff Ronnie Sprinkle said the lawsuit does not tell the whole story. "We had a reason to be there, but I'm not going to say any more."

Wood told the Hunsbergers he had knocked on the door for 30 minutes but no one answered, yet the Hunsbergers heard no knocking, according to the suit.

The lawsuit states that neither Wood nor the man who accompanied him had a warrant to enter the Hunsberger home. The suit seeks $10 million as compensation for the violation of their constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure.

Mark Hunsberger ordered Wood and the unidentified man, named as defendant John Doe, to leave, and the Hunsbergers later learned that "several other deputies apparently waited outside the Hunsberger home while Deputy Wood and John Doe broke into the Hunsberger home," the suit states.

According to the suit, the Hunsbergers live in a four-bedroom home in a subdivision of Botetourt and they have three children, ages 18, 16 and 10. The 10-year-old daughter's bedroom is adjacent to theirs.

The suit states that, after ordering Wood and the other man to leave, Mark Hunsberger dialed 911 to report a break-in. A deputy came to the home and took their criminal complaint, but the Hunsbergers have heard nothing about it since, according to the suit. The suit also states that the couple now believe the deputy who responded to their call might be related to the unidentified man who accompanied Wood.

The suit states that the Hunsbergers received a letter from the sheriff's office saying the incident would be investigated, but they have received no word of the inquiry; nor have they received any explanation as to why Wood was in their daughter's bedroom.

Contact staff writer Rex Bowman at [email protected] or (540) 344-3612.

The story can be found at; http://www.timesdispatch.com/servle...&cid=1149193366628&path=!news&s=1045855934842
 

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A followup with details following a VA state police investigation...
TimesDispatch.com said:
Inquiry supports Botetourt deputy
Officer was justified in entering home without warrant, state police say

BY REX BOWMAN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

Mar 10, 2007

A Botetourt County deputy being sued for $10 million for entering a family's home without a warrant was justified because he was responding to a 911 report of a possible burglary at the home, a prosecutor concluded yesterday.

A Virginia State Police report on the incident states Deputy J.A. Wood went to the home of Mark and Cheryl Hunsberger on Feb. 3 to investigate and instead interrupted a teenage drinking party, Botetourt prosecutor Joel Branscom said.

Branscom said the state police's reconstruction of the incident bears little similarity to the parents' allegation that Wood sneaked into their daughter's room and terrified her.

"Sergeant Wood, who has been publicly demonized, was simply doing his job, trying to protect the Hunsbergers' prop- erty and any children on the property," Branscom said.

Terry Grimes, the Roanoke lawyer who filed suit on behalf of the Hunsbergers, dismissed the official account: "That sounds like a post hoc rationalization to me. It's almost amusing."

Two weeks ago, the Hunsbergers filed a $10 million suit against Wood in federal court in Roanoke, alleging they awoke to their 10-year-old daughter's screams after 1 a.m. and found Wood and an unidentified man in her room. The suit says Mark Hunsberger found Wood shining a flashlight on the terrified girl while the other man tried to pull bed covers from her.

The Hunsbergers live in a Cloverdale subdivision with their daughter and two sons, ages 18 and 16.

After reading about the lawsuit, Branscom asked the state police to investigate. According to Branscom's five-page summary of their report, the investigation found Wood went to the home, where he ruled out burglary as the source of the noise and concluded teenagers might be inside drinking.

After ringing the doorbell 25 to 30 times, Wood went into the home with an unidentified man, referred to as "John Doe" in the lawsuit, because the man believed his 16-year-old daughter was among the teens inside. Her car was parked out front.

In one bedroom, according to Branscom, Wood pulled the covers below the nose of a girl lying in bed and asked the man if she was his daughter. He said no, and the girl said, "Turn off the lights, they're not here." Wood and the man told investigators the girl did not scream.

The state police investigation eventually confirmed Wood's suspicion that the 16-year-old was one of six teenagers in the house and all were drinking, Branscom said.

Yesterday, Grimes said the account of Wood's encounter with the 10-year-old is preposterous.

"That sounds like a bald-faced lie," said Grimes. "A 10-year-old girl is awakened in her bedroom by two strangers she's never seen before, and one is shining a light in her face, and she has this James Joyce-style conversation with them? On what planet does this 10-year-old live?"

According to Branscom's summary, events unfolded this way:

A neighbor called 911 at 10:17 p.m. Feb. 2 to report suspicious behavior at the Hunsberger house and kids being picked up and dropped off in the street. Wood went to the subdivision, where the neighbor told him she thought the parents were away and the cars parked in front did not belong to anyone in the neighborhood. Wood left.

Ten minutes after midnight, the neighbor again called 911 to report more noise, repeated her belief that the parents weren't there and said a burglary could be in progress.

Wood and another deputy arrived. They saw a young male run from the house to the attached garage and then back. They saw lights go on and off in the house, but no one came to the door after they rang the doorbell 25 to 30 times. Wood walked in an open garage door to knock on an interior door and saw a large number of beer cans.

Three vehicles were parked in front of the house, so Wood ran license checks on the vehicles, then called their owners and discovered that each had a teenage son or daughter using the vehicle. After Wood expressed concern to the owners that their teenagers might be drinking, the parent described as "John Doe" arrived.

Wood and John Doe heard a door shut in the garage stairwell. Wood knocked on the door, which led to a basement, and, receiving no answer, went in and announced loudly "Botetourt County Sheriff's Department."

Continuing through the house, Wood repeated that he was searching for the 16-year-old girl and called out her name. In a bedroom closet, he found a teenage boy in boxer shorts. Wood asked him where the girl was and he said he did not know.

In the next room, they found a young girl, apparently the Hunsbergers' daughter, in bed. After that encounter, Mark Hunsberger came out of his bedroom. Wood told Hunsberger he had been informed that the Hunsbergers were not at home and he was looking for a 16-year-old girl.

After Cheryl Hunsberger joined them, Wood explained three times the events that led him to enter the house. That account contradicts the lawsuit, in which the Hunsbergers claim they were never told why Wood was in their daughter's bedroom before they ordered him to leave.

Yesterday, Branscom said an internal sheriff's department investigation of the incident went nowhere because the teenagers involved kept to a code of silence. But after the lawsuit engendered headlines and the state police got involved, some of them started talking.

Branscom said state police concluded six teenagers were in the home: the two Hunsberger boys, a 15-year-old boy, a 17-year-old boy, an 18-year-old male and the 16-year-old girl. When Wood entered the home, two fled to a friend's home and the other four hid throughout the house, Branscom said.

When Wood left, Cheryl Hunsberger came downstairs and told the teens to come out, "the cops are gone," according to Branscom's written report.

Branscom's report said there is no evidence the Hunsbergers knew teenagers were drinking in their home or knew the 16-year-old girl was in the house.

The report concludes that Wood did the right thing. "His actions interrupted criminal activity (underage possession of alcohol; contributing to the delinquency of a minor) that was occurring in the Hunsbergers' house. All of these teens were a few steps from driving a vehicle home until Sergeant Wood intervened."

Branscom said if any of the parents "wish to explore criminal charges, I will advise them on how to proceed."

Grimes said the version of events put together by state police will not affect the Hunsbergers' lawsuit.

Contact staff writer Rex Bowman at [email protected] or (540) 344-3612.

The story can be found at; http://www.timesdispatch.com/servle...TD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173350144705
 

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The final states result of the inquiry...
TimesDispatch.com said:
Home intrusion was justified, prosecutor says
The commonwealth's attorney brought no charges against the Botetourt County deputy.

By Laurence Hammack
981-3239

A sheriff's deputy accused in a federal lawsuit of barging into a Botetourt County home and terrifying a sleeping 10-year-old girl "took appropriate action based on the information available to him at the time," Commonwealth's Attorney Joel Branscom said Friday.

Branscom based his findings on a state police investigation that he requested two weeks ago, after Mark and Cheryl Hunsberger filed a lawsuit against the Botetourt County Sheriff's Office.

The lawsuit claimed that Sgt. J.A. Wood and an unidentified man entered the Hunsberger home without a search warrant or a good reason one night in early February and wound up in the girl's darkened bedroom, where she awoke to find the covers being pulled from her face.

According to Branscom, Wood was justified in entering the home given all the circumstances: complaints of possible underage drinking, no answer to his repeated knocks on the door, sounds of movement in the garage, a father worried about his unaccounted-for 16-year-old daughter and the possibility that she was inside the Hunsbergers' home.

"Entry to the house occurred only after Sgt. Wood and the [16-year-old] girl's father heard someone move through the garage into the basement, slam the door and ignore the father's plea to see his daughter," Branscom wrote in a detailed five-page account of what happened that night.

Branscom brought no charges, leaving the dispute to play out in civil court.

The 16-year-old's father is also being sued by the Hunsbergers. Identified only as "John Doe" in the lawsuit, he is accused of entering the home with Wood and pulling the covers from the 10-year-old girl's face as the deputy shined a flashlight on her bed.

According to the state police investigation, sheriff's deputies went to the Hunsberger home the night of Feb. 2 after a neighbor called 911 and reported noise and possible underage drinking. The lawsuit claims that the events happened the night of Feb. 1.

The neighbor told deputies that the parents were away. Finding the lights on and the house quiet, the deputies left a short time later.

Shortly after midnight, a second 911 call reported more noise. This time, deputies spotted a young man running into the house shortly before the lights went out. After repeatedly ringing the doorbell but getting no response, the deputies began to identify the owners of the cars parked outside by their license plate numbers.

Deputies called the father of the 16-year-old girl and told him that she might be involved in underage drinking at the Hunsberger home. Thinking his daughter was staying with another friend that night, the father drove out to the Hunsbergers' home in a subdivision near Cloverdale.

After calling for his daughter and getting no response, the man apparently followed Wood into the home and then upstairs to a bedroom where the Hunsbergers' 10-year-old daughter was sleeping.

It was Wood, not the father, who pulled the covers from the sleeping girl's face, state police determined. Wood asked the father if that was his daughter and he responded "No," according to Branscom's summary. Both Wood and the father denied that the girl screamed for help, as described in the lawsuit.

According to them, she simply said: "Turn off the lights. They're not here."

Terry Grimes, a Roanoke attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Hunsbergers, questioned that account.

"All I can say is, imagine a 10-year-old girl asleep in bed and two grown men standing over her and pulling the covers off her, and she is having a lucid conversation with them," Grimes said. "I don't think that 10-year-old girl exists. Not on this planet, anyway."

In a written statement, Grimes and his partner, Melvin Williams, went on to say that calling the actions of Wood and the unknown man justified is "inconceivable."

"Actions like this involving law enforcement only serve to create fearful citizens who perceive no recourse when government oversteps its constitutional bounds," they wrote.

A lawsuit filed by the Hunsbergers in U.S. District Court in Roanoke seeks $10 million in damages on claims of trespassing and violation of their constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches.

"The police have said they had a good reason to enter the house," Grimes said. "Time will tell whether they had a constitutional reason."

Although the scope of Branscom's inquiry was to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against anyone involved in the incident, the prosecutor also addressed to some degree the constitutional issues raised in the lawsuit.

"Warrantless searches are frowned upon," Branscom's statement read, "but the courts have always recognized that circumstances can make a warrantless search reasonable."

Sheriff Ronnie Sprinkle, who has declined to comment in detail about the case because of the ongoing investigation, said Friday he was pleased that the findings by state police mirrored the conclusion reached by his own department.

As for the father, he had no criminal intent when he entered the home and then left when asked to, Branscom wrote.

The prosecutor also noted that the state police investigation confirmed there was underage drinking going on in the basement of the Hunsberger home -- apparently unknown to the adults -- and that the 16-year-old girl was in fact present. While the Hunsbergers slept, the teens apparently ignored the knocks on the door by police and then hid because they were concerned about getting caught.

After the police finally left, Cheryl Hunsberger went downstairs and told the teens "the cops are gone" and they could come out, Branscom's summary states. And about 3 the same morning, Cheryl Hunsberger dropped the 16-year-old off at the driveway of her home, where her father had returned still not knowing where she was, according to the summary.

"Ultimately, the blame for this incident lies with the participants in the underage drinking party in the basement and whoever provided the alcohol," Branscom wrote, adding that he would advise any parents who might wish to pursue charges on what to do next.

"I regret that anybody was startled," Branscom wrote. "I do not want officers entering peoples' houses needlessly."

But at the same time, Branscom said the version of events as described in the Hunsbergers' lawsuit was incomplete to the point of being deceptive.

"Sgt. Wood, who has been publicly demonized, was simply doing his job," the prosecutor said.

The story can be found at; http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/xp-107996
Amazing this story is.

- Janq
 

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Wow.

Well everything else aside, the one thing that really bothers me is "john doe" being in the house with the officer.

He had no business being in that house uninvited. Cops or no, warrant or no, he was on private property (in the home even) without permission or any percievable right to be there. If I were the family he'd be facing criminal charges, not just a civil trial.

Aside from that, it seems like the parents aren't entirely innocent in this whole thing. Though I suppose we'll see what the courts have to say soon enough.

I am sure curious as to what is said about the whole warrant/search thing. Is underage drinkng/loud parties enough for an officer to enter a home? It seems like warrants require so much in the way of hard evidence to get normally.
Party/noise complaint -> burglery in progress -> missing children -> no one home

Something's is a tiny bit fishy with things on the cops end too. At best the neighbor was flat out lying to 911 about why they were calling. At worst the police are.


My prediction: Someone is going to get in a lot of trouble for all of this. I just can't figure out who yet.
 

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Agreed regarding 'John Doe' (I'd be kicking his ass...in full view of the cops within my own damn home!) and ditto toward the rest, the parents are guilty of being absent minded, stupid, and being host to an underage drinking party even as they slept allowing their son to do whatever the hell he wanted downstairs.

This is the nuttiest news story I've seen in some time.

- Janq
 

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First off, suspicion of an underage drinking party *does not* provide justifiable warrantless entry by the police department. Secondly, 'John Doe' is guilty of tresspass and harrassment of a minor, if nothing else. If I awoke to my daughter screaming bloody murder, heard two grown male's voices, and saw flashlight beams beneath the doorjamb, I damn well would have entered the room armed. After figuring the situation, I am with Janq.... beatings of a copious amount.

This lawsuit obviously needs to be moved out of this county, the 'Blue Shield' code of silence bullshit is definately afoot...
 

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I hear screaming in my daughter's room @ 1AM I am probably running in with .357 in gunhand and Streamlight blazing in the other. What would have been the fallout from this if something similar had occured and John Doe was the first one seen? Had his hands been on the covers, many fathers might surmise their 10YO was in the process of being raped and act accordingly. Although I see why they did it, the deputy's actions seem to be one of collossal stupidity.
 
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