POWELL, Wyo. — A federal judge has ruled that a Wyoming jury will decide whether Powell police acted appropriately in using a battering ram when they executed a drug search warrant at a couple's home.
U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson allowed some of the claims from a Powell woman to proceed to trial, including whether police waited long enough before entering her home after they announced themselves.
In his ruling last month, Johnson dismissed the rest of the claims from Tricia Wachsmuth, among them allegations that the city did not properly train its officers in the raid.
The claims that Johnson allowed included whether it was excessive for police to use a "flash-bang" device, which creates a flash of light. He also allowed Wachsmuth's allegation that officers used her as a shield while searching her basement on February 2009.
Wachsmuth is seeking $1 million in damages in the case, which was set to go to trial Feb. 14 in federal court. The judge's ruling was reported Thursday by the Powell Tribune.
Police say their actions were justified because they believed loaded guns were in the house. Police deny her "human shield" claim and said she willingly led them to the basement.
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Police obtained a search warrant after a tip from an informant who said Wachsmuth and her husband, Bret, had a marijuana-growing operation in their basement. Police said they found several guns at the home, as well as two marijuana plants and grow logs.
The couple was charged with misdemeanor drug counts but served no jail time under a plea agreement. They were fined and received probation.
Wachsmuth alleges that she saw the officers approaching from her window and claims that they used a battering ram to enter her home before they audibly announced themselves.
Powell police denied the allegation; an officer in the raid said in a deposition that he announced the police's presence and waited up to six seconds before ramming the door.
Johnson said that because the warrant was a knock-and-announce warrant, it would have been unconstitutional to immediately open the door.