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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge on Friday ruled that a Bureau of Land Management agent did not use excessive force during a raid on the home of a Blanding doctor accused of trafficking stolen Native American artifacts.
In 2009, federal agents served several search and arrest warrants at the home and 60-acre property of Dr. James Redd and his wife during an investigation into trafficking of American Indian artifacts. The BLM agent-in-charge of the raid was Dan Love. According to court documents, Redd's family claimed that Love sent 53 federal agents, "many of whom were heavily armed and wearing bulletproof vests, to raid and search Dr. Redd's home."
The next day, Redd committed suicide by connecting a hose to the exhaust pipe of his car. His family filed a federal civil suit claiming Redd's Fourth Amendment rights were violated by Love, who used excessive force.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby noted that a total of 53 personnel visited the Redd home throughout the course of the day but not all at once, and some of those individuals were unarmed archeologists.
"The court confines its analysis to the following issue: whether agent Love violated Dr. Redd's Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force when agent Love sent 22 federal personnel, 12 of whom wore SWAT-like armor and carried machine guns, to Dr. Redd's home to execute arrest and search warrants and to begin collecting evidence. After careful consideration, the court cannot conclude a violation occurred," the judge wrote in his ruling.
Furthermore, the judge noted, "BLM policy requires law enforcement officers to wear identifiable clothing and bulletproof vests when serving search and arrest warrants. BLM policy also requires law enforcement officers to carry handguns when performing law enforcement duties in uniform. Similarly, FBI policy requires its agents to wear bulletproof vests and carry handguns when executing arrest warrants."
Shelby said the manner in which the warrants were executed was also a factor in his decision. He conceded that Redd's crime was not on the same level as violent drug-trafficking and that there was no evidence to suggest Redd posed an immediate threat to agents. But officers are still allowed to carry weapons during the execution of a warrant.
"Here, the (Redd) estate has not offered evidence showing agent Love deployed the 22 agents knowing the agents would use excessive force. Nor has the estate shown agent Love deployed the agents intending to cause any harm to Dr. Redd or his family. And the estate has likewise failed to put forth evidence establishing that agent Love instructed the team of agents to use excessive force while executing the warrants," the ruling states.
The ruling was the latest in ongoing litigation. Shelby last year tossed out most of the legal claims the Redd family raised in its lawsuit.
Shelby dismissed claims that Love knowingly provided false information for a warrant and illegally searched the Redds' home. He also dismissed claims that Love and BLM agent Dan Barnes violated Redd's due process and equal protection rights.
June 11th, 2009: Dr. Jim Redd found dead.
May 2011: Jeanne Redd, Jim's wife, files wrongful death lawsuit against the BLM and FBI.
June 2012: U.S. Justice Department asks for lawsuit to be dismissed.
December 2015: Judge rules BLM did not use excessive force.