Norwalk CT Cops Under the Gun for Illegal Search and Seizure

Norwalk CT police department HQ (courtesy norwalk.patch.com)

Norwalk Connecticut resident Duane Doutel [not shown] had some major issues with one Doctor Staw. After a bit of back and forth, Doutel left a voicemail warning that a public confrontation “would not be pretty.” The Norwalk po-po popped the concealed carry license holder for Sec. 53a-62 Threatening in the second degree. Needless to say, Doutel’s right to keep and bear arms went bye-bye—and it’s not coming back anytime soon. Check out the court’s reasoning . . .

Norwalk Police Officer Jared Zwickler responded to a call from Dr. Staw’s office after the message was received, and listened to the recording of Mr. Doutel’s message. In the course of his investigation he learned that the office staff felt threatened by this message, based upon the fact that the defendant previously had brought a firearm with him to medical appointments, made a point of showing medical staff that he had the weapon with him, often expressed racist ideas in the office, discussed political subjects, and was often very agitated, animated, or easily excitable while at the medical office.

In this regard, it should be noted that Mr. Doutel’s manner of speaking and tone of voice vary within the message. Although the initial portion of the message is evenly modulated, in the latter part of the message, the intonation varied, with certain words and phrases expressed more emphatically, including the following portions:

He will provide those because I paid for them up front․ If I haven’t heard within forty-eight hours that those results have been forwarded to Dr. Altman, I will be walking into the office, and it will not be pretty. Do you understand me? I paid for those up front. You will provide them. I will see to it ․

So, as Mr. Doutel’s case grinds its way to its inevitable denouement (FOAD?), lawyers for Mrs. Doutel have sued the City of Norwalk for fourth amendment violations. [Click here for the filing.] The lawsuit takes the Norwalk police to task for entering the Doutel’s home without a warrant and confiscating Mrs. Doutel’s firearms.

You’d think that Mrs. D wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance. The Supreme Court’s given no-knock raids a big thumbs-up for the last four decades. The Constitution State’s current distaste for all things firearm is well-established, both legally and politically. And yet the CT court dismissed the City’s motion to have the lawsuit punted. [Press release from Connecticut Carry below.]

We’ll be keeping an eye on this one . . .

Hartford CT –-(Ammoland.com)- Claims of Fourth Amendment violations by four Norwalk police officers have survived the City of Norwalk’s motion for dismissal: A Connecticut Federal District Court has rendered a ruling in favor of the innocent and injured spouse of Duane Doutel from Norwalk, CT.

The City of Norwalk sought to have all charges in the complaint brought by the plaintiff, Barbara Casey Doutel of Norwalk, dismissed on the grounds of summary judgment. The charge that survived this motion was ‘Unreasonable Search and Seizure in Violation of the 4th Amendment’. The search and seizure of Mrs. Doutel’s firearms stemmed from Mr. Doutel’s February 2010 arrest.

When the charges against Mr. Doutel were brought to court, the charges were reduced and then ultimately dismissed entirely after a protracted and costly legal battle that spanned over 18 months and more than a dozen court appearances.

The Norwalk police had called Mr. Doutel prior to arriving at his home under the false pretenses of ‘just wanting to talk to him’. Mr Doutel had replied that they had no need to come to his home unless they had an arrest warrant in hand. Officer Jared Zwickler and fellow officers arrived at the home, ordering Mr. Doutel out of his home and then marching past the handcuffed Mr. Doutel into his home to search for firearms.

Judge Vanessa Bryant has found that material differences exist regarding whether or not police had consent to initiate a search of Mr. Doutel’s home as well as the subsequent seizure of Mr. and Mrs. Doutel’s firearms and other property. Before a jury sees the case, the case must survive settlement negotiations with a Federal Magistrate.

Whether the City of Norwalk will come to their senses and recognize a losing case or not is anyone’s guess at this point. Courts, towns and politicians have certainly shown a gross bias to anything related to firearms since the Newtown massacre; the actions of Norwalk and the Federal Magistrate will be interesting to observe.

Attorney Rachel Baird filed Mrs. Doutel’s complaint in Federal court on July 25, 2011. Mr. Doutel has yet to file his own lawsuit against the City of Norwalk for their role in his arrest.

comments

  1. avatar Byte Stryke says:

    Cops should have to start paying a percentage of all of the settlements from their own pockets. Perhaps then they would be more constitutional and less tyannical

    1. avatar Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      Seize their pensions and garnish all future wages to satisfy penalties before assessing taxpayers.

    2. avatar wa_2a says:

      +1. Why do taxpayers pay for PD f*ck-ups?

    3. avatar Pascal says:

      There are some police departments that are doing this for 1st amendment violations. If an officer is found to be in violation of the 1st amendment (usually in the case of cameras and taking pictures of officers), then they are on their own to defend themselves. The thought is that it will prevent future violations. IMHO, if they are found in violation of any constitutional amendments, they should be required to defend themselves on their own dime. This will make everyone think twice. Especially in this case, you really need to read the whole case to see how stupid the police acted in this case.

      1. avatar NCG says:

        Pascal, I though SOP was to arrest you and shoot your dog if you’re filming them. And how many cameras get “accidentally” broken while in police custody? This is a great idea.

    4. avatar Lars says:

      Your comment will be removed soon. Never thought I’d see the day this crap would end up on TTAG. Nobody working from home makes 88 an hour, .88c maybe. Jackarse.

      1. avatar Matt in FL says:

        Yes, Lars, that comment will be removed soon, but as they don’t generally delete the replies to the spam, your hyper-intelligent comment, replying to a spambot who is long gone and will never see it (or care), will live on forever.

        I suppose that’s a kind of immortality for you.

      2. avatar Ralph says:

        Lars, Mable’s roommate’s mom does make $88 an hour working from home.

        She’s a hooker.

        1. avatar David Trest says:

          The internets.

          You win all of them.

    5. avatar Blue says:

      Amen along with their unions.

    6. avatar Mark says:

      I agree. One of the big problems is that the police are indemnified by the court and the entity they work for. You can’t sue them individually, generally. Even if you win the suit the entity winds up paying or settling with the defendants money as well as everyone elses. This leaving of no recourse is instrumental in the mindset of many police today in that they can easily justify their actions. This has devolved the police into a force of people who exist to enforce the edicts of a state at war with its people in its efforts to control them. The time for accepting the Nuremberg Defense of “I was just doing my job” is long past. They need to be held accountable.

  2. avatar William Burke says:

    Whew. Can you say, “fly in the ointment”, boys and girls? I knew you could..

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      more like sand in the Vaseline. Just sayin’.

  3. avatar ST says:

    The strategy is simple:rather then ban guns and risk adverse opposition from the judiciary,the antis are creating broad categories of “prohibited” people.

    Today its vague threats over a phone.Tomorrow,a parking ticket or unpaid library fine will be grounds for termination of someones RKBA.California is already at that point today.

    1. avatar Blue says:

      This is for real. We have the Docs vs. Glocks thing going on in Florida courts.

      1. avatar Bill says:

        More than that, many Docs. (especially pediatricians) are on the anti-gun rant. So much so that many are published in journals and books about how gun violence is an epidemic and they must be treated as a disease because guns are a vector, like a mosquito, for death. They are unable to discriminate that it is an inanimate object, etc.

        1. avatar Bdk NH says:

          Doctors kill more people via malpractice and incompetence than people with guns kill people. True story. Ban them! errrr, huh?!?

  4. avatar Hannibal says:

    Sounds like it was good that he was arrested. Sounds like it was good that his guns were confiscated. I’m sorry, but the guy sounds like the poster child for the next story on the 6 o’clock news.

    But sounds bad that there was no warrant. While police do have the legal ability to conduct a protective sweep of an area (including a residence) when making an arrest, it’s fairly limited in scope and I don’t see why they didn’t just get a warrant. They knew they were going to arrest him, I don’t see the exigency.

    1. avatar Pascal says:

      Seriously, you are getting the paper’s view. Read the details of the case the whole case. You will change your mind. If you search you can even find the tape recording. The doctor was full of crap. Do not be fooled/

    2. avatar Matt in FL says:

      You think it’s good that he was arrested? Why? “[T]he charges were reduced and then ultimately dismissed entirely”, so clearly there wasn’t anything there.

      You think it’s good that his guns were confiscated? Well, with all due respect, where the hell do you get off? Is he a felon? Has he been adjudicated mentally defective? If not, where do you get off? The charges have been dismissed, and he still can’t get his guns back. Because somebody’s nervous. That is not valid grounds for confiscatory action.

      Law enforcement is not yet the “Division of Pre-Crime.” God save us from people like you who act like it is.

    3. avatar Blue says:

      Arrests also require warrants at someones homes or at least should. Its that pesky Bill of Rights that keeps annoying these guys that swore to uphold it. It is what is meant by a “sworn” officer.

  5. avatar mina says:

    thought crimes. they have given up trying to be logical and are moving onto punishing people for thought crimes.

  6. avatar ensitue says:

    How old is the supposed perp?
    Just as I advised against posting a response to a question “Do you Snipe Much?” a title that has since been changed (to late the NSA has it). I strongly recommend that one NEVER EVER make statements that will, or even could, be recorded and certainly not when you’ve had a few! Twitter is NOT your friend and neither is any other person you insult.
    Sadly, the man above learned this basic lesson for too late.

  7. avatar Chris says:

    Sounds like the guy has a touch of the crazy…

    1. avatar Pascal says:

      No, read the actual case. You are getting the police/towns view. If you read the details of the case and listen to actual recording you can find online, you will have a much different view.

  8. avatar Matt in FL says:

    I particularly liked this passage of the Memorandum of Decision:

    Although the office had no policy prohibiting guns, Dr. Staw indicated that carrying a gun was not something that they expected patients to do.   The office is located on East Avenue in Norwalk, which Mrs. Staw testified is not considered a dangerous area.

    Oh. I guess if the doctor’s wife says it’s not a dangerous area, then that pretty much settles it, doesn’t it?

    Did the sarcasm come through?

    1. avatar Pascal says:

      If you read more about the case, there are a lot more laughs

    2. avatar Blue says:

      The good Doctor should have is medical license suspended pending treatment for acute hoplophobia.

  9. avatar Mark N. says:

    What bothers me most is how the police twisted the facts to justify the seizure in the first place. Yeah, the guy sounds like he was angry, as I imagine most of us would be if we faced the potential of cancellation of a procedure because the doctor’s office (appeared to have) screwed up. But there is a definite sense that the facts were interpreted as suggesting that a concealed weapons holder is “threatening” when he carries his firearm where there is no “need” to do so because it is “safe” there, because the hoplophobic staff somehow felt “threatened” that a person who had a legal right to do so was carrying in their office. If this were the standard, no one could carry anywhere without the risk of arrest if someone feels “threatened.”

  10. avatar Jay also in Florida says:

    Take the city for all its worth.
    Mr might have a problem.
    But to take Mrs property etc is just wrong.
    I heard no threat or implication of such in Misters remarks.
    Not the brightest bulb to be recorded but……
    To have cops enter ones premises on the possibility of action over a phone call??
    A bit over done regardless of the circumstances.
    I wonder if individual cops can be sued ???
    Take the $$$ from the coppers and maybe they might react in a more civil manner.
    As to firearms in a Drs. office.
    I had my yearly physical in May.
    I rode my motorcycle, no place to put my gun safely.
    So I wore it and entered the office.
    My Dr. didn’t blink when I took off my shirt and he saw my gun in my IWB for the 1st time..
    Not a blink. Ive been his patient and see him every 90 days for tests for the last 13 years.
    He should be worried or make a scene????
    I think not.

  11. avatar Matt in FL says:

    In the course of his investigation he learned that the office staff felt threatened by this message, based upon the fact that the defendant previously had brought a firearm with him to medical appointments, made a point of showing medical staff that he had the weapon with him, often expressed racist ideas in the office, discussed political subjects, and was often very agitated, animated, or easily excitable while at the medical office.

    So, in order:

    “previously had brought a firearm with him to medical appointments” – NOT ILLEGAL

    “made a point of showing medical staff that he had the weapon with him” – Brandishing, or telling them prior to pulling his shirt up so they wouldn’t freak out? I’m guessing it’s a little more from column ‘B’ than column ‘A’. Assuming I’m right – NOT ILLEGAL

    “often expressed racist ideas in the office” – Might make you an asshole, but NOT ILLEGAL

    “discussed political subjects” – NOT ILLEGAL

    “was often very agitated, animated, or easily excitable” – NOT ILLEGAL. In fact, even if he was diagnosed as manic depressive or bipolar, that would not necessarily be a bar to gun ownership or possession, without an adjudication of mental defect.

    So here’s my question: If he had all these behaviors that made them nervous, or made him seem sketchy, why didn’t they just fire him as a patient? They could do that, y’know. They don’t have to provide him with medical care. So why didn’t they?

    1. avatar Ropingdown says:

      Exactly. But throwing him some legal trouble also assured them he would be too busy to follow up on his belief that they had not delivered what he paid for. Hopefully used car dealers haven’t read this case. They might get ideas,.

    2. You are correct. All the behaviours are things that are vague enough to be streched.

      It sounds to me like the Doctor is a borderline sociopath. I hope at the end of all this, any assets the Doctor has belong to Mr. Doutel.

  12. avatar Lars says:

    This case seems to be more about his inability to act like a normal human being while interacting with other people. A doctors waiting room and office is no place for political or race talk, and the fact he was armed didn’t help the situation. If he was armed and acted normal and did not leave a threatening message there would be no story. As for the police going into his home once you are suspected and/or charged with any terroristic threat no matter what degree the police in most cases are allowed to search and seize any weapons at the place you reside whether you own the home or not, in some cases if the home or lease was not in his name then they would have to get permission from owner, but I assume this home was his and in his name.
    The Dr. did nothing wrong, what the police did was questionable but threats of any kind especially by a known armed individual are taken very seriously nowadays.

    Act decent, mind your business and you’ll be fine for the most part. Isn’t what the doctor did what all of us gun folks wanted him to do in this situation? We always talk about “mental health” being the main issue and not guns, to me this is a case where it was done right. Again, as to the search and seizure, I’m not a lawyer but threats these days are not treated like a shoplifting charge.

    1. avatar Ardent says:

      I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and guess you’re not in or at least not from the U.S. Lars?
      Lars said:
      “As for the police going into his home once you are suspected and/or charged with any terrorist threat no matter what degree the police in most cases are allowed to search and seize any weapons at the place you reside whether you own the home or not, in some cases if the home or lease was not in his name then they would have to get permission from owner, but I assume this home was his and in his name.”
      According to the 4th Amendment to the US constitution the police may not enter without a warrant specifying the place to be entered and the person and or property to be seized. The case law exceptions to this fall under ‘exigent circumstances’, often illustrated by such things as hearing someone inside calling for help or having pursued a suspect into the home. Even in these cases any search or seizure is limited (often to the area in the suspects immediate control and or what is in plain sight). Compounding the confusion is the concept you’ve advanced regarding who owns the residence. Once a warrant is had or exigent circumstances are found to exist no further permission is needed from anyone at all regardless of who owns or leases the residence. Additionally, a lawfully occupied (leased or rented) residence cannot be entered on the ‘permission’ of the owner since the residence is legally the domain of the renter. This however doesn’t apply to other people who reside in the place to be search, as any resident may give permission to enter and search. (Note that is resident, not owner.)
      Rights exist only so long as they can be elucidated and are defended. Please don’t throw away the 4th amendment so flippantly.

  13. avatar John Fritz says:

    Looking at that statue made me sad for a lot of reasons.

    1. avatar Ropingdown says:

      Me too. In my early innocent years that statue would have been fine. Today, conditioned by the PC regarding children, I thought the statue should be styled “Look Out For Officer Way-Too-Friendly.”

      1. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

        Yeah, the statue just seems a bit creepy nowadays…

  14. avatar Anonymous says:

    I was a supervisor of a few people. I always told them that love can be for 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, months, years or forever BUT e-mails were forever. Never send an e-mail that your worst enemys best lawyer would want to read.

    I dare to say that recordings fall into the same category.

    Anything can be taken out of context but given what was apparently his conduct, I would also be concerned.

  15. avatar RLC2 says:

    Apply the 3 S’ rule:
    Stupid person (Mr Douchbag)
    doing Stupid things (showing his gun off, )
    in a Stupid place (doctors office).

    = fails the common-sense and good judgement test to CC.

    1. avatar AFIraqVet says:

      If you read the court testimony, the idea that Mr. Doutel “brandished” or “showed off” his pistol was pretty handily contradicted, as said testimony from staff established that the Dr. was the only one to ever see the pistol after Doutel advised him he was carrying and removed it for exams.

      I would be very interested in knowing what was considered racist in Doutel’s statements by the office staff. Were there racial slurs or derogatory terms used, or did he just commit the egregious offense of disliking the POTUS or other politician of color?

      The newspaper and police report make it sound like a slam dunk, but the actual voicemail and courtroom testimony? Not so much…

      1. avatar Blue says:

        I am surprised the people automatically believe the leftest press on anything given they are part of the Gun Ban Lobby. One would think they would look into these things carefully. Many of these types of doctors think that anyone that likes guns is mentally ill. The irony is that this behavior is hoplophobia.

  16. avatar Pat says:

    Going into the home without a warrant and taking the guns?
    All because of a stupidly vague phone message?

  17. avatar Seadrive says:

    There is a law in CT that allows cops to confiscate firearms if they believe there is a real risk of violence or injury. (IANAL, and I can’t quote it.) No warrant or other approval necessary. The usual example is to take guns from someone who is suicidal or psychotic, and I don’t know if it applies here. I also don’t know if it would allow them to confiscate Mrs. D’s guns based on Mr. D’s threat.

    1. avatar Blue says:

      Wow. They may as well suspend the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments and allow the police to do door to door “inspections” to make sure there are no “public safety” concerns in peoples homes.

  18. avatar jimmy jones says:

    Please stop using the phrase “po po” to describe the police. It is hard to take you seriously when you use such nonsensical language or terms that a 2 yr old would use. Thank you.

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