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City, couple reach settlement in case where police barged into wrong house

By Natalie Allison Janicello, Times-News, Burlington, N.C.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 12--The city of Burlington has reached a $25,000 settlement with a couple whose home was wrongly targeted during a drug raid this past spring.

The settlement claim, which would be paid to Clifton and Shirley King of Mebane, is on the city council's agenda to be authorized Tuesday night.

After conducting a drug investigation that spanned several months, a Burlington police officer obtained a search warrant April 4 for 3264 Maplewood Ave., the address of the residence he believed was being used for selling and delivering marijuana, according to the warrant.

Since the address was outside the Burlington Police Department's jurisdiction, Alamance County sheriff's deputies were asked to serve the warrant. Though sheriff's office spokesman Randy Jones reported that one of its lieutenants had questioned the Burlington officer about the accuracy of the address, the officer assured deputies the address was accurate, and they carried out the raid.

It wasn't until deputies had broken down the Kings' door, guns drawn, and handcuffed them that the group realized the Burlington police had obtained a search warrant for the wrong house.

In a memo included in the packet for the City Council's meeting July 15, Interim City Attorney Charles Bateman writes that an internal investigation "concluded that the officers involved in the issuance of the warrant had acted negligently in that they did not sufficiently identify the house number before applying for the warrant." Bateman added that it was "an unfortunate incident that resulted in damage to the premises and a forceful restraint of the occupants."

Neither Bateman nor the city's risk management department were available for comment Friday, and the extent of the damage that occurred to the Kings' home was unclear.

City Manager Harold Owen said the settlement had been reached by Bateman and the Kings, and no other details were available.

According to the memo, $25,000 is the deductible amount of the city's liability insurance, though Owen said the settlement is being paid entirely by the city and doesn't involve insurance.

Lt. Brian Long said the Burlington Police Department, by law, couldn't comment on personnel matters concerning the officer involved, R.D. Hebden.

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(c)2014 Times-News (Burlington, N.C.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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