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Couple sues Glenwood cops

Dennis Webb

A judge has ruled that a civil rights case alleging an unconstitutional search of a home by Glenwood Springs police can go to trial, the plaintiffs’ attorney said Wednesday.Officer Brian Keiter and former police officer Matthew Hagberry will stand trial in Denver or Grand Junction in connection with a 2002 case in which they entered home and pointed their guns at two teenagers, Glenwood Springs attorney Ted Hess said in a news release.Hess said claims against police chief Terry Wilson, who was not present, and other officers were dismissed. Wilson said Wednesday he could not confirm the judge’s ruling, and he otherwise declined to comment on the case because it is a legal matter. A Denver attorney representing the city in the case could not be reached for comment.Mark and Shelley Fishbein, formerly of Glenwood Springs, brought the case in connection with a search of their home on Aug. 15, 2002. Teenagers Scott Fishbein and Aaron Hughes were inside playing computer games at the time.The two feared they were going to be killed by the officers, Hess said.Police went to the Fishbeins’ home after a report from Glenwood Springs resident Jesse Shearer that Mark Fishbein had pointed a gun at him near the Grand Avenue bridge and used racial slurs.Police found the Fishbeins in their car across the street from their home, and arrested them in their front yard, handcuffing them face-down, Hess said.Police then entered the home, though it wasn’t connected to the 911 call, he said. Hess contends the entry violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unconstitutional search and seizure.Prosecutors later dropped charges against Mark Fishbein after Shearer stopped cooperating as a witness and another witness came forward in Fishbein’s defense. Shelley Fishbein, who was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory to the crimes, was never formally charged.The Fishbeins sued Glenwood Springs police in June 2003.The city responded with 15 defenses to the civil suit, including self-defense, probable cause and immunity from suit.Hess said of the recent judge’s ruling, “This was a big win. In civil rights actions, the police have a defense called ‘qualified immunity.’ Under qualified immunity, the police are exonerated if they make ‘reasonable’ mistakes. The judge thinks this case should go to trial.”I get a lot of complaints about police entering homes without a warrant. I hope this case makes the police stop and think before they violate the sanctity of the home.” Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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