10th Circuit sinks lawsuit in gun raid

A ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals may be the final word in a nearly 5-year-old feud over a gun raid involving the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

The Court of Appeals on Feb. 2 upheld a ruling issued in March 2011 by a lower court, which dismissed a lawsuit filed by Bill and Shelley Martin of Fruitvale. The Martins alleged civil rights violations by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department in connection with a search warrant executed at the Martin home, where more than 150 firearms were seized Nov. 15, 2007.

The Martin lawsuit alleged they were kept at “gunpoint over eight hours” as officers, including agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, executed a no-knock search warrant at the property, according to court records. The lawsuit alleged Shelley Martin was forced outside for 45 minutes in her nightgown, while one of the officers threatened to shoot the family pet.

The raid happened several weeks after Martin allowed deputies inside his home to view his collection of weapons, assisting in an unrelated investigation.

In her March 2011 ruling dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger said the lawsuit failed to identify a specific Sheriff’s Department employee who committed any constitutional violation.

Former Mesa County deputy Tim Henderson drafted an affidavit in support of search warrant for the Martin property after learning Bill Martin was a felon. Martin successfully completed probation after pleading guilty in 1991 to vehicular assault. Colorado banned felons from possessing firearms in 1994.

The Court of Appeals, and Judge Krieger, however, found that Henderson was entitled to qualified immunity and couldn’t be sued. 

Martin’s guns were returned by authorities in September 2008 after state and federal prosecutors declined to file criminal charges.

“It’s still a thorn in my side,” Martin said Friday, asked for comment about the dismissal.

Martin said some 500 rounds of ammunition, which were returned to him in September 2008, didn’t belong to him. He also said some of the returned weapons were returned damaged, including a .40-caliber 1859 Navy Colt, which was a remnant of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

“It took more damage from the Sheriff’s Department than it did in the Civil War,” Martin said.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Matt Lewis said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on Martin’s individual claims.

“There are avenues available to Mr. Martin to address those grievances with us,” Lewis said.


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