NEW HAMPTON, Mo. — A Christian homeschooling organization has filed a legal challenge against a Missouri sheriff and his deputy after they pepper sprayed and tasered a couple in front of their children when they refused to let them in the house without a warrant.
The situation occurred in September 2011 after a Missouri Child Protective Services (CPS) agent had visited the home of Jason and Laura Hagan of New Hampton following a complaint of a messy home. When the caseworker sought to return a second time for a follow-up, the couple refused. CPS then called the police.
According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), Sheriff Darren White and Chief Sheriff’s Deputy David Glidden then arrived at the home, seeking to enter. Mr. Hagan told the men that they needed to obtain a warrant from a court.
When Glidden stated that he would enter anyway, Hagan turned to go back in the house, and was consequently pepper sprayed in the back of his head, and then in his face. Mrs. Hagan was then sprayed as well.
As Mr. Hagan was still standing after the ordeal, he was then tasered, which caused him to fall to the floor just inside of the door. Mrs. Hagan then closed the door on the deputy.
But at this point, White joined Glidden on the porch, and together they busted open the Hagan’s door, forcing their way inside. They found both Mr. and Mrs. Hagan lying on the floor and began pepper spraying them again. They also sprayed a “chemical agent” on the dog and threatened that they would shoot if he did not stop barking at them.
The Hagans were then handcuffed and charged with child endangerment and resisting arrest, and the children were taken to the hospital for exposure to the pepper spray used by the sheriff and his deputy on their parents. The children at the time were ages 13, 10 and 8.
As the Hagans were then forced to appear in court to answer for the charges, a judge instead found that Glidden and White had violated the couple’s Fourth Amendment rights by forcing entry into their home without a warrant.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized,” the constitutional amendment reads.
According to the Legal Information Institute, “[t]he Fourth Amendment originally enforced the notion that ‘each man’s home is his castle,’ secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government. It protects against arbitrary arrests, and is the basis of the law regarding search warrants, stop-and-frisk, safety inspections, wiretaps, and other forms of surveillance, as well as being central to many other criminal law topics and to privacy law.”
The judge agreed that Glidden and White’s actions were consequently inappropriate in this regard.
“The court will not allow [an] exception to sanction warrantless entry into a private residence by pepper spray and taser,” the judge ruled. “If the officer had a warrant in hand and such force was necessary, that is a different story, but those are not the facts of this case.”
Therefore, as the criminal matter was dismissed against the Hagans, HSLDA has now filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the sheriff and his deputy to seek retribution for the ordeal that they went through three years ago.
“All too often, law enforcement officers and child-welfare workers act as if the Fourth Amendment does not apply to CPS investigations. They are wrong,” wrote Senior Counsel James Mason in a recent email to supporters. “The Fourth Amendment is a legal shield that protects people from exactly the kind of mistreatment the Hagans endured.”
“When HSLDA takes cases like the Hagans’, we do not intend to show disrespect for law enforcement officers. We know that they have a difficult job,” he said. “[But] if we stand by and allow law enforcement to flagrantly disregard our Fourth Amendment rights, those rights will be eroded and eventually ignored. And real parents and real children will continue to be harmed.”
Photo: Jason Esbain