Sheriff and Police Chief Sued for Panama Unit Search and Seizures
According to a federal lawsuit obtained by Action 4, the Panama Unit conducted unlawful searches and seizures without due process.
Court documents revealed that six armed men, alleged members of the Panama Unit, burst into a home in 2012, demanding drugs and illegal immigrants.
The home owners, Jose and Maria Perez claim that when they couldn't get the drugs, they were forced into an unmarked vehicle and told, "call someone that sells drugs or else."
"Can you imagine the feeling in the pit of your stomach when somebody says, 'we TMre going to take you with us and you're going to tell us what we need to know or else,' and this person is wearing a badge," asked attorney Jim Grissom.
Grissom, who represents the couple, amended a civil lawsuit against Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino and former Mission Police Chief Martin Garza.
Grissom told Action 4 his clients returned home to find thousands of dollars worth of gold jewelry and bottles of perfume missing.
A firearm was also allegedly left by one of the deputies assigned to the Panama Unit.
The lawsuit reveals it was not the first illegal search and seizure by the drug task force.
Patrick Shumaker claims the Jonathan Trevino and Gerardo Mendoza illegally searched his vehicle and motel room using a "fake search warrant."
"These plaintiffs were terrorized, kidnapped, held without charge-all the things our constitution prohibits," stated Grissom.
Grissom said members of the Panama Unit must be held responsible for violating his clients TM 4th and 14th constitutional amendment rights, along with their employers, because these men were given badges and ID's to represent the City of Mission and Hidalgo County.
The lawsuit also adds Sheriff Trevino and former Mission Police Chief Garza failed to "adequately train and supervise" their officers and deputies.
Sometimes you find somebody that wants to take a shortcut. Unfortunately, when that happens, it's the responsibility of the Chief of Police and the Sheriff to have systems in effect to be able to indicate that and to take corrective action," said Grissom.
The former Police Chief of Mission, who is now City Manager, is also named in the lawsuit. Martin Garza said he can't comment on the case because he has yet to be served.