Pasco couple say police owe for condo damage

PASCO -- A Pasco couple want Pasco and Benton County to pay for damages they claim were caused during a police and SWAT team search.

John and Patricia Storm have sued the city and county in U.S. District Court.

The Storms' lawsuit says Pasco police officers and Tri-Cities Regional SWAT team officers forced their way into a condo the Storms own on Sylvester Street in Pasco on Aug. 25, 2009, without permission.

The officers did not find the suspect, who did not live in the condo, according to the lawsuit.

The Storms allege the officers used excessive force, including gunfire and pepper spray, and caused extensive damage to the property and to personal belongings.

Attorney George Fearing, who is representing Pasco and Benton County, did not respond to Herald requests for comment on the case.

Jill Robinson of Spokane, the Storms' daughter, said police and the SWAT team searched the condo after getting a tip that Troy Lee Fuller might be there.

He was not in the apartment, but Herald files indicate one man who was there was arrested on outstanding misdemeanor warrants.

Fuller, of West Richland, was arrested the next day and was sentenced Jan. 28 to 19 years in prison for robbing two Kennewick banks and a Richland Rite Aide.

Robinson said police shot pepper pellets into the condo and shot up the ceiling and walls. She said her parents recently finished having the condo rebuilt at a cost of about $55,000.

That's a lot for her parents to cover, Robinson said. John Storm is 88 and Patricia Storm is 86.

The Storms did not include an estimate of the damages in the claim they filed with the city on Oct. 13, 2009.

The city's insurance agency, Washington Cities Insurance Authority, denied the Storms' claim in a Nov. 19, 2009, letter.

The Storms originally filed the lawsuit in Franklin County Superior Court on July 1, but the case was moved to U.S. District Court on Aug. 6 after the city requested the change, according to court documents.

The city and county acknowledge in court documents that police and the SWAT team entered the residence without the Storms' permission, but said they had a search warrant.

Conduct of the officers was justified and their actions did not create the damage the Storms are claiming, according to the documents filed by the city and county.

Robinson said her parents are the owners of record on the property and officers could have reached them and avoided the whole situation.

Had her brother, who lives in the condo, been there, he would have let them in, she said.

The city and county have requested a jury trial. A trial date has not been set yet.