Colorado grandma sues as detective used Apple's 'Find My' app to wrongly identify her house for SWAT raid

Colorado grandma sues as detective used Apple's 'Find My' app to wrongly identify her house for SWAT raid
The SWAT team used a bullhorn to demand that Ruby Johnson come out of her house in order to conduct the raid (Screenshot from Youtube/9 News)

DENVER, COLORADO: An elderly Colorado woman is suing a Denver police detective who allegedly ordered a SWAT raid on her home after it was incorrectly identified by Apple's "Find my" app as the location of various stolen items, including six weapons and an old iPhone, according to a lawsuit filed on November 30.

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The complaint claims that Denver Police Department Detective Gary Staab improperly issued a warrant for the raid of 77-year-old Ruby Johnson's home on January 4 based on what the complaint calls a "hastily prepared, bare-bones, misleading affidavit." The lawsuit was filed in Denver District Court by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado. Johnson is suing Staab "in his individual capacity," according to the lawsuit.  Johnson is asking for a jury trial and unspecified damages.

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According to the complaint, Johnson's right to "be free of unreasonable searches and seizures" as guaranteed by the state constitution was infringed by Staab's affidavit. Since the affidavit was allegedly based on an ambiguous and unverified ping by Apple's "Find My" feature, which is used to track Apple devices, there was allegedly lack of "probable cause that evidence of crime could be found" at Johnson's residence, NBC reports.

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The search warrant was issued the day after a white truck with a Texas licence plate was allegedly stolen from the parking garage of a Denver Hyatt hotel as per the truck's owner, who was staying at the hotel. Six firearms, including a tactical military-style rifle, two drones, $4,000 in cash, and an outdated iPhone 11 were among the items the truck's owner reported as stolen to the police.

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(Screenshot from Youtube/9 News)
According to the complaint, Johnson's right to "be free of unreasonable searches and seizures" as guaranteed by the state constitution was infringed by Staab's affidavit (Screenshot from Youtube/9 News)

According to the lawsuit, Staab spoke with the truck's owner over the phone the following morning. The owner had claimed to have used the "Find My" app to look for his missing things and that it had twice pinged Johnson's address. A copy of the document shows that Staab then cited that assertion as justification for the raid.

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According to the complaint, Staab reportedly neglected to make an effort to independently verify the alleged location of the stolen goods before conducting the raid. Also, the "Find My" app is used to determine approximations of locations and "is not intended as a law enforcement tool." According to a picture on the complaint that was also shown on the affidavit received by KUSA, the region that was marked on the app as the potential location of the phone, for instance, encompassed at least six properties and four blocks.

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(Screenshot from Youtube/9 News)
 Staab reportedly neglected to make an effort to do additional work to verify the alleged location of the stolen goods before conducting the raid (Screenshot from Youtube/9 News)

“Defendant Staab presented his false characterization of the screenshot’s meaning as an objective fact and omitted the particular facts and circumstances that contradicted it," the complaint states.

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The police department is said to be collaborating with the district attorney's office "to develop additional training for officers and assistant district attorneys related to seeking warrants based upon find my phone applications." According to the statement, the department's Police Chief, Ron Thomas, has ordered an internal investigation in response to the incident.

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Johnson was "frightened and confused" when the SWAT team arrived in military gear, with tactical rifles and a police-trained German Shepherd dog, and used a bullhorn to demand that anyone inside the home come out, according to the filing, which describes Johnson as a "United States Postal Service worker and grandmother who lives alone in Denver's Montbello neighbourhood."

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The episode caused Johnson “severe physical and emotional distress," according to the complaint: "Ms. Johnson’s privacy, sense of safety, and peace in her home have been shattered since her house became the scene of a militarized criminal investigation."

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