According to court documents, Ruby Johnson was watching TV in a bathrobe and slippers when a SWAT team showed up outside her home last January and demanded over a loudspeaker that everyone in the house get out with their hands up. SWAT and Denver Police officers arrived at Johnson’s home in an armored vehicle with a German Shepherd. Officers used a battering ram on the rear garage door of Ms. Johnson’s home and also caused damage inside the house, court records say, reports The New York Times.
Officers searched for the stolen items while Ms. Johnson, 77, waited in a police car. A few hours later they left. No results.
In a lawsuit filed last week, Ms. Johnson, a retired United States Postal Service employee who lives alone, claims that Detective Gary Staab sought the warrant based on inaccurate information from Apple’s Find My service. A mobile app that helps track missing or lost Apple gadgets such as iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks led him to believe the stolen goods were at her home.
Mark Silverstein, a lawyer for Ms. Johnson and the legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Colorado, said on Monday that Detective Staab, the sole defendant named in the suit, should not have applied for the warrant.
“The detective did not have the facts needed to justify a search,” Mr. Silverstein said. “His supervisor should have vetoed it. The district attorney should not have greenlighted it. The judge should not have approved it, and the SWAT team should have stayed home.”
The Denver Police Department has launched an internal investigation and is working with the district attorney’s office to create training for officers on warrants based on apps like Find My.
“The Department of Public Safety and Denver Police Department sincerely apologize to Ms. Johnson for any negative impacts this situation may have had on her,” the department said, adding that it hoped to “resolve the matter” without further litigation.
He was assigned on Jan. 4 to investigate a truck that had been reported stolen the day before, according to court documents. The filings state that the owner told the police that inside the truck were four semiautomatic handguns, a tactical military-style rifle, a revolver, two drones, $4,000 in cash and an iPhone 11.
A detective interviewed the truck’s owner, Jeremy McDaniel, who said he had used Find My to locate an iPhone the day before and that he had placed the lost smartphone at the address listed in court documents. McDaniel himself also told Detective Staab that he had rented a car to drive to the address but did not see his truck. He said he suspects it may have been in the home’s garage. About three hours after interviewing Mr. McDaniel on January 4, Detective Staab obtained a search warrant, and Denver police and SWAT officers soon arrived on Ms. Johnson’s lawn.
The Find My app was created to help Apple product owners find the approximate location of a lost item, according to the app’s legal terms. The tool relies on a combination of cellular, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth data to show users the approximate location of a lost item.