Raid Of The Day: Scott Bryant

01/25/2013 08:55 am ET | Updated Mar 27, 2013
  • Radley Balko Senior Writer and Investigative Reporter, The Huffington Post

In late March of 1995, deputies with the Dodge County, Wisconsin Sheriff's Department claimed to have found traces of marijuana in a trashcan outside the home of Paul Shavlik, Cheryl Kadinger, and Jason Tews. That was reason enough for Lt. James Rohr, Det. Robert Neuman, Det. Anthony Soblewski, and Dep. Kevin Hill to wage a violent, no-knock, 2:45 am raid.

On the morning of April 1st, the three roommates were tossed to the ground, handcuffed, and held motionless face down on the floor at gunpoint for 45 minutes while the police, as the roommates put it, "tore the place to shreds." Kadinger says the officers also made sexual comments while rifling through her underwear drawer. They found no drugs and made no arrests.

Two weeks later, the same cops raided another home, again after claiming to have found marijuana residue in an outside trashcan. The second raid didn't produce a significant quantity drugs, either. But it did end with a tragedy.

Scott Bryant, 29, had a petty criminal history, but relatives said he had put all of that behind him after winning sole custody of his 8-year-old son Colten. It had been four years since his last arrest, and Bryant was working long hours as a tool and die maker to support his boy. He was also taking classes at a technical college, where faculty described him as "a straight-A student." Bryant's sister Shannon Halloff told the Wisconsin State Journal in 1995, "He's shown us the last few years what he's made of. He really turned his life around."

On the night of April 17th, Rohr, Neuman, Soblewski, and Hill gathered outside of Bryant's mobile home. Rohr would later say he knocked on the door before entering, but neighbors who were 100 feet from the trailer at the time said they heard no knock or announcement. Rohr kicked open the door, and he and Neuman went inside. Bryant was sleeping. Seconds later, Neuman shot Bryant flush in the chest. Bryant was unarmed. He died in his home as his son slept in the next room.

Neuman later told investigators he "couldn't remember" pulling the trigger. That was all he would say. Neuman was known in the department for making big drug busts that generated headlines. Sheriff Stephen Fitzgerald said the shooting was "tragic," and compared it to a hunting accident. The local district attorney determined that the shooting was "not in any way justified," put declined to press charges.

The following year Dodge County settled with the Bryant family for $950,000.

(The "Raid of the Day" features accounts of police raids I've found, researched, and reported while writing my forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. It's due out in July, but you can pre-order it here.)