A Federal Way nurse who was thrown to the ground at gunpoint, handcuffed and forced to stand outside barefoot in the winter while Tacoma police raided her apartment in error was awarded $250,000 by a King County Superior Court jury on Thursday.
The jury found after a two-week trial that the Tacoma Police Department was negligent in failing to follow its own procedures in verifying information from a confidential informant.
Kathleen Mancini’s apartment was raided on Jan. 5, 2011, after a confidential informant incorrectly identified the apartment of the then 62-year-old nurse as a drug dealer’s home.
“Mancini was brutalized and traumatized,” wrote her attorney, Lori Haskell, in a news statement released on Friday. Mancini, who had never before been the target of a police investigation, still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and “has flashbacks when seeing a uniformed police officer,” Haskell said.
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The civil case was originally dismissed by a judge who incorrectly found that the city of Tacoma was immune from liability based on public-duty doctrine.
The Court of Appeals, however, overturned the Superior Court ruling and found that Mancini’s negligence claims were grounded in the common-law right to the sanctity of her home, and the case was sent back for trial.
“This duty, the duty to refrain from invading a private individual’s home, whether intentionally (trespass) or negligently (resulting from the absence of due care) is one of common law origin and applies to all,” the appeals court wrote in its 2015 opinion. “Her neighbors could not invade her home. The same is true of the City’s agents.”
The 38-page opinion was a stinging rebuke to Tacoma police, who knew immediately that they were in the wrong apartment but went ahead and searched Mancini’s unit.
Mancini lived in apartment 1B, while the cops’ intended target — a felon with a long history of drug and firearms crimes — lived in apartment 1A in a different building in the same complex, according to the opinion and other court documents filed as part of the 2012 lawsuit.
Tacoma police relied exclusively on the word of an informant who had pointed out Mancini’s apartment in a complex with four identical buildings and did not verify it with surveillance or a controlled buy in violation of the department’s own policy, according to the suit.
In contrast with the way Mancini was treated, the police officers took the drug dealer they were actually seeking into custody without any of the violence displayed in Mancini’s apartment, Haskell said.
In fact, she wrote, they even let him go the same day without ever filing charges despite finding dealer-sized quantities of drugs in his apartment.