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Tucson Federal Jury Awards Couple $1.25 Million in False Arrest Case

On April 22, 2015, a federal jury sitting in the U.S. District Court in Arizona awarded a Tucson couple a total of $1.25 million after a trial on their claims of false arrest and unconstitutional search and seizure. Pima County Sheriff Christopher Nanos was the only defendant named in the suit to ultimately go to trial.

The case began on May 23, 2013, when Pima County Sheriff deputies were dispatched to the home of Jill and Rob Larson after a caller reported to 911 that he had heard screaming and gunshots from the Larsons' house.

The caller, however, was a man by the name of William Warfe, who was known to police as mentally unstable and who had a history of making false police reports.

When deputies first arrived to the scene, Warfe had directed them to the home of a close by neighbor, Eva Jackson, telling the officers that the shots may have come from there. After Jackson and the other occupants of her house were handcuffed at gunpoint and had their house searched without a warrant, the Larson’s were next.

Deputies stormed their house and ordered them out of bed at the point of automatic weapons and forced them to stand -- handcuffed and in their underwear -- outside by the patrol car until their house was cleared.

The Larsons sued the Pima County Sheriff's Department, claiming the deputies should have checked the validity of Warfe's claim before arresting them and conducting the warrantless search, especially in light of the fact that Warfe was well known for making "numerous false reports to the department via the 911 line." A simple inquiry into their database, the Larson's alleged, would have informed 911 or the deputies of Warfe's propensity to falsify 911 calls.

"I'm going to die," thought Rob Larson said of that night. "It changed two lives, not for the better and certainly for Jill this will go on for the rest of her life."

And after a five day trial, a jury agreed, and rejected the sheriff's claim that his deputies were simply acting in accordance "with good police practices." The jury awarded Jill Larson $750,000, and Rob Larson $500,000, both for unconstitutional search and seizure.

Attorney Micheal G. Moore represented the Larsons in this case, and also represents the Jackson family in their lawsuit against the sheriff. At the time the Larson's verdict came down, the Jackson case was still in discovery. See: Larson, et al., v. Nanos, Pima County Sheriff, No. CV 14-01592-TUC-DCB (U.S.D.C. AZ), April 22, 2015.


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Related legal case

Larson, et al., v. Nanos, Pima County Sheriff