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Lawsuit: Police aided bounty hunters who held pregnant woman, toddler at gunpoint

Lawsuit: Police aided bounty hunters who held pregnant woman, toddler at gunpoint

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Oakdale raid

A screenshot of video from the homeowner's surveillance camera, as provided to The Buffalo News by his lawyer.

Seven Buffalo police officers were at the scene of the late-night raid, orchestrated by two Pennsylvania bounty hunters who walked up the front porch steps at 31 Oakdale Place drawing a shotgun and AR-15 semi­-automatic rifle, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

The loud pounding on the front door startled Jake Reinhardt and his pregnant fiance, Taylor Schmieder, along with their 3-year-old daughter, who were sleeping in the downstairs apartment.

"Open it up or we'll kick it in!" one bounty hunter shouted.

Before long, Reinhardt would be forced outside at gunpoint, shirtless and shoeless on a cold January night. Without showing a warrant and without consent from anybody who lived in the house, the two bail recovery agents searched the premises. That's when the two encountered Schmieder, holding her 3-year-old daughter, and they ordered her to put her crying child down and put her hands up, according to the lawsuit filed by occupants of the home.

The two were looking for a fugitive, Luke Reinhardt, the brother of Jake, who was not at the two-family home.

As fugitives go, Luke Reinhardt wasn't likely to make a most-wanted list. He had his bond revoked for failure to appear in court in Lebanon, Pa., where he was charged with misdemeanors for simple assault, retail theft and driving while operating privileges were suspended or revoked, according to the lawsuit. He had already indicated to the bounty hunters that he planned to turn himself in, but only after keeping a doctor's appointment in Buffalo in coming days.

The bail amount totaled just $5,000.

The police "stood by, aided, abetted, assisted, helped and participated in an armed home intrusion without a warrant and didn't stop these thugs from holding toddlers at gunpoint, and a pregnant woman, and they think that's OK?" said attorney R. Anthony Rupp III, who represents the home's occupants in their lawsuit against the City of Buffalo, Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood, the police officers, bail agents and the bail company among others.

City officials declined to comment on the litigation. Representatives from Bail Shop LLC of Lebanon, Pa., could not be reached for comment.

Luke Reinhardt turned himself in on Jan. 22.

After the raid, police investigated the incident as a property damage complaint stemming from a door the bounty hunters bashed in, Rupp said. 

The house at 31 Oakdale is a two-family home owned Jake Reinhardt with separate upstairs and downstairs apartments. Kevin Harrington and Casey Carminati are rent-paying tenants of Jake Reinhardt, and they live in the upstairs apartment with their 18-month-old son and their 5-year-old daughter.

A surveillance camera provided video and audio from the front porch, Rupp said.

Video from the homeowner's surveillance camera, as provided to The Buffalo News by his lawyer.

As the two bounty hunters entered the front porch, they used hand gestures to command two unidentified Buffalo police officers to go around to the rear of the premises. The police officers proceeded down the adjacent driveway.

Two other police officers initially stood on the sidewalk in front of the premises, then climbed the porch steps and stood on the porch and later entered the premises through the front door, according to the lawsuit.

The remaining officers stood on the sidewalk.

After the pounding on the door, Reinhardt asked from behind the closed front door, "Who's that?"

One of the bounty hunters raised his shotgun and repeated, "Open the door."

The other bounty hunter said, "He's in the window."

"Open the door, now!" shouted the bounty hunter with the shotgun.

Reinhardt saw uniformed officers from the Buffalo Police Department on and near his property, so he figured it would be safe to open his door, according to the lawsuit. But he did not intend to allow or give consent for anyone to enter his property.

He opened the front door and told the agents, "My hands are up, man."

One of the bounty hunters wore a jacket with the logo "United States Fugitive Task Force" on the back that also sported a shield emblem resembling a police badge or shield, according to the lawsuit.

As one of the bounty hunters was entering the home, he told Reinhardt, "Don't move!" Then the other bounty hunter pointed his weapon at Reinhardt.

Reinhardt told the bounty hunters, "Listen, my 3-year-old daughter is in there, my wife is in the back room sleeping." Reinhardt then repeated, "Please put that gun down. You're pointing that gun at me. Please put the gun down. Please put the barrel of the gun down."

Then a bounty hunter told Reinhardt, "Secure your family."

As Reinhardt started to walk into the home, he asked, "Do you have a search warrant for this house?"

"Yes I do," the bounty hunter with the shotgun replied. "You will see it soon."

He never produced one, according to the lawsuit.

When the bounty hunter asked Reinhardt repeatedly if he had any weapons, he apparently was dissatisfied with the response and ordered Reinhardt to exit the house once again.

While being held at gunpoint, according to the lawsuit, Reinhardt asked the police officers for help.

"Are you Buffalo? You guys are letting this happen?" he asked.

Reinhardt then told the police officers and bounty hunters, "Get off my property!" and, "Show me your search warrant!"

Video from the homeowner's surveillance camera, as provided to The Buffalo News by his lawyer.

Rupp called it an armed intrusion, and the two bounty hunters searched the entire house with flashlights and guns drawn. Police officers also entered the home through the front and back doors, according to the lawsuit.

The surveillance system recorded some of the remarks of two police officers on the porch, who indicated they did not know much about the bounty hunters.

According to the lawsuit, one said to the other, "I don't even know what agency they are part of." And the other replied, "Me, neither. I think they're from Pa."

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, citing unreasonable search and seizure, false imprisonment, excessive force and failure to intervene against all of the defendants; failure to supervise against the Buffalo Police Department; and trespassing, assault, battery, negligence and infliction of emotional distress against the bail company.

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