Pensioner whose home was raided by SWAT team after Find My iPhone blunder awarded nearly $4m

Swat team confront innocent pensioner Ruby Johnson (AP/ Police bodycam)
Swat team confront innocent pensioner Ruby Johnson (AP/ Police bodycam)

A pensioner has been awarded $3.7m after her home was mistakenly raided by a SWAT team who traced a stolen truck to her door using a ‘Find My Phone’ app.

Ruby Johnson, 78, successfully sued two police officers who were found to have breached her constitutional rights in a ruling on Monday.

Police obtained a search warrant for her home after the owner of a stolen truck, which had four semi-automatic handguns, a rifle, a revolver, two drones, $4,000 cash and an iPhone inside, tracked the phone to Johnson’s home using the Find My app.

Mrs Johnson had just got out of the shower when an armoured personnel drove onto her lawn and she was ordered to come out with her hands up by officers with guns and dogs during the raid in January.

A jury at the state court in Denver awarded her millions of dollars under a new Colorado law that allows people to sue police over violations of their state constitutional rights.

The court heard that the ‘Find My Phone’ app does not pinpoint an exact address but a general area. The officer applying for a warrant to search Mrs Johnson’s property did not make this clear, the court heard.

The officer who made the application and his supervisor were sued by Mrs Johnson.

The lawsuit was brought under a provision of a sweeping police reform bill passed in 2020 soon after the murder of George Floyd by a police officer and is the first significant case to go to trial.

State lawmakers created a right to sue individual police officers for state constitutional violations in state court

The police used a battering ram to get into Johnson’s garage even though she had explained how to open the door and broke the ceiling tiles to get into her attic, standing on top of one of her brand new dining room chairs, according to the lawsuit, lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado Tim Macdonald had told the court.

Macdonald said the biggest damage was done to Johnson’s sense of safety in the home where she raised three children as a single mother, he said, temporarily forgoing Christmas and birthday presents to help afford it. She suffered ulcers and trouble sleeping and eventually moved to a different neighbourhood.

“For us, the damage was always about the psychological and the emotional harm to Ms. Johnson,” he said.