A Latino family whose home was violently raided by Utah probation officers — in what was a failed search for someone who hadn’t lived there in more than a year — has now agreed to settle their case with the state.
In a compromise announced Wednesday, the Yañez family will receive $137,000 to cover damage to their Salt Lake City home, as well as injuries caused by the officers who tackled the mother and father during the raid. And the Utah Department of Corrections has promised to provide extra training to its parole and probation agents on how to legally enter a home and avoid racial profiling.
“We are pleased to reach closure in this case,” said the father, Munir Yañez, in a statement about dropping their federal lawsuit. “Our main goals in this action have always been to make a strong stand for our family and to make positive impact for our community in the future. We think this agreement meets both of these goals.”
The Department of Corrections said in its own statement that it continues to “stand by our officers in this case.” But it “continually aspires to better our operations and processes.”
The Yañez family, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, had first filed suit in January. In their case, they alleged that 18 probation officers came to their house in August 2018 wearing full military gear and demanding to be let inside. The three adults and three children who were there at the time asked multiple times to see a search warrant. Agents never produced one.
In a video of the raid released by the ACLU, an officer was recorded loudly telling the family, “We do not need a search warrant in this particular situation.” Records later showed that the arrest warrant they did have did not authorize them to enter the home.
Still, officers knocked down the front and back doors.
Parole officers said they were looking for José Yañez, who is Munir Yañez’s son and who had violated his probation after agreeing to a plea deal for a class A misdemeanor charge of sexual battery. Munir Yañez said he told the agents that his son had not lived there since summer 2017. The father also said in the lawsuit that he’d had several previous contacts with the Utah Department of Corrections before the raid where he told staff there the same thing.
The officers proceeded to search the home, though. And they got violent with Munir Yañez, he recounted, and with his wife, Maria Garcia, when the father tried to stop them. Several young children were home and saw the violence.
On the video, family members can be heard yelling and crying as officers tackled Garcia, 53, with a riot shield, and pinned Yañez, 57, to the ground before firing a Taser at him.
They then took Yañez to jail telling him, “You’re going to be in Mexico tomorrow,” the lawsuit stated. He is lawfully in the United States, though. And he was released and never charged with a crime.
“Everything they did was an abuse that violated our rights in all levels,” Munir Yañez said after the raid.
The officers also allegedly made racist comments to Garcia and told her that she must know where her son is “because you are a Latina,” the suit said.
The family additionally claimed that the agents pointed a gun at one of the minors in the home. The Department of Corrections has also agreed as part of the settlement to look at limiting what aggressive tactics they use in front of children.
But the Yañez family had alleged in their suit that there was a conspiracy to violate their civil rights based on ethnicity and national origin, and they sought to prevent a similar raid from happening to anyone else in the state.
At the time, Garcia said, “I wish for the authorities to realize how they discriminate against our Hispanic community, who they come and attack — innocent families, innocent children — and how these children and their families are affected by these attacks and this treatment. Stop doing this to our families and community.”