On Oct. 15, 2005 Missoula’s Chief U.S. Probation Officer, Jerrold Cooley, took his family out for a birthday dinner, after which the Cooleys piled into their pickup truck and headed home. But just blocks from their house they found themselves the subject of a “high risk” traffic stop by a host of Missoula city and county law enforcement officers, during which the family was ordered out of their truck at gunpoint, handcuffed and detained while officers searched their vehicle for clues to a purse snatching.
That’s according to a lawsuit the Cooleys filed in Missoula U.S. District Court last month (the case has since been reassigned to a California district judge) naming the city and county of Missoula, the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, among others, as defendants in a federal civil suit.
The suit alleges negligence, false imprisonment and assault and battery—stemming from the traffic stop and asks for compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees.
Jerrold Cooley alleges he repeatedly tried to identify himself as a federal probation officer and was repeatedly told to “shut up.” The Cooleys say multiple officers leveled their guns at the family as they were handcuffed behind their backs—Jerrold’s son Michael was recovering from shoulder surgery and requested to be cuffed in front, but according to the complaint that request was denied and Michael was forced to lie face down in the gravel while officers searched the truck.
Additionally, one of the officers failed to engage a parking brake on a squad car and the car rolled into the Cooley’s truck.
Ultimately, no evidence was found linking the Cooleys to the alleged robbery and the Cooleys were released.
The city of Missoula-based defendants filed an answer to the complaint June 14, admitting to most of the facts of the traffic stop laid out in the complaint, but disputing that the stop was unwarranted and denying any liability. Attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants did not immediately return phone calls. The county-based defendants have not yet replied to the allegations.