Three days after a Roanoke attorney represented her stepson in a murder trial that ended with his acquittal, city police targeted her home in a search that violated her constitutional rights, she claims in a federal lawsuit.
The acquittal “sparked outrage in the Roanoke law enforcement community,” a lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of Cathy Reynolds asserts.
On Sept. 26, 2019, a jury found that Reynolds’ stepson, Darreonta Reynolds, acted in self-defense when he shot a man during a scuffle at a Cove Road convenience store. Three days later, police “targeted Ms. Reynolds for retaliation” by showing up at her home with a search warrant, the lawsuit claims.
While police said they had evidence that a man wanted on an unrelated murder charge had been seen in the home, Cathy Reynolds counters that the search warrant was based on “false or fabricated information.”
Police did not find the suspect. But in a search by a SWAT team that arrived in an armored vehicle, the front door was smashed in and the home ransacked for several hours while a crowd of several hundred spectators gathered outside, the lawsuit claims.
Reynolds made an official complaint to the police department, she says in the lawsuit, but it remains under investigation.
Caitlyn Cline, a spokeswoman for the Roanoke Police Department, said Tuesday that she could not comment on pending litigation.
The filing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke alleges that the search violated Reynolds’ First Amendment right of free speech, exercised in the defense of her stepson, and her 14th Amendment protection against discrimination based on race.
Reynolds is Black; she notes that two other attorneys involved in her stepson’s defense were white and did not have their homes searched.
“Defendants’ actions were motivated by racial animus and constituted purposeful discrimination,” the lawsuit states.
Named as defendants are Sgt. Joel Camp, Det. John Haley and five unknown members of the police department — all of whom are alleged to have had some role in the investigation that led to a murder charge against Darreonta Reynolds. The Roanoke Police Department itself is not named as a defendant.
The lawsuit asks that compensatory and punitive damages be awarded to Reynolds for the harm caused to her home and emotional state, in an amount to be determined by a jury.