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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Two local governments will pay nearly a quarter-million dollars to settle a lawsuit.
The City of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County have agreed to pay the money to Gary and Lorraine Bergh.
The couple sued after the West Central Wisconsin Drug Task Force raided their home in 2009 while searching for their grandson. Ryan Erickson was a convicted drug dealer who was wanted on a probation violation. Authorities say he barricaded himself in a room with access to loaded guns.
A federal judge recently ruled that Sheriff Ron Cramer and a deputy illegally detained and violated Gary and Lorraine Bergh's constitutional rights by keeping them in a squad car away from the scene for three hours. The sheriff maintained it was for their safety and to keep them warm on the February day.
The city and county will each pay $80,000 toward the $237,000 settlement. Their insurance companies will pick up the rest.
The Bergh's will receive $75,000 in damages and about $12,000 for damage done to their home during the tear-gas raid.
Their lawyers will receive $150,000. As part of the agreement the city and county will not admit any fault or liability.
Eau Claire (Press Release) - A settlement has been reached in a civil lawsuit involving actions of the West Central Wisconsin Drug Task Force on February 24, 2009. By agreeing to the settlement, there was no admission of fault or liability on behalf of the City or County and any named individuals.
Gary and Lorraine Bergh's house was entered by several officers in order to arrest their grandson, Ryan Erickson, who is a convicted drug felon. Mr. Erickson barricaded himself in a bedroom with access to a weapon and refused to give himself up. Allegations of the lawsuit include excessive force, unlawful detention, unlawful entry, bodily injury and property damage.
During the tactical operation, the Bergh's were removed from the residence for their own safety. A federal judge ruled the sheriff and the drug task force violated the Bergh's rights when they had them sit in a squad car during the tactical operation. According to Sheriff Ron Cramer, "We believe the ruling was in error and the entire operation was conducted consistent with accepted law enforcement practices."
The current settlement eliminates the risk of further legal exposure including payment of the Bergh's attorney fees which may have resulted from a trial.
The West Central Wisconsin Drug Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional drug unit. The unit works active drug investigations and is a successful regional collaboration of resources. The Drug Task Force is proven to be very effective in disrupting or dismantling drug trafficking organizations.
For more information contact: Stephen Nick, Eau Claire City Attorney at (715)839-6006 or Keith Zehms, Eau Claire County Corporation Counsel at (715)839-4836
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