Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'I was so petrified': woman suing police testifies about raid

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THE Winnipeg Police Service has been put on trial in a rare civil jury case stemming from a dramatic drug raid.

Gerilyn Riedle is seeking unspecified financial damages, claiming she's the victim of malicious arrest, false imprisonment and defamation of character. She appeared in court Monday for the start of a two-week hearing.

The facts of the case are not in dispute. A six-member jury must decide whether what occurred is acceptable police conduct or something nefarious.

Riedle, 52, was arrested and handcuffed at gunpoint after members of the tactical unit stormed inside her East Kildonan home in July 2009. She was removed, held for several hours at a police station and ultimately released without any charge.

That's because Riedle's 19-year-old son took responsibility for the marijuana and drug paraphernalia found inside the home. Police had obtained a warrant earlier that evening after receiving a tip from a paid informant that the man was selling narcotics.

Riedle testified Monday, detailing a night she will never forget. One moment she was sitting on her couch watching television, the next she was staring down heavily armed and masked men who broke down her front door.

"I stopped dead in my tracks. I had no idea who they were. I was so petrified," said Riedle, who has no criminal record and has spent more than 30 years as a legal assistant at various city firms and the provincial prosecutions office.

Riedle said the officers didn't immediately identity themselves, leading her to believe she was the victim of a home invasion. She said being paraded out of her home and into a waiting cruising car -- with numerous neighbours looking on -- was the most humiliating experience of her life.

"I just wanted to die. I really did," she told jurors. "The bigness of it, the spectacle of it, it was absolutely incredible. I've never seen anything like it."

Riedle's lawsuit seeks special damages related to putting her house on the market and selling it for much less than it's worth in order to quickly move away following the incident.

"Everyone was staring at me. Everyone would know. I was absolutely humiliated, mortified. I could not believe it," she said.

Riedle's son and his girlfriend were in the home at the time. He was arrested and she was released without charge.

Police found four grams on the man during the arrest, and another 18 grams inside the home.

Riedle's lawyer, John Michaels, told jurors police went "way over the top."

But the police lawyer said several officers will testify they followed standard practice.

Denis Pambrun said a "dynamic entry" such as the one on Riedle's home is required when drugs are involved, and the search warrant gave police permission to do what they did. She said it's unfortunate Riedle was a bystander, but there was no other way to deal with her because she was home during the raid.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2013 A7

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