Two Midland cops can now be sued by a federal judge for removing a 14-year old girl, who was not with her parents, from their apartment. The officers refused to let the little girl speak with her family for several hours and would not allow her to pick up the telephone when her father called. Without a warrant, they also entered the house of the family.
Alexandra Weaver, School Resource Officer, and Kevin Brunner are not subject to blanket qualified immunity. The ruling was made by U.S. district judge David Counts. It comes in a case which began with a mom who planned meticulously for her children’s safety while she was away from the country for five consecutive days. Her husband was on deployment overseas.
Megan McMurry married Adam McMurry in 2018. They were both special education teachers at the Midland Junior High School. Her family was used to living in independence after having lived in six different countries for the past ten years.
McMurry says that McMurry’s daughter used to walk through Shanghai streets looking for donuts when she was 12.
Jade, Jade’s little sister, decided to go online schooling when the family moved from Midland. It was legal for her to be home by herself most of the day. As long as the parent does not put a child at risk, it is okay.
McMurry also took her twelve-year-old son Connor along to her job at the nearby junior high. He had perfect attendance.
McMurry believed the family should move to Kuwait because their father was overseas and being deployed for another time in Kuwait. Before making her decision, she received a job opportunity at a Kuwaiti high school.
Her kids didn’t want to come on the five-day trip—in part because Connor didn’t want to ruin his perfect attendance streak—so McMurry arranged for the kids to be in the care of neighbors, Vanessa and Gabe Vallejos. Jade (14 years old) was responsible for watching the Vallejos’ six-yearold daughter, which took place over several hours each afternoon. This allowed the family to be close.
As for Connor getting to school, McMurry arranged for the school’s counselor—another nearby neighbor—to drive him.
The plane took her to Kuwait, Thursday evening 25 October 2018.
On Friday morning, the school counselor realized she wouldn’t be able to pick up Connor after all, and asked the school resource officer—Weaver, who also lived nearby—to drive him instead. McMurry reports that Weaver did not answer the phone and the counselor made arrangements for another person to pick up the boy.
Weaver called Child Protective Services to report that children had left their home. Brunner was also her supervisor and they went to McMurry’s home to check Jade’s welfare.
Here is the worst part.
They had to knock at the door of the family by the manager of the apartment block. Jade responded and was told by the police that she should not be alone at home. Jade broke down and asked McMurry to contact her dad. The cops refused to allow this. Since they would be interrogating her, she was permitted to put on warmer clothes. She managed to call her father while she was still in her bedroom, saying “I am scared!” Police are present.
Weaver continued to go through cabinets.
McMurry claims that Jade was taken by police to the school where her brother was enrolled. The bodycam footage of Jade shows her crying and beg the police to allow her to contact her father. However, they declined.
Jade was taken to school where the cops held her for many hours. Then they interrogated her and asked questions such as, “Was it going to be a party?” They took Connor out from class and questioned his character.
CPS sent an investigator to the school. He also asked the officers if they’d called their parents.
McMurry states that, when cops refused to say no, the CPS Investigator was perplexed, as that is what police officers are expected to do.
Brunner’s and Weaver’s attorneys did not reply to inquiries for comment.
CPS investigator dismayed at the fact that police had claimed that the children were truant and abandoned. Connor was obviously in school while Jade was being home-schooled. McMurry was a friend of Weaver’s before the incident. CPS confirmed that Jade had explained to her mother the arrangement she made for them, and closed the case right away.
However, the police did not.
McMurry was charged with child abandonment and two other felony offenses when she returned from Kuwait. After turning herself in, she spent 19 hours behind bars before being released.
Long story short, almost a year later—she was suspended without pay the entire time— McMurry’s case came to trial. Brunner claimed that she was in a vacation pre-arranged. McMurry was eager to hear the case and allowed the trial without him.
The Vallejoses were her neighbors who testified. Both the CPS investigator as well his supervisors gave evidence. A school counselor also testified. Jade and Connor both testified. Weaver, when asked about why Jade wasn’t allowed to talk to her dad by Weaver, replied that she didn’t want to bother the man. Here’s a transcript of Weaver’s testimony:
Q: Can you recall Jade telling your that her dad wanted to call you and that you had told her to hang up?
A: Okay, that’s it. I remember that happening.
Q: So her father is trying to call her when you’re taking her from her home to Abell Middle School and you’re telling her…not to answer the phone when her father is calling?
A. True, but I wasn’t trying to create unnecessary stress for him.
Four days were required for the trial. McMurry wasn’t found guilty after the jury had deliberated five minutes.
McMurry now sues the officers because they violated her Fourth Amendment and 15th Amendment rights. She claims they illegally seized her daughter and searched her home with no warrant. If there’s an immediate threat to their life or limb, the cops cannot remove children from homes without notifying the parents. Because the protocol is so well-established that all officers should have been familiar with them, the federal court has granted qualified immunity to the defendants and allows the case to move forward.
McMurry knows the pain of abandonment and this is why it’s so sweet.
According to her, “My mother was a drug-addicted dealer in drugs.” “I was 11 years old when I was placed in foster care. My first shelter was for two weeks, and then I moved to a shelter that lasted 30 days. You all know what it is like. By the time that I received my degree with a 4.0 I had been to 25 other high schools.
She was able to overcome her own insecurities and become an adult. This is what she and her husband strive to instill in their children. She let her children stay at home. They would be responsible and it was something she understood young people could handle.
Evidently, it isn’t too far away from the apple. Jade wrote to the circuit court that she would like everyone “to see what these officers did for me and my family without any reason.”
Jade stated, “My parents taught me to work hard and advocate for myself,” My parents may have taught me a lot, but I didn’t know it. Rights that day and they certainly didn’t notify me, but I was aware of what they were doing.