Attorneys are alleging that a controversial commando-style raid by police later caused the heart attack and death of a California woman. What’s worse: The raid may have been unnecessary because the woman and her husband were accused of a completely nonviolent white collar crime – a real estate scam.
Stacey Feigel, 48, collapsed and died in a Fresno County courtroom on Jan. 31. The cause of death was a heart attack that her attorney blames on stress caused by a police raid two week earlier. Feigel was attending a hearing on fraud charges against her husband at the time.
“The family had never been in trouble before but police pointed guns at the kids’ heads,” Feigel’s attorney, Mark W. Coleman, told the Fresno Bee. Coleman was describing a Jan. 15 raid in which officers entered the Feigel home with guns drawn early in the morning and arrested Stacey and her husband Sheldon with their children still in their beds.
Stacey and Sheldon Feigel are accused of being part of a real estate scam in which a California state law was abused to steal homes. The scam was a completely nonviolent crime in which Sheldon Feigel, who is an attorney, and his cohorts allegedly used false documents to get title to abandoned properties and resell or rent them. Feigel said he is innocent and his attorney said Feigel has passed a lie detector test.
‘Honorable Man’ Who Has Lived There 30 Years
Coleman alleges that the Feigels were the victims of the scam and not part of the fraud. The California state attorney general’s office disagrees. Coleman and another attorney allege that fraudsters tricked Feigel into signing documents used to steal the houses.
“To put it mildly, there is a disagreement here over what occurred,” H. Wayne Green, another lawyer representing the Feigels, told The Los Angeles Times.
“It’s our position that he was a lawyer representing a client, and that he did not knowingly enter into any scheme to defraud anybody,” Green said. “He’s an honorable man who’s been in this community for over 30 years — a good lawyer, well thought-of.”
“He had no idea that the representations being made by his clients were false, if that is the case” Coleman said of Sheldon Feigel.
Were Family’s Rights Violated?
Stacy Feigel was a jogger who was reportedly in good physical shape at the time of her death.
Arresting officers committed unreasonable search and seizure when they entered the Feigel home at 6:30 a.m., Coleman alleged. He also alleged that Sheldon Feigel was held all day and denied the right to talk to a lawyer.
Coleman has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the state of California on behalf of the Feigels. The state is named because California Attorney General Kamala Harris is leading the prosecution.
An Example of Militarization of Police
The authorities apparently used military-style tactics when they raided the Feigels’ home. There was no evidence they or their children posed any threat to police.
Officers could have simply waited outside of Mr. Feigel’s home and arrested him, or arrested him at work, and the children could have been spared the encounter.
Salon writer Radley Balko, a critic of the militarization of police, has written that officers are more likely to use military-style tactics and weapons against unarmed than armed suspects. Balko’s belief is that police officers will look for nonviolent resolutions if they think suspects will shoot back but they’ll bring out the big guns if they think somebody is unarmed and defenseless.
In December a survey showed that 58 percent of Americans believe the militarization of police has crossed the line. The Reason-Rupe poll asked, “Do you think local police departments using drones, military weapons and armored vehicles are necessary for law enforcement purposes, or are they going too far?”