Flint, MI– A Flint family is suing the Michigan State Police, the State of Michigan, and several individual officers for a raid on their home that they claim violated their civil rights, and was the result of racial discrimination.

On April 21, 2021, several MSP officers burst into Renee Dunigan and her adult daughter Michelle Colston’s rental home on Garland Street in north Flint in search of a homicide suspect. 

The complaint, filed in federal court on May 16, 2022, alleges that officers executed a no-knock search warrant on the home based on false information, and held Dunigan, Colston, and Colston’s three young children “prisoners in their own home,” for about an hour before realizing they had raided the wrong home. 

The Civil Rights attorneys Bill Goodman, Julie Hurwitz, and Teresa Bingman who filed the complaints on behalf of the family, argue that the raid violated the family’s constitutional rights, as well as Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act which prohibits discriminatory practices on the basis of race. 

“The failure to undertake a careful, precise, and scrupulous investigation was the result of racial discrimination and disparity, in that such a shoddy and sloppy investigation was not and never would have been so conducted in a predominantly white neighborhood and/or white community,” the complaint states. 

The spokesperson for MSP said the department could not comment on litigation against them, but did respond to the incident last year. 

In a written statement from June 8, 2021, MSP officials said that officers did announce their presence twice, but still issued an apology. 

“The MSP has apologized to the family and immediately began to work with both the landlord and the renters to remedy the situation, which included paying for repairs to the front door, which was damaged during entry,” officials said in the statement. 

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on May 16, 2022,  demands much more relief than that.

The family is demanding a jury trial, as well as “compensatory damages for the physical, emotional, and economic injuries … in an amount fair, just and reasonable and in conformity with the evidence at trial.”

Attorney Julie Hurwitz announces that a complaint was filed against the Michigan State Police to the federal court on May 16, 2022, at Joy Tabernacle Church on the north side of Flint, Mich. On April 21, 2021, MSP executed a no-knock warrant at the wrong house, the home of Renee Dunigan and her adult daughter Michelle Colston, while 3 of Colston’s children were present. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

The complaint alleges that officers entered the home without knocking or announcing themselves with weapons drawn, “terrifying the law-abiding Plaintiffs within.” 

The family was further “terrified” by the “excessively large numbers of officers,” “police vehicles,” and “bright lights and loud noise.” According to the complaint, officers ordered the family– including Colston who had been in the shower– into the living room where they were “forced to remain, at gunpoint, with no explanation or opportunity to notify family.”

“They would not allow … Colston to put on clothes despite the raid interrupting her shower, requiring, at gunpoint, that she instead wrap herself in any cover she could get her hands on,” the complaint states. 

The complaints also allege that officers brandished their weapons, woke a sleeping child, prevented the family from making phone calls or answering phone calls from family and neighbors, ransacked their home, and yelled “rude, threatening, racist, and insulting terms” referring to the family as, “you people.”

As a result of this event, the complaint states that the family has suffered emotional and psychological injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, headaches, mental anguish, public and private humiliation, embarrassment, and emotional distress. 

“My family members are God-fearing, law-abiding citizens. They have all been traumatized as a result of this unlawful raid and my niece and nephews who were ages 14, 10, and 3 when their home was raided a year ago, have continued to have nightmares and they are experiencing other disturbing symptoms as a result of the police officers’ actions,” said family member Rev. Aaron Dunigan in a press release from May 16.

As such, the family is looking for more than just financial compensation. 

The complaint states that the family is also demanding “a declaration that Defendants violated the federal rights of Plaintiffs,” and “punitive and exemplary damages to the individual defendants to the extent allowable by law.”

A press release from May 16, 2022, also states that the family is asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to support a bill banning no-knock warrants, and call for a civil rights investigation of the MSP to “examine the policies, training, and supervision of the MSP and their partner police agencies, particularly as they impact minority communities throughout the State of Michigan.”

Amy Diaz

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...

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