This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
At what point does a phalanx of armed officers become too large when it comes to searching the home of a respected family with no known penchant for violence?
A federal judge struggled with that question Thursday as he weighed whether to allow a civil rights suit brought by the family of James Redd to proceed to trial.
The prominent Blanding physician took his life following his 2009 arrest in the Bureau of Land Management's controversial sting operation targeting artifact traffickers in the Four Corners region. In a federal suit, the Redds blamed the BLM's show of force and Redd's humiliating and prolonged questioning by Dan Love, now the BLM's agent in charge for Utah and Nevada, in Redd's garage.
But U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby found no evidence that Redd encountered more than three officers at any one time during the 3 1/2 hours prior to his arrest on the morning of June 9, 2009.
Officers were already at the Redd home when he arrived at 6:55 a.m. He was greeted by two officers at the end of the driveway and taken into custody without incident, then escorted to the garage for questioning, the judge said, citing evidence attorneys submitted.
However, Shelby also voiced concern that federal officers indulged in an unnecessarily large show of force at the Redd home.
"It seems if you have 100 fully armed officers descending on the home of peacable family in a small community, there's a constitutional concern. That's not the case here, but it's a continuum. There is a place where law enforcement has crossed a line," Shelby said during a hearing on a request from Love and the government to dismiss the case before trial.
The judge took the matter under advisement and promised a prompt ruling.
Redd's suicide was one of three connected with Operation Cerberus, which led to two dozen arrests and the seizure of thousands of artifacts, including 800 at the Redd home. His death was deeply mourned in Blanding and has been a continuing source of animosity toward the BLM, which administers most of the land in San Juan County.
The Redds' lawyer, Shandor Badaruddin, alleged Love dispatched too many officers to the Redd residence, claiming that at first 12 came on the morning of the raid. Between 53 and 65 heavily armed agents ultimately secured the house, and up to 118 federal personnel passed through, he argued in filings.
Redd "was no threat and it was not anticipated that he would be a threat," Badaruddin said.
But Love's attorney, Laura Smith, said only 22 officers were there over the course of the day, including the initial group that came to place the Redds under arrest.
"They were wearing soft body armor and they were carrying handguns as required by their agencies," Smith said. No weapon was ever drawn on Redd.