A group of residents from Phillips County is having its lawsuit against the Arkansas State Police heard in federal court in Little Rock, where the agency is defending its dismantling of a number of vehicles because they were allegedly stolen.
The autos were returned to their owners but only after engines, transmissions and other parts were removed, leaving the vehicles undriveable, the plaintiffs say.
State police seized the vehicles in 1998 as part of an investigation that the agency says did lead to some arrests. The vehicles in the lawsuit were from shop that used salvaged parts, making it impossible to say whether some parts of the vehicles were stolen.
The eight residents say their rights to due process and protection against unlawful search and seizure were violated.
None of the vehicles were found to have been stolen and none of the plaintiffs were charged with a crime. They complain that some had to continue making loan payments while their vehicles were impounded for weeks or months and that they had to pay to restore their cars to working order.
A jury is hearing the case and will be asked to decide whether the state police had probable cause to execute the seizures.
Named in the suit are Capt. Mike Fletcher and Barry Roy, both of the state police; Phillips County sheriff’s deputy Scott Russell, who helped in the seizures; State Farm Mutual Insurance Co.; and tow and repair company operators Melvin Snyder and Mike Snyder of Helena.
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