United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
the Court are two Motion to Dismiss, R. Docs. 9, 22, filed by
Defendants Dallas Bookenberger and Joseph Renfro and
Defendants Jerry Larpenter and Travis Sanford. Plaintiffs
respond to each motion. R. Docs. 16, 23.
Avilex Carbajal (“Mr. Carbajal”), Santa D.
Carbajal (“Mrs. Carbajal”), and Max Carbajal
(“Max” and together, “Plaintiffs”)
have filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim alleging injuries
sustained during alleged police misconduct. Plaintiffs claim
that Defendants Jerry Larpenter, Sheriff of Terrebonne Parish
(“Larpenter”), Dallas Bookenberger,
(“Bookenberger”), Travis Sanford,
(“Sanford”), and Joseph Renfro,
(“Renfro”), narcotic agents of Terrebonne Parish
Sherriff's Narcotics Strike Force, (together,
“Defendants”) violated Plaintiffs' civil
rights during the preparation and execution of a search
warrant on July 16, 2015. R. Doc. 1 at 1-4.
events in question began when agents Bookenberger, Renfro,
and Sanford allegedly conducted several “trash pulls,
” in which they emptied trashcans located near the
front of the Carbajal residence. Id. at 5. The first
“trash pull, ” which occurred on July 7, 2015 at
4:31 a.m., allegedly yielded white plastic packaging wrapped
with grey duct tape that agents tested with an NIK field test
kit, which tested positive for cocaine residue.
Id.at 5. The second “trash pull” was
conducted by the same three agents on July 14, 2015, and
allegedly yielded a “marijuana shake” weighing
.34 grams. Agents again used an NIK field test kit to test
the substance; the test showed a presumptive result of THC.
Id. at 5-6.
claim that Bookenberger, assisted by Sanford and Renfro, then
executed a 13-page affidavit for a search warrant alleging
that Abelardo Carbajal (“Abelardo”) engaged in a
multi-year scheme of large-scale distribution of cocaine and
marijuana in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes.
Id. at 2. Plaintiffs claim the information in that
affidavit regarding their criminal culpability was
“untrue, wildly speculative, or made with reckless
disregard for the truth.” Id.
basis of this affidavit, Judge David Arceneaux, a State
District Court Judge of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, signed
the search warrant dated July 15, 2016. Id. at 3. At
approximately 5:09 a.m. on July 16, 2015, thirty-three agents
from the Terrebonne Narcotics Task Force, the Terrebonne
Parish Sheriff's Office, the Department of Homeland
Security, the United States Customs Service, and the
Louisiana State Police raided Plaintiffs' residence.
Id. at 4. Plaintiffs allege that agents removed Mr.
and Mrs. Carbajal from their bed, handcuffed them, and had
them lay on the floor for the duration of the search; Mrs.
Carbajal, who was not clothed, claims a request for a blanket
was denied. Id. Agents also handcuffed Max.
Id. Plaintiffs maintain that agents removed paneling
from their walls and emptied every drawer in the residence.
They further assert that the agents searched an outbuilding
occupied by another relative, and searched all of their
oyster vessels located down Bayou Dularge next to the home,
including one owned by Mr. Carbajal's daughter and
son-in-law. Id. at 4-5. Agents allegedly seized
pistols legally owned by Mr. Carbajal, ammunition, paperwork,
various cell phones, a purse, and $1, 212.50. Id. at
5. These items were entered into evidence along with the
items obtained through the earlier “trash pulls,
” though Plaintiffs contend the affidavit did not
detail from which trash cans this evidence came nor how the
agents determined the items belonged to Mr. Carbajal.
Id. The evidence was also never sent to the State
Police lab for conformation of the positive field test
results. Id. at 6. This search lasted approximately
2.5 hours. Id. at 5.
the agents' search of the Carbajal residence yielded
nothing illegal, Mr. Carbajal was arrested on an arrest
warrant signed and executed on the basis of Agent
Bookenberger's affidavit. Id. at 6. Mr. Carbajal
was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine
and marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Id. at 6. The State's case against Mr. Carbajal
was dismissed on October 8, 2015 by Judge George Larke in the
32nd Judicial District Court for Terrebonne Parish, who
reportedly called the case “one of the weakest he had
ever seen.” Id. at 11.
maintain that the search warrant affidavit signed by Agent
Bookenberger was so false as to indicate bad faith and ill
intent, and upon removal of the false and speculative
content, the remainder does not set forth probable cause to
support the issuance of a search or arrest warrant.
Id. at 7. Plaintiffs allege that the bulk of the
affidavit providing justification for the search and arrest
warrant was based on information provided by purported
confidential informants, the names of whom Defendants refused
to disclose in state court. Id. at 7-12. Plaintiffs
detail the purportedly false and unsubstantiated information.
Id. Plaintiffs also allege that other information
put forth in the affidavit is false and that Defendants
misled the prosecutor into filing charges on the basis of a
false affidavit Id. at 7-12.
loss includes approximately $10, 000 in damage to their home
and property, as well as the cash seized and forfeited during
the search. Id. at 6. Plaintiffs also assert other
losses such as extreme mental anguish, humiliation, physical
pain and suffering, among others. Id. at 12-14. In
total, Plaintiffs seek $1, 500, 000 in damages. Id.
Bookenberger and Renfro bring the present Motion to Dismiss
for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) and invoke their right to qualified
immunity. R. Doc. 9-1. Defendants maintain that Plaintiffs
have failed to demonstrate that any information was omitted
or misrepresented in the warrant affidavit, or that facts
included in the affidavit were of such a character that no
reasonable officer would have submitted them to a magistrate,
thus failing to overcome Defendants' entitlement to
qualified immunity. R. Doc. 9-1 at 13. Plaintiffs respond and
argue Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. R.
Doc. 16. However, Plaintiffs agree that their Fifth Amendment
claims are improper against these Defendants, and abandon
those claims. R. Doc. 16 at 5.
Larpenter and Sanford subsequently filed a motion to dismiss
Plaintiffs' claims against them. R. Doc. 22. In response,
Plaintiffs agree that dismissal is appropriate and consent to
Larpenter and Sanford's dismissal. R. Doc. 23.