A 69-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, woman is accusing police officers of excessive force and unlawfully searching her and her husband’s home during a narcotics raid.
Nelda Price said she and her now-late husband, John Price, had just finished eating dinner in their kitchen when at around 8 p.m. on March 11 officers “smashed in the doors to the residence and stormed into the house with guns drawn,” according to a lawsuit obtained by NBC News.
The suit, filed in a Tarrant County court against the city of Fort Worth, alleges that officers gave no verbal warning and did not knock before forcing their way into the home.
“They were hollering ‘put your hands up, put your hands up.’ And then they took us outside,” Nelda Price said in a phone interview Thursday. “I didn’t know what was happening.”
Calls and emails to the Fort Worth Police Department and city spokesperson were not returned.
The Prices, who are Black, had guns pointed at them, had their hands zip-cuffed behind their backs and were taken outside to their front yard.
“The Fort Worth Police had no reason to suspect that the Prices, who were relaxing in their home on a weekday evening, were involved in or engaged in any criminal activity, or posed any threat to the safety of the Fort Worth Police Officers or any other individual,” the lawsuit states.
Some of the officers “guarded” the couple outside while others ransacked the home, according to the lawsuit.
When Nelda Price asked police why the home was being raided, the couple was instead questioned about having aliases and if “a Mexican boy brought a package to their home,” the suit says. The couple denied the allegations.
Nelda Price, wearing a nightgown, and John Price, in his pajamas, were left cuffed outside for several hours.
“They just kept asking us the same questions over and over. I was getting cold and I asked them if they would let me get a jacket. They wouldn’t do it at first,” she said.
At one point, John Price — who took blood pressure medication — started to feel ill.
“I asked them could they give John his medicine and they wouldn’t give it to him,” she said.
Eventually, an officer checked John Price’s blood pressure and called for emergency medical help. The 69-year-old was treated at the scene.
Nelda Price said officers never answered her questions about why the home was being raided. A search warrant that had been left on the couple’s table showed that officers were looking for methamphetamines and anything pertaining to narcotics trafficking organizations.
A copy of the warrant, which was provided to NBC News by the legal team representing Nelda Price, showed that no items were seized during the search.
It also states that there was “sufficient reason to believe that to knock and announce their purpose by the officers executing this warrant would be futile, dangerous, and otherwise inhibit the effective investigation of the offense or offenses related to the purpose of this warrant.”
Nelda Price and her lawyer, Kay Van Wey, said officers caused substantial damage to the home, and attempts to work something out with the city and police department have been futile.
Van Wey questioned whether this would have happened if her client lived in a predominately white neighborhood.
“We’re trying to give the city of Fort Worth a chance to do the right thing and so far, they’ve been completely unwilling to do so,” she said. “The bottom line is this, the police must do better. This is not okay. I do not personally believe that this would have happened if she had been living in a predominately white middle-class neighborhood.”
The lawsuit says that police unlawfully detained the Prices and also accuses the department of having a “history of racial profiling and biased based on policing,” noting several police brutality cases involving Fort Worth officers including the 2019 death of Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman shot and killed in her home.
John Price died from heart failure in May, about five weeks after the incident. Nelda Price believes that his death was triggered by the trauma from what they endured.
She said Thursday that coping with what happened in March and the loss of her husband has been difficult.
“Every sound I hear outside, especially since John is gone, is nerve-racking. It’s really been stressful because I can’t imagine why it happened,” she said. “It still feels like I am in a nightmare. And with John being gone, it’s been really rough.”