Recorded on video holding an innocent family at gunpoint and raiding their home without a search warrant, at least two Pennsylvania bounty hunters along with New York police officers have recently been sued by the family for violating their civil rights.
Last month, Jake Reinhardt was asleep with his fiancée and their three-year-old daughter when an unidentified bounty hunter repeatedly banged on his front door while ordering him to open the door before they “kick it in.” Peering through his window, Reinhardt saw two armed men standing next to a couple of Buffalo police officers on his front lawn.
According to a video from Reinhardt’s porch cam, Reinhardt exited the front door with his empty hands in the air as two bounty hunters aimed their guns at him. Despite the fact that Reinhardt told them that his pregnant fiancée and young daughter were inside, the bounty hunters entered the house while aiming guns at the innocent family.
When Reinhardt asked if the bounty hunters had a search warrant for his house, one of them replied, “Yes, we do.”
Reinhardt asked, “Can I see it?”
Instead of producing a search warrant, the bounty hunter ordered Reinhardt to “step aside.”
After searching Reinhardt’s home, the bounty hunters also illegally searched the unrelated upstairs tenant’s apartment. Baby camera footage recorded the armed bounty hunters searching rooms upstairs occupied by other children, including a baby.
The bounty hunters, who reportedly work for Bail Shop LLC in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, told Reinhardt they were looking for his brother, Luke Reinhardt, who jumped a $5,000 bail bond for three misdemeanors out of Pennsylvania. Reinhardt told them that his brother does not reside at the house, has never lived at the house, and barely has contact with him.
As the bounty hunters and police officers began to leave, Reinhardt again asked to see the search warrant. One of the bounty hunters showed him a bail bond slip instead.
“These are people who took an oath to serve and protect the community,” Reinhardt told WIVB about the officers who assisted the bounty hunters. “And in my eyes, they aided in nothing short of an armed home invasion. They were all responsible. It was an egregious attack on my home and my family and my civil rights.”
“I was terrified,” said Taylor Schmieder, Reinhardt’s fiancée. “Neither of us had any idea what was going on.”
After reviewing the surveillance footage, Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo stated, “Based on my initial review of this, the officers did not knock on the door, they did not request the homeowner let these individuals into their home and from that point on the only question left in terms of a criminal matter is whether or not [the bounty hunters’] entrance and means of gaining entry into that residence was appropriate.”
“Generally, I’m very concerned,” Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen told WKBW. “If bail bondsman are allowed to do what our local police department can not do—and that is to enter a house without a warrant…from what I’m being told, it could be any house.”
In a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. Federal Court for Civil Rights violations, Reinhardt and his family have recently filed a suit against the City of Buffalo, Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood, the police officers at the scene, the two bail agents, and the Bail Shop LLC in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.