BP police chief, Steele deputy deny family’s accusations of barging into home

Published 10:32 am Friday, November 22, 2013

Attorneys for the Blooming Prairie Police Chief and a Steele County Sheriff’s deputy say there is a different story behind accusations that their clients barged into a home without a warrant and harassed a family about a controversial car sale.

Joseph Flynn, representing Chief Paul Wayne and the city of Blooming Prairie, and Jason Hill, representing deputy Greg Skillstad and Steele County, filed responses to the accusations with the federal court on Thursday. The attorney’s couldn’t offer specifics, and more detailed arguments will become available as the case progresses. But for now, Both Flynn and Hill say the allegations in the complaint aren’t accurate.

“We do have a substantially different story to tell,” Flynn said, who hopes judges will drop the case after hearing details.

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Valanchie and Ashly Garcia of Blooming Prairie filed a civil suit against the two authorities on Oct. 10. The couple seeks nearly $1 million in damages and legal fees, as they say Wayne and Skillstad on April 17 searched their home without a warrant and bullied them about a muddled car sale on eBay. The Garcias —according to their complaint filed in federal court — said they bought a car on eBay in the spring, but when they received it, the condition was not what they agreed to in the transaction. Valanchie tried to return the car, but the seller didn’t want to pay the costs. The complaint added Valanchie and the seller then agreed Valanchie would fix the car and split costs; however, controversy allegedly boiled after that. The BP police chief was reportedly contacted the same day by the Montvale, N.J., Police and seller, who said the car was stolen.

The Garcias said Wayne and Skillstad forced their way into the Garcia home the same day as the reported theft, pinned Valanchie to a wall and caused great emotional distress to the family. The also claimed Wayne yelled at Valanchie and called him a thief, said he would be taken to jail and said his three young children would be placed in protective services. The Garcias further said Wayne wouldn’t arrest them if they paid $3,500, and that Wayne took the keys and title and Skillstad drove the vehicle to the police department.

Ashly said she tried to show a bill of sale to Wayne, who allegedly refused to look at it and threatened to arrest and charge Ashly. The complaint further stated Wayne told Ashly the seller wanted $3,000, but that he would try to negotiate the seller’s demands to $2,500. Later, the Garcias’ attorney called Wayne, who reduced the demand to $2,000.

Ashly said she delivered a $2,000 check to Wayne on April 29. According to the plaintiffs, Wayne returned the keys and vehicle and stated he “never filed a report, and it was like it never happened.”

The Garcias are suing for a total of $930,000 in damages and legal fees. Their attorney claims authorities violated the Garcias’ Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by way of home invasion and arrest and depriving their rights of liberty, property and due process of law. The lawsuit further claims state law violations of intrusion, false imprisonment and defamation.