In January of this year, Jake Reinhardt, his fiancee and their three-year-old daughter were woken up in the middle of the night when they heard somebody banging on their front door. When Reinhardt got to the door, he saw a man with a long firearm by his front door.
"Open it up or we'll kick it in," the man yelled. Reinhardt asked the man at the door to identify himself, but the man responded by demanding once again that Reinhardt open the door.
Reinhardt spotted two Buffalo police officers on the sidewalk, which gave him enough enough courage to open the door, believing that the officers just have the wrong house.
But when Reinhardt opened the door, two men – not the police officers – with long firearms immediately pointed their guns at his chest and entered his home.
The two men were bounty hunters. They asked Reinhardt about his brother, who jumped a $5,000 bail bond for three misdemeanors in Pennsylvania.
According to Reinhardt, the bounty hunters searched his home as well as the home of his tenant who lives in the upstairs apartment. He asked them if they had a warrant. One of the bounty hunters claimed to have a warrant, but it was never produced. Furthermore, Reinhardt never gave his consent for a home search.
At least one of the two bounty hunters pointed a gun at Reinhardt's fiancee, Taylor Schmieder. She was eight months pregnant and holding on to her three-year-old daughter.
The bounty hunter told Schmieder to free her hands by releasing her crying daughter.
"I was terrified," said Schmieder. "Neither of us had any idea what was going on.
As the raid was occurring, his surveillance camera at the front of the house recorded a short conversation between two police officers observing the event.
"I don't know what agency that is either," said one of the officers.
"Me either," answered the other. "They're from PA, I think he said."
After a moment of searching, the bounty hunters left empty-handed along with the Buffalo officers that accompanied them. Fortunately for Reinhardt, his family and his tenants, nobody was hurt.
"These are people who took an oath to serve and protect the community," said Reinhardt. "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."
After reviewing the surveillance footage, Buffalo Captain Jeff Rinaldo said his officers did not do anything illegal.
"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 in that residence was appropriate," said Rinaldo.
However, one supervisor initially told Reinhardt that this was a failure on the part of the department.
"I don't know if it's not enough training or what with our guys," said the supervisor. "They should have clarified any type of entry into a home. It's very serious in nature."
Reinhardt has filed a civil lawsuit in a federal court against the City of Buffalo, the police officers in the scene, the bounty hunters and the company one of them works for – Bail Shop LLC, based out of Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
"Mr. Reinhardt asked everybody he could ask to see the warrant," said Anthony Rupp, the attorney representing Reinhardt's family, his mother – whose home was also searched by the same two bounty hunters – and the family in the upstairs room. (Related: Some Democrats are beginning to admit that lockdowns have turned the US into a totalitarian police state.)
"The entire home was searched at gunpoint without the warrant being produced."
Rupp claims the Buffalo police failed in its basic mission to protect and serve the community and instead stood by and allowed "the most illegal search of a home that I've ever seen."
"They participated in gunpoint armed search, a midnight rousting of two young families with screaming babies, and it's utterly outrageous," said Rupp.
Rupp further claimed Reinhardt and his other clients felt terrorized by the event and that the police department should reassess its own protocols.
"I can't believe that trained officers from a professional police agency would conduct and assist in helping other people conduct an armed intrusion into a home without checking to see if that's okay," said Rupp.
Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen presented a resolution to the Common Council requesting information regarding the legal framework that bounty hunters are allowed to operate within when they are inside city limits.
The resolution would ask the city's law department to provide a complete rundown of every single state and federal law regarding the regulation of bounty hunters, as well as any policies the city, county, state or federal law enforcement might have that deals with how officers should interact with bounty hunters.
Pridgen hopes to find answers regarding how this industry operates and what its rulebook looks like. Once he knows what he's dealing with, he would use the power of the Common Council to lobby federal legislators to conduct a review of the industry if necessary.
"I understand bounty hunters have a job to do but I want to make sure that we are not in a position, and this is just generally, in which bounty hunters come into town and can knock down doors if it is illegal," said Pridgen. "I am concerned, and I do want to know the answers."
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