Woman sues Florida sheriff alleging she was twice forced out of her home naked as deputies executed warrants

The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office faces scrutiny after the death of Air Force Senior Airman Roger Fortson, whom a deputy fatally shot May 3.

A woman in Florida has sued the sheriff of a department that came under scrutiny this month in the fatal shooting of a Black Air Force senior airman, alleging that she was twice forced out of her home naked as deputies executed warrants at her home.

LaTanya Griffin, who said she was neither arrested nor charged after the encounters, seeks damages of more than $1 million from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. The suit alleges her Fourth Amendment rights, which prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures, were violated when deputies forced her out of her home unclothed on Aug. 29, 2019, and again on May 28, 2020. She was not the target of the warrants, her attorney said.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court Monday evening, names Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden and Grady Carpenter, a now-retired deputy who was present during the execution of both warrants, as defendants. Carpenter “provided direction and oversight” for Griffin’s “naked seizure and the deputies’ operations” in the May 2020 incident, the latest lawsuit charges. Carpenter did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said in a statement that Aden is “unable to provide comments about this matter,” because the events described in the lawsuit occurred before he took office and he was not involved in or present for the execution of either warrant. Aden was elected in November 2020 and sworn in as sheriff in January 2021.

Griffin, 46, previously sued the sheriff’s office in federal court last August related to the 2019 incident. She alleges in that suit that deputies used a battering ram to enter her home while they were serving a search warrant and ordered her at gunpoint to remain nude in front of officers and the public, including her 6-year-old daughter and her 14-year-old son.

The earlier suit named as defendants Aden, Carpenter and another deputy, Raphael Brown, who also did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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In court documents, lawyers for the sheriff’s office said in response to the first suit that the deputies’ actions were consistent with “established, reasonable, and generally accepted police procedure.” The lawyers also said the actions of two deputies named in that suit “were made in good faith and while they were acting within the course and scope of their employment as deputy sheriffs with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.”

The first suit is still in the discovery phase, Griffin’s attorney Kevin Anderson said.

The latest suit alleges the May 2020 incident bore “striking similarity to the August 29th seizure.” The second incident involved the execution of an arrest warrant before dawn at Griffin’s two-story home in a modest residential community directly parallel to a busy public roadway, according to the lawsuit. The suit contends Carpenter failed to exercise his supervisory authority to stop the constitutional violation.

Once they were outside her residence, Griffin’s children watched her “during her naked detention for a substantial amount of time,” the lawsuit says, adding that her hands were zip-tied or handcuffed behind her back. Though she objected, Griffin remained naked in the presence of multiple law enforcement officers, the suit says. The deputies eventually placed a tank top over her head, “providing partial covering but not concealment of her genitalia,” the suit says.

Anderson, speaking on her behalf, said Griffin was humiliated and has since moved from Okaloosa County, in the Florida Panhandle east of Pensacola, to the northern part of the state.

He called the deputies’ actions in both incidents “abhorrent.”

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“They took no precautions to preserve her dignity,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “She was humiliated and made to do what they wanted her to do. She was treated like an animal.”

Griffin’s nudity continued outside her home, at the roadside and inside a law enforcement vehicle, the lawsuit says.

According to the suit, Griffin suffered loss of liberty and freedom, physical inconvenience, physical discomfort, mental anguish, emotional distress, emotional suffering, mental and emotional harm, embarrassment, humiliation, injury to dignity and injury to her reputation. She is seeking unspecified damages, including for medical care, lost earnings and income, as well as relocation expenses for the current claim.

military air force airman killed by Okaloosa Sheriff
Air Force Senior Airman Roger Fortson.U.S. Air Force

The sheriff’s office already faces scrutiny after a deputy shot and killed Air Force Senior Airman Roger Fortson on May 3 after he answered his door holding a gun pointed downward.

The sheriff’s office also faced criticism this year after the release of video of one of its deputies mistaking the sound of an acorn hitting his patrol vehicle for a gunshot. The deputy fired multiple times at the police SUV, where a Black man was handcuffed in the back seat. The man was not injured in the incident in November, and the deputy has resigned.

“There are many instances where the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has been scrutinized,” Anderson said. “It just takes a quick Google to see deadly force utilized or there being indiscretion with seizures of people within the community and supervisors who are asleep at the wheel when their deputies are running wild.”

He said the sheriff’s office needs to come under scrutiny of an outside agency, ideally the Justice Department.

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