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County Says It Is Not Liable In Mistaken Raid, But Will Apologize

May 3, 1996

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) _ A family whose home was mistakenly raided for illegal weapons will get its carpet cleaned and an apology although a county lawyer insists that law officers did their jobs correctly.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco said Thursday it dispatched an investigator to look into the raid and the family is threatening a lawsuit.

More than a dozen heavily armed police and federal agents swarmed into the home of Paul and Patty Mueller on Tuesday night and held the family at gunpoint as they turned the house upside down.

``For the first 30 seconds, I thought they were burglars and I was going to die,″ Mrs. Mueller said. ``If they could do this to us, they could do this to anybody.″

The officers were acting on a tip from an informant who said he had bought and sold weapons with people living in the house, said Daniel Hoggatt, a special agent with the ATF.

Authorities now say that the informant, Matthew Hoppe, lied about guns being hidden in the Muellers’ home in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence on a car theft conviction. He now also faces a misdemeanor charge of providing false information to a police officer.

``A judge issued the warrant and it was properly served,″ Joann Leykam, a lawyer for St. Charles County, said Thursday. ``I don’t see any liability on part of the county.″

Nonetheless, she said the county would apologize and clean the carpet muddied in the raid.

The Muellers say it was an hour before agents even showed them a search warrant and explained why they were there.

``I saw my husband with his face to the floor, hands behind his back and a gun to his head,″ Mrs. Mueller said. ``I had a gun to my head. I asked where my kids were and they told me to `sit down and shut up.‴

``We’re your basic dorky family who goes to soccer games and hangs out with their kids,″ she said.

ATF Assistant Director Pat Hynes said the agency should not be held accountable for the raid because just one of the officers was from the ATF.

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