Local departments have begun to rely on armored vehicles like this BearCat, featured in this 2018 stock photo.

By Shereen Siewert

A 79-year-old town of Stettin man embroiled in a civil rights dispute with Marathon County over alleged civil rights violations during a surprise raid at his home has settled his suit with the county for $90,000.

Roger Hoeppner sued in June 2017 and settled the case in late October. The amended complaint is embedded below.

The controversy erupted in October 2014, when 24 law enforcement officials and one Lenco Bearcat vehicle approached the area of Hoeppner’s Packer Drive home, setting up a staging area about three-quarters of a mile away. A Lenco Bearcat looks like an armored military vehicle with a machine gun turret on top, but is not actually equipped with weapons.

The officers were there to serve a writ authorizing the removal of personal property to satisfy a roughly $80,000 judgment against Hoeppner for accumulated fines and penalties owed to the town of Stettin. According to federal court documents, Hoeppner missed several deadlines to clean up his property and a judge authorized police to seize personal property such as forklifts, cars, trucks, tractors, lawn mowers and other large items located on the property to satisfy the judgment against Hoeppner and his wife, Marjorie Hoeppner.

According to court documents police were aware of a “history of animosity and verbal altercations between the Hopenners and town officials and the sheriff’s department’s interventions” between the Hoeppners and town officials at public meetings. In addition, police were told that “someone” at the Hoeppner’s residence had “pantomimed pointing a gun at deputies,” prompting them to serve the writ unannounced to avoid potential force or hostility from the Hoeppners, court documents state.

On the morning of Oct. 2, 2014, two deputies approached the Hoeppner’s home and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Seeing movement inside the home, the deputies called for several of the remaining deputies and the Bearcat to be brought up to the roadway in front of the home.

Hoeppner, who told police he did not hear the knock at the door, saw movement outside and looked out the window to see officers pointing guns at his door and another officer running across his front lawn with an assault rifle in hand. After his attorney arrived, Hoeppner walked down the driveway to speak with deputies, who informed Hoeppner they were at the home to seize property, but that Hoeppner could avoid the seizure by paying $80,000 that day.

In court documents, Hoeppner asserts he did not act “boisterously or belligerently,” but deputies say Hoeppner refused to stop walking around and instead yelled at the deputies to arrest him, which they did.

Police then took Hoeppner to his bank, where he withdrew the funds to pay the $80,000 judgement and was then taken home. He was also charged with disorderly conduct, a charge that was dismissed.

Hoeppner, in his lawsuit, claimed he was arrested without probable cause and that police used unreasonable physical force, violating his Fourth Amendment rights. He also alleges that police violated his First Amendment rights by confiscating his cell phone and camera to prevent him from recording their activities.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, in her ruling, said that Hoeppner’s claims that he was arrested without probable cause and that his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated should go to a jury, but dismissed the unreasonable physical force claim.

Ultimately, mediation with an Eau Claire-based attorney helped both sides reach an agreement, allowing the case to avoid a trial by jury.4664193-0–10275