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Police called this couple’s kidnapping story a hoax. Now, the couple is suing.

The Washington Post The Washington Post 24/03/2016 Sarah Larimer

Matthew D. Muller © Alameda Sheriff’s Office Matthew D. Muller Aaron Quinn called police in March 2015 and reported a kidnapping, saying that his girlfriend, Denise Huskins, had been taken from his California home.

Authorities launched a search, with a dive team, dogs and dozens of personnel. A couple of days later, though, Huskins turned up in Huntington Beach, hundreds of miles from her last known location in the San Francisco Bay area.

The story didn’t end there. The kidnapping, police in Vallejo, Calif., suggested, was actually a hoax. In a statement, Vallejo Police Lt. Ken Park called it an “orchestrated event.”

But the ordeal was real, law enforcement later concluded. Months after the kidnapping was first reported, a California man was charged in connection with the incident. And now Huskins and Quinn have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Vallejo, claiming that the police department Quinn contacted for help violated their civil rights.

“The Vallejo police attacked Denise and Aaron when they were most vulnerable,” the couple’s attorney Kevin Clune said in a statement. “By taking the all-too-common approach of blaming the victim, Vallejo made an already tragic situation infinitely worse.”

The defendants in the lawsuit attacked Quinn, Huskins and their families, and “created a destructive nationwide media frenzy,” according to the court filing. Their actions forced Quinn and Huskins to move and caused professional and personal hardship, the lawsuit claims.

The city and its police department “waged a vicious and shocking attack” on two victims of a crime, the lawsuit states.

It continued: “As part of its continuous pattern of malicious and unlawful conduct, Defendants violated Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn’s constitutional rights and unfairly destroyed their reputations through an outrageous and wholly unfounded campaign of disparagement.”

During the March 2015 kidnapping — for which Matthew D. Muller of Orangevale, Calif., was later charged — Huskins and Quinn were woken up about 3 a.m., according to law enforcement. Quinn’s hands and feet were bound, and his eyes were covered with goggles.

Headphones, which had been placed over his ears, played instructions for Quinn, whom the lawsuit claims was immediately treated as the focus of the police’s investigation, instead of one of the victims.

According to the lawsuit, after Quinn contacted police, he went to the Vallejo police station, where his clothes were taken, and replaced with inmate clothing. During his interrogation, authorities acted as though Huskins was already dead, the lawsuit claims.

Police “recklessly assumed, based on nothing but fanciful speculation, that Huskins was already dead and that Quinn had killed her,” the lawsuit states, and questioned Quinn for 18 consecutive hours.

“At breaks, Quinn was left in the room alone, where he curled up in the rolling swivel chairs and cried,” it reads.

While police focused on Quinn, Huskins “endured unimaginable terror and a violent assault,” the lawsuit states. It claims she was forced in the trunk of a car, transferred to another vehicle and then taken to a home, where she was held hostage.

After she was released, an investigator, identified in the lawsuit as Detective Mathew Mustard, “immediately threatened and verbally attacked” Huskins during a phone call with a relative. He failed to offer comfort to her “distraught” family at the police station, instead telling them that he didn’t believe her story.

“VPD never had any evidence that the kidnapping was a hoax,” the lawsuit states. “VPD’s public statements were a vicious and destructive attack on Plaintiffs, destroyed their reputations, and struck them at their most vulnerable moment.”

A Vallejo city spokeswoman said that the city does not comment on pending litigation and had no statement on the matter at this time.

A message left with Vallejo police was not returned Wednesday. In addition to the city, the lawsuit specifically names Park and Mustard as defendants.

You can read the lawsuit, which was filed this week, below:

Complaint – Huskins Quinn


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