A Bronx mother of two filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals on Wednesday, claiming the federal agents violated her and her family’s Fourth Amendment rights, and should be held liable for assault and false arrest under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Elvayaris Rosa claims she was subjected to unlawful brutality at the hands of numerous unnamed marshals as part of the federal authority’s attempts to apprehend a wanted friend, Disney Abreu.
The supermarket cashier and member of her children’s parent-teacher association claims she was detained for hours after marshals pulled her from her car, in which Abreu had previously been riding. She claims marshals repeatedly taunted and threatened her under arrest, calling her a criminal and threatening to harm her if she didn’t talk.
She claims to have not known initially why she was being detained. Later, at a nearby New York City Police Department precinct, she identified a picture of Abreu, and was told he was accused of murdering a police officer, which was not true.
Marshals then allegedly took Rosa to her home in the Sotomayor Houses development in the Bronx—the same development where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor grew up—where family members. Among those at the apartment were two young children. Approximately seven marshals allegedly forcibly entered her apartment without probable cause or warrant, but with guns drawn.
Family members, including the children, were allegedly interrogated as to Abreu’s whereabouts. Marshals allegedly assaulted one of the adults when they were dissatisfied with the information he provided. No arrests were made of anyone in the home.
According to the complaint, Rosa claimed that one of the marshals responded to one of the adults in the apartment by saying, “We’re the federal government—we can do whatever the fuck we want.”
Rosa claimed the marshals returned just a few days later, again demanding information about Abreu and again without a warrant. The agents allegedly were accompanied by an employee from the New York City Housing Authority, who they threatened would take away her family’s public housing if she failed to provide the marshals with the information they wanted.
According to the complaint, the marshal’s actions failed to result in Abreau’s apprehension. He self-surrendered a month after Rosa’s arrest, and ultimately pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York to unlawful possession a firearm, in violation of his supervised release in a separate matter.
Rosa’s attorney, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady partner Ilann Maazel, said in a statement that the marshals had acted “like some sort of lawless gang.”
“It’s appalling,” he said. “Would this happen on Park Avenue? Never. But in the Bronx, there is no justice even in the former residence of a Supreme Court justice. This should never happen in America, anywhere.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.