Grand Forks man files lawsuit over traffic stop and deployment of drug sniffing dogs

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Aug. 22—GRAND FORKS — A Grand Forks man has filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Grand Forks and four Grand Forks Police Department officers, alleging that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights to protection against unreasonable search and seizure when he was pulled over and a drug sniffing dog was deployed during the traffic stop in April 2021.

The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 17 by Ray Bruton, focuses on a traffic stop on April 15, 2021, when Bruton was pulled over while driving to his home in Grand Forks. According to court documents, he was pulled over by Officers Caleb Nelson and Luke Wentz, and was told he was stopped for making an improper turn. Officers Michael Ruit and Andrew Ebertowski, members of the Grand Forks Police Department’s K9 Unit, were in a second police cruiser with a drug sniffing dog.

The complaint claims that Nelson and Wentz did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull Bruton over for an improper turn. It also says that Bruton provided his driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, and complied with the officers’ request that he exit his vehicle.

Then, court documents say, Wentz and Ebertowski ordered him to get in the back seat of Wentz’s cruiser. While entering the police cruiser, the driver’s side door of Bruton’s car was left open.

Ruit then began walking the drug sniffing dog around Bruton’s vehicle, and allowed it to enter the vehicle through the open car door, the complaint says. The dog allegedly sniffed inside the car for a few seconds, then around the car for several more minutes. Bruton alleges that Ebertowski told him that in North Dakota, officers do not need a reason to deploy drug sniffing dogs, and that the practice of extending a routine traffic stop to deploy a drug sniffing dog is common for the Grand Forks Police Department.

Court documents say the dog did not detect any drugs in Bruton’s car, but allege that the actions of the police officers caused Bruton lasting injury and damages, including severe emotional distress and trauma. The documents also claim Bruton’s constitutional rights when his vehicle was stopped and when the stop was extended to deploy a drug sniffing dog.

Grand Forks City Attorney Dan Gaustad and the Grand Forks Police Department did not return calls for comment on the lawsuit.

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