A federal judge has ruled that two police officers working at a public school in Midland, Texas, could be sued for detaining a 14-year-old child from his family’s apartment because he was alone there. Despite her pleas, authorities did not allow the girl to call her parents for hours, or when her father called, they did not allow her to pick up the phone. They also searched the family home without a warrant.
School Resource Officers Kevin Bruner and Alexandra Weaver Campbell do not suffer from immunity, U.S. District Judge David Counts ruled in a case in which her mother began making painful plans to care for her child when she had to stay out of the country for five days and her husband Were deployed abroad.
In 2018, Megan McMurray was a special education teacher at Midland Junior High School, married Adam McMurray, a soldier in the Mississippi Army National Guard. The family had lived in six countries for 10 years and her children were accustomed to independence.
“When my daughter was 12 years old, she used to walk the streets of Shanghai to get donuts,” McMurray said.
When the family moved to Midland, daughter Jade opted for online homeschooling. He was home alone for a good portion of each day, which is perfectly legal, unless the parents are putting any child at risk.
Meanwhile, McMurray took his 12-year-old son Connor with him across the city to Junior High where he worked. He had a perfect presence.
But when the family learned that their father, abroad, was already reuniting in Kuwait for another program, McMurray thought the family should consider staying together. He had a job offer at a Kuwaiti school and he wanted to see it before making his decision.
Her kids didn’t want to come on a five-day tour কিছু in part because Connor didn’t want to ruin the continuity of her perfect presence-so McMurray arranged for the kids to take care of neighbors, Vanessa and Gabe Vallezos. Jade, a 14-year-old, gave birth to a six-year-old child from the Vallejos family for a few hours every afternoon, so the families were close.
To get to Connor’s school, McMurray arranged for a school counselor – another neighbor – to run him.
On Thursday night, October 25, 2018, he boarded a plane bound for Kuwait.
On Friday morning, the school counselor realized he could not pick up Connor in the end, and the school resource officer – Weaver, who lived nearby – asked him to drive instead. When Weaver did not answer his telephone, according to McMurray, the councilor arranged for the boy to be run over by someone else.
Weaver called the Child Protection Service (CPS) to report the children being alone at home. He also called his supervisor Bruner and went to McMurray’s house for a check on the welfare of the two Z’s.
This is where things get ugly.
Police forced the apartment building manager to knock on the family door. Z answered and the police told him he shouldn’t be home alone. Jade began to cry and told her father to call, McMurray said. But the police did not allow it. They let him change into warm clothes as they took him in for questioning. While she was in her room, she was able to text her father, “I’m scared! The police are here.”
Meanwhile, Weaver went to rifle with the cabinet.
According to McMurray, police put Z in a squad car and took him to his middle school. Body cam footage shows her crying and begging police to let her call her father, but they refuse to do so.
At school, police kept Z in their custody for several hours when they asked him, “Are you going to party?” They kick Connor out of class and question him too.
Meanwhile, the CPS has sent an investigator to the school. He asked the police if they had called the parents.
McMurray said that when police said no, the CPS investigators were unreliable, as they were supposed to do the first job.
Bruner and Weaver’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
The CPS investigator was disappointed that the police told his agency that the children were abandoned and cruel, because apparently Connor was at school and the police were also aware that Jade was homeschooled. (Believe it or not, Weaver and McMurray were friends before.) When Jade explained the arrangements his mother made for their care and CPS confirmed that it was all true, it closed the case then and there.
But the police did not.
When McMurray returned from Kuwait, he faced two serious charges of child abandonment. He turned himself in and spent 19 hours in jail before being released on bail.
Long story short, almost a year later – he was fired unpaid the whole time – McMurray’s case was put on trial. Bruner claimed a pre-planned vacation. McMurray, eager to hear the case, allowed the trial to proceed without him.
His neighbor, Valezosius, testified. The CPS investigator and his supervisors testified. The school counselor testified. Connor and Z testified. When Weaver testified and was asked why he did not allow Z to speak to his father, he replied that he did not want to worry the man. In fact, here are some transcripts:
Q: Don’t you remember that Z told you that his father was trying to call him and you told him not to answer the phone?
A: Now I am remembering what you said.
Q: So his dad is trying to call him when you’re taking him from his home to Abel Middle School and you’re telling him না don’t get a call from his dad?
A. I didn’t want to put undue pressure on him.
The trial took four days. The jury discussed for five minutes and did not find McMurray guilty.
McMurray is now suing officials for violating his Fourth and 15th Amendment rights. According to her lawsuit, they searched her home without a warrant and illegally detained her daughter. Police should not remove children from their homes without warning the parents, unless there is an immediate threat to the children’s lives and limbs. Since the law is so well-established on that protocol that officers had to be aware of them, the federal judge waived their application for qualified immunity and allowed the case to proceed.
This is especially sweet for McMurray because he knows what real abandonment looks like.
“My mother was a drug addict,” he says. “I’ve grown up in foster care since I was 11 years old. I’ll be in a two-week shelter, then a 30-day shelter, you know how it is. I went to 25 different high schools when I graduated with a 4.0.”
It’s her hard-won resilience that made her an adult, and resilience is exactly what she and her husband are trying to create in their kids. That’s why he let her stay at home without them. He knew they would be responsible, and he knew it was impossible for young people to handle it.
Apparently, the apple is not falling too far from the tree. In a letter to the Circuit Court, Z wrote that he wanted “everyone to know what these two officers did to me and my family for no reason.”
“My parents taught me to work hard and be a self-advocate for whatever I want,” Jade wrote. “I probably didn’t know my identity That day was right, and they certainly didn’t inform me, but I knew what they were doing was wrong. “