The owners of a Lakewood military surplus store are suing the city, contending a law enforcement raid on their business last year was illegal.
A&S Surplus Inc., which operates The Foxhole on Union Avenue Southwest, seeks more than $1 million in damages for what it says was a violation of its Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The company brought the suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
City Attorney Heidi Wachter said Wednesday the lawsuit, which had not yet been served on the city, would be referred to Lakewood’s insurance carrier for defense.
Local and federal law enforcement agents served a search warrant on The Foxhole and a warehouse used by the company in June 2013. They were searching for gear allegedly purloined from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and then sold to surplus stores.
Authorities seized several items, including Kevlar helmets, military-grade gun-cleaning kits, MREs and other items, court records show.
Lakewood police detective Russell Martin wrote in an affidavit seeking the search warrant that he’d interviewed people who said The Foxhole had bought stolen military gear. He generated the information while investigating allegations that another surplus store also had been dealing in stolen military equipment, court records show.
Martin also wrote that he saw “items unauthorized to be sold by soldiers to the business” when he conducted a walk-through of The Foxhole a few days before the raid. The items included military chemical suits that were still in their original packaging, he said.
The Foxhole contends in its lawsuit that Martin’s affidavit justifying the search warrant was vague and misleading and requested a search that was “overly broad.” His affidavit, the company said, “did not contain factual averments sufficient to establish probable cause.”
In addition, many of the things seized by authorities were “items which plaintiff had legally purchased, which plaintiff legally owned and possessed,” according to the lawsuit.
The Foxhole lost $75,000 in merchandise during the raid and suffered damage to its business reputation, the suit contends. It seeks reimbursement for its lost merchandise and both noneconomic and punitive damages to the tune of $1.2 million.
The raid on The Foxhole came during an investigation into a rash of thefts from JBLM. Authorities served search warrants on several businesses in spring 2013 and seized what they said was thousands of dollars in stolen gear.
At least one former soldier was convicted of possessing stolen property in the crackdown, and the owner of Historical Military Sales, another Lakewood surplus store, lost his business license.