Laws broken during search for suspect Jerry Vue?

Bounty hunters were also chasing Vue because he skipped bond, and Action News uncovered video showing how far they were willing to go to get him.
November 14, 2013 3:40:51 PM PST
They're armed men breaking down doors and breaking into homes, even as law enforcement stands by.

Bounty hunters operate under a different set of rules, but in the search for fugitive Jerry Vue, an Action News investigation reveals they may have broken the law.

Law enforcement officers searched more than 16 months for the suspected rapist -- a search that ended in gunfire last week with three officers injured and Vue shot to death.

Bounty hunters were also chasing Vue because he skipped bond, and Action News uncovered video showing how far they were willing to go to get him.

Wearing all black and protected by tactical vests, bounty hunters entered Lao Vue's home without his permission, and at gunpoint.

"He put it right to my chest, to my skin," Vue said.

Vue's wife started recording the intrusion, but by then, Vue says bounty hunters had already surrounded their home and surprised their kids sleeping in the garage.

"All they felt was arms getting pulled, slammed on the ground and guns on their back, knees on their back, and they didn't know what to do," Vue said.

Vue's brother Jerry was a wanted fugitive.

After bailing out of jail on a domestic violence charge, his ex-accused him of kidnapping, rape and torture in June 2012.

A year later, with courts about to forfeit the $152,000 bond posted by Aladdin Bail Bonds, the bounty hunters came looking for Jerry. And when the Vues called sheriff's deputies for help, they got support for the bounty hunters instead.

"So you're going to let them search my house without a search warrant?" Lao Vue can be heard saying in the recorded video.

"Yes," said the sheriff's deputy. "They're bail agents. Yeah."

At the same time of the raid on Vue's property, bounty hunters entered at least two more homes of Jerry Vue's family members.

His sister Bao also hit record on her phone's camera.

"I know you have a right to bang doors, but to escort the whole family out," she said to one bounty hunter as she pointed the camera at him.

"Do you know how many people are telling us right now that your brother was here a couple days ago?" the bounty hunter responded.

After searching Bao Vue's home, the bounty hunters also searched all three adjacent apartments where unrelated families lived.

Nobody whose home was searched that night signed for Jerry Vue's bond.

The law says bounty hunters don't need a search warrant like police do. They do need something called "reasonable cause', though -- basically, proof the man they're hunting is in the home they're breaking into.

ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says people telling them Jerry was in a home a couple days ago isn't enough, and searching several homes at once reveals the bounty hunters didn't know where Jerry was at all.

"If they have reasonable cause to believe he's in four different places at the same time, reasonable cause isn't there," Capozzi said. "To me, that's a blatant violation."

The Vues are considering a lawsuit against the bounty hunters and the bail company. But their attorney says what they really want is regulations to stop this type of dangerous violation.

"By breaking into people's homes, by breaking through the doors, by hiding in bedrooms and coming out unannounced, someone's going to get killed or shot," said Mike Elder.

Action News tried to ask questions at Aladdin Bail Bonds, but they referred us to their corporate offices and our phone calls and messages went unanswered.

The state Department of Insurance regulates bail agents, but they tell us only law enforcement officers regulate the bounty hunters who work for those bail agents.

A spokesperson for the Fresno County district attorney's office told us neither Fresno police nor the Fresno County sheriff's office filed cases against the bounty hunters, so there are no pending charges.


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