Canadian County Sheriff ‘raid’ lawsuit dismissed

Judge determines West ‘immune from suit’

Sheriff Chris West

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

EL RENO – A lawsuit against Canadian County Sheriff Chris West has been dismissed.

District Judge Khristan K. Strubhar

Canadian County District Judge Khristan K. Strubhar on June 21 signed a journal entry of judgment granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss the petition filed on behalf of plaintiff Brandon Michael Whitman.

“The judge’s decision reflects that everything was done right,” Sheriff West said. “I just believe in doing things right – law and order.”

Whitman, through his attorney Doug Carel, claimed sheriff’s deputies illegally raided his Sunway Street home in January 2022 after his Facebook account had been hacked and child pornography images were posted to the account.

On Oct. 3, 2022, Whitman sued Canadian County’s elected sheriff and commissioners in district court for infliction of emotional distress, negligence that led to physical and emotional distress and loss of his electronic equipment.

In November 2022, defendants’ attorney Stephen Geries filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims against Canadian County Commissioners and Sheriff West because the lawsuit was “devoid of any factual allegations implicating” them.

“Defendants are immune from suit for all of plaintiff’s claims pursuant to the terms of the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act,” according to a brief signed by Geries.

The lawsuit was “devoid of any allegation of fact” indicating that Whitman suffered any physical injuries that resulted from any conduct by Sheriff West or any other agent, employee or officer of the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office,” the motion read.

Judge Strubhar agreed.

After hearing arguments of counsel during a May 30th court hearing, Strubhar found the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act applied and Sheriff West – in his official capacity – is “immune from suit.”

“In this case, the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office was executing a search warrant that had been authorized by a Canadian County magistrate judge,” according to the court minute.

Judge Strubhar agreed with attorney Geries that the search of Whitman’s home and seizure of his electronic equipment were conducted pursuant to the warrant signed by Special Judge Charles Gass.

Gass found evidence set forth in the search warrant sufficient to establish probable cause that child pornography associated with the plaintiff’s IP address had been uploaded to his Facebook account using the plaintiff’s email and username.

“Once the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office had probable cause for the search, this court finds that was no legal duty to continue to investigate for exculpatory evidence,” Judge Strubhar’s May 30th court minute reads.

“Therefore, since no duty was breached, plaintiff’s negligence claim should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.”

The Canadian County Sheriff’s Office had received information indicating images of child pornography had been downloaded at the IP address at the plaintiff’s residence, according to a search warrant affidavit signed by investigator David Cates.

At a March 30th hearing, Judge Strubhar dismissed all claims against Canadian County Commissioners. She also dismissed the plaintiff’s claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress, ruling it is “not an independent tort that is recognized under Oklahoma law.”



In the civil suit, plaintiff Whitman alleged sheriff’s deputies raided his home five months after the Facebook “hack” issue had been resolved.

Whitman complained that “numerous” Canadian County sheriff’s deputies on Jan. 12, 2022, walked down his street with brandished firearms, circling his property and frightening his neighbors.

“(I)n front of plaintiff’s wife and minor daughter, Canadian County Sheriff deputies burst into the plaintiff’s home, detained plaintiff and his family and removed every computer and electronic item contained in plaintiff’s home,” the petition reads.

In his lawsuit, Whitman said he tried to explain to the armed sheriff’s deputies that his Facebook account had been hacked. The plaintiff alleged he was treated rudely and was ordered to remain seated while his personal property was removed from the home.

“The plaintiff uses his computers for work,” the petition read. “Despite his repeated pleas for the return of his personal property, he was ignored by West for several weeks.”

The personal property was returned to Whitman on Feb. 10, 2022, after the property had been examined and the investigation concluded. He was never arrested or charged with a crime.

In a court brief filed Dec. 9, 2022, attorney Carel blamed the incident on “shoddy and inept police work” because the sheriff’s investigator did not “unearth” that the Facebook hack had been reported five months before the “raid.”

“Defendants cannot claim that armed officers barging into one’s home are not an endangerment, and defendants can certainly not claim that they exercised any duty of care whatsoever in raiding plaintiff’s home,” the brief read.

The “slightest bit of police work” done by Sheriff West and his deputies would have revealed Whitman “had nothing to do” with the child pornography posted to his social media account, the plaintiff’s attorney argued.