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Kevin and Christina Kurtz took their 11-year-old daughter to her chiropractor, then decided to get groceries at Wegmans Food Market in Silver Spring Township. Their daughter started to have severe back spasms, so they quickly finished shopping and got in the car to return to the chiropractor.

So far, May 11 wasn’t a particularly unusual day — but that was about to change, according to a federal lawsuit the Kurtz family filed against Silver Spring Township Police and individual officers.

As Kevin Kurtz drove out of the parking lot, three police cars surrounded his vehicle, according to the complaint filed July 19. Someone reported to police that Kurtz hit his daughter in the parking lot, Silver Spring Township Police Officers Christopher Butler and Joseph Craven told them.

Nearly two hours later, the Palmyra family was free to go without criminal charges, but not before lengthy questioning that caused “emotional distress, terror, apprehension, anxiety and humiliation” and violated the family’s Fourth Amendment rights, the lawsuit claims.

Questioning

After stopping the family, officers separated Kevin and Christina Kurtz from their daughter, according to the lawsuit. They “pressured and intimidated” each member of the family to admit Kurtz had hit his daughter, but the family members denied that he had done so.

The daughter was left in the back seat of the car throughout the questioning, where she suffered from muscle spasms and was not allowed to return to the chiropractor, the complaint states. Craven went into the back seat of the vehicle next to the 11-year-old girl and “pressured” her to admit one of her parents had hit her, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also criticizes Craven for touching and pressing on the girl’s back after she complained of back and neck pain.

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After nearly two hours, the family was released “without explanation or documentation.”

The complaint alleges the stop and subsequent questioning involved false arrest, inflicted emotional distress and violated the constitutional rights of Kevin and Christina Kratz and their daughter to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Motion to dismiss

The Silver Spring Township Police Department and its officers asked U.S. District Judge John E. Jones to dismiss the lawsuit, and explained its reasoning in a legal brief filed last Friday.

The department argued its officers are entitled to qualified immunity because they had probable cause for stopping Kurtz and questioning the Kurtz family, according to the brief.

“(The plaintiffs) don’t even argue that the report of child abuse lacked credibility,” the reply brief states.

The lawsuit also failed to describe conduct necessary for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, according to the department.

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Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.