Former POW in Vietnam sues Montgomery police Treatment brought back painful memories, he says

November 29, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

GREEBBELT — GREENBELT -- A Rockville man sued Montgomery County police yesterday for $7 million, claiming they burst into his home and mistreated him and his family in a way that brought back memories of the 8 1/2 years he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Everett Alvarez Jr., 57, and his family alleged in a federal civil rights lawsuit that three officers -- suspecting underage drinking on the premises -- barged into their home and disrupted the birthday party of their 21-year-old son, Marc. "This is what I would expect over there," said Mr. Alvarez, meaning the former North Vietnam. "Not here."

A police spokesman, Sgt. Wayne German, said an internal department investigation did not support the allegations. He declined comment on specifics of the lawsuit.

Mr. Alvarez was the first naval aviator shot down over North Vietnam and the second-longest-held POW of the war. At times during his imprisonment, he was starved and tortured. He now is a government contractor.

A retired, heavily decorated Navy lieutenant commander, Mr. Alvarez -- flanked by his wife, Tammy, and about a dozen fellow Vietnam veterans -- aired his grievances at a news conference outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Greenbelt.

In his suit, he charges county police with abuse of power, invasion of privacy and malicious prosecution. On June 24, he alleges, three police officers and a police intern went behind his house and broke up a party of about 15 college students who were talking and drinking beer from a keg.

One of the guests, a 19-year-old woman, admitted to drinking under age. Mr. Alvarez' son, Marc, was charged but found innocent of supplying alcohol to a minor.

Mr. Alvarez said it was the handling of the situation that upset him and his family. He described the officers as "bullish, threatening and crude."

Mr. Alvarez said police were responding to a call about another party nearby when they saw several cars in front of his house and his sign that said, "Party in the back." He said they did not knock on the front door and refused to let Mr. Alvarez or Mrs. Alvarez explain the situation.

"When they told my husband to shut up, I thought I was going to cry," Mrs. Alvarez said. "My husband spent 8 1/2 years in Vietnam. They had no right to do that to him."

The Police Department said it received a 911 call at 11:38 p.m. June 24 reporting about 25 teen-agers drinking beer at North

Commons Way and Sunrise Drive. Mr. Alvarez said that address is nearly two blocks away.

"Certainly it's the Alvarezes' prerogative to file suit," Sergeant German said. "However, one family's inconvenience does not lessen our commitment to the entire county, which is supportive of our efforts to crack down on underage drinking and those who supply alcohol to minors."

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