An openly gay Greenwich, Conn., man says in a $30 million lawsuit against town police that officers violated his constitutional rights when they arrested him for allegedly keeping a crocodile in his home. Gary Ryder, 50, filed the lawsuit earlier this week in U.S. district court in Hartford, claiming police entered his home without a warrant and later attempted to blackmail him by saying they had photographs of the reptile in his home.
Ryder was charged in September with illegal possession of a reptile and risk of injury to a minor. His case is pending. Police chief James Walters said the lawsuit has no merit. The town has not yet responded in court to the lawsuit. Ryder accuses police of violating his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, his 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection under the law, and his First Amendment right of free association. The lawsuit also claims that police harassed Ryder in part because he is gay, saying the laws against owning reptiles were enforced selectively against Ryder rather than against straight couples who own reptiles.
Ryder's lawyer, Dawne Westbrook, said the case is among the strangest she has ever seen. "It seems like it's made up," she said. "The facts seem like a bad law school fact pattern." But she said she has police reports and other documents to back up all the accusations. Police never found the crocodile. A town resident reported seeing a crocodile in Bruce Park in September. Besides arresting Ryder, police also removed his and his partner's three children from his home.