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Woman alleges in lawsuit she was illegally searched after traffic stop in Ray County

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Posted at 11:32 AM, Jun 11, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A woman has filed a lawsuit against two Ray County deputies, Ray County Sheriff Scott Childers, the Ray County Sheriff's Office and the county, alleging she was illegally searched during a traffic stop.

The woman alleges her civil rights were violated in the lawsuit, stemming from an incident that unfolded on Sept. 30, 2022.

Woman alleges illegal search during traffic stop

On that day, the woman was a passenger inside of a gold Acura that was driving on Missouri Route 10.

The car got onto Missouri 210 Highway to head toward Kansas City, Missouri, when Ray County Deputy Matthew Cowan conducted a traffic stop.

During the traffic stop, Cowan told the woman and driver he stopped them because their Tennessee license plates matched those that belonged to a black Ford sedan and that the plates were expired.

Cowan then asked for permission to search the Acura, and the woman claims that despite not having probable cause or a proper warrant, Cowan began searching the car.

Cowan later claimed he received permission to search the car, according to the lawsuit.

During the search, Cowan said he found a bag that had "multiple items related to the use of narcotics."

The woman claims he was referring to a lighter and empty bags.

Cowan then asked the woman if she could open a locked glove compartment, but she refused because he had no probable cause.

Cowan then allegedly threatened to use a K-9 to search the outside of the Acura.

When he did so, Cowan told the woman the K-9 alerted him near the passenger side of the Acura where the woman was sitting.

Cowan then allegedly forced the glove compartment open, where he located a black pouch that he said contained methamphetamines.

The lawsuit states Cowan didn't test the substance to confirm it was methamphetamines.

Woman further searched

Upon locating the black pouch, the woman was arrested and taken to the Ray County Jail.

There, the woman claims employees from the Ray County Sheriff's Office required her to undergo a "post arrest dress out process" despite her denying having any drugs on her body.

The woman was required to squat naked in front of employees to see if any drugs were on her, the lawsuit states.

Still, Cowan later took the woman to Ray County Memorial Hospital where she was allegedly forced to undergo a complete strip search and body cavity search.

The woman said she was handcuffed the entire time the search was conducted.

"The forced body cavity search was extremely traumatic for plaintiff in that plaintiff was a prior victim of sexual abuse," the lawsuit states. "At the hospital, plaintiff was crying and, according to Cowan, very emotional."

The charges against the woman were later dropped on April 4, 2024.

The woman is suing for false arrest, malicious prosecution, unlawful strip search, failure to intervene and abuse of process, among other allegations.

While seeking comment from the Ray County Sheriff's Office, KSHB 41 was hung up on.