Three more botched drug raids

As we continue to collect the details from the burned baby drug raid in Georgia, elsewhere the drug war marches on. Today, we examine three stories recently in the news about similarly botched raids on innocent people.

First, I mentioned this one from Houston in my morning links yesterday, but it’s worth noting again:

The front door to Barbara Thomas’ home in Cashmere Gardens was damaged and her outdoor garden lights outside were crushed into tiny pieces. Inside her home several items were broken and knocked off the walls. Thomas said it was a result of Houston police officers who came to her door to search for drugs. The problem is they were at the wrong house.

“They told me to get down,” Thomas said. “There were guns everywhere. I mean, the long guns with lights on them. I was crying hysterically.”

Thomas said she didn’t understand why Houston Police Department narcotics officers were in her home.

She lives there with her son, who is autistic, and said they were both forced to sit still in the living room.

“I know at least three (officers) were right there because they had guns directly at me and my son, and the rest I know were going through the house.”

Also in the news, a $610,000 settlement for the victim of a 2010 botched raid in New York.

A New York woman has reached a $650,000 settlement with Nassau County after a police officer accidentally shot her while investigating a drug case involving her downstairs neighbors.

Iyanna Davis was shot in the breast in 2010 after the officer mistakenly burst into her apartment during a drug investigation, reported Newsday.

The bullet then went through her abdomen and both thighs. . . .

Davis, who was 22 at the time, said she hid in a closet when police burst into the building because she thought they were armed robbers.

“I told them I was afraid and do not shoot me, and one officer screamed at me to put my hands above my head,” Davis said in a deposition. “That’s when I heard the shot, and I felt myself sit down because the force actually knocked me back on my backside.”

The results of the internal investigation are sealed through a confidentiality agreement, but Davis’ attorney said it was riddled with inaccuracies used to justify the shooting.

I understand why victims of these raids take settlements, and I understand why in agreeing to a settlement police agencies and governments require that the details of their malfeasance be sealed. But I don’t think it should be allowed. If police agencies are using dangerous tactics or employing erratic, out-of-control cops, the public has a right to know.

Finally, from San Bruno, Calif.:

The county’s drug task force raided the wrong San Bruno residence looking for a suspected gangmember and drug user after a traffic stop, throwing a female resident getting ready for work half naked on the front lawn and frightening her 93-year-old grandmother so much she had to be taken to the hospital, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed Thursday.

The search warrant for the Sixth Avenue home of Lisa and Jesse Yeager and Elizabeth Batchelor was based on Deputy Sheriff/Special Agent Mike Kinsella’s assertions it was the correct residence of a man whose car and occupants had drugs the previous month. However, a defense attorney for the family said Kinsella was either incompetent or lying because the wanted person did not live there and they did not know him.

“If they would have taken five minutes to really [conduct surveillance of] the place it is obvious that there are multiple units there,” said Paula Canny, attorney for the Yeagers and Batchelor who are suing for numerous grounds including civil rights violations, false imprisonment, battery, elder abuse and trespassing . . .

Starting to notice a pattern, here?

“It’s always unfortunate when innocents are present when a warrant is executed, but it happens. The nature of the activity is that sometimes innocent people are present and inconvenienced,” Beiers [said].

“Inconvenienced.” That’s one way to put it.

The search of the Yeager and Batchelor residence was sparked by a June 18, 2013, traffic stop at Monte Diablo Avenue and Ellsworth Avenue in San Mateo in which officers reported smelling marijuana, finding marijuana and methamphetamine and noting that the occupants were dressed in gang clothes and appeared to be affiliated with the Sureños. Kinsella looked up the address of one occupant, Andrew Jiminez Uribe, and found it as 840 Sixth Ave., which he later wrote in the search warrant he had “personally” visited to confirm.

At 6:30 a.m. July 2, Lisa Yeager was dressed only in a bra and panties while dressing for work when the masked officers arrived with assault rifles, according to the suit that states she opened the door and was thrown into a wall with such force she lost control of her bladder.

Yeager was dragged from the home onto the front lawn where her dog had relieved himself and was restrained half naked in urine-soaked underwear for more than 15 minutes “for the whole world to see,” the suit stated.

Yeager’s adult son, Jesse, was similarly manhandled and ordered to “crawl on his knees in the dog feces to join his half-naked mother in clear view of the onlooking neighbors,” the suit states.

Caveat: This last story is one half of a lawsuit. So there’s always the chance that there’s more to the story.

 

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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Radley Balko · June 3