By Rosalind S. Helderman and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Police are investigating whether a package of marijuana addressed to the wife of a Prince George's County mayor was really intended to be intercepted by a deliveryman as part of a drug smuggling scheme.
A Prince George's Sheriff's Office SWAT team and county police narcotics officers burst into the house of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo on Tuesday evening after they saw Calvo take the package inside. In the course of the raid, they shot and killed his two black Labrador retrievers.
According to law enforcement sources, police believe it is possible that a deliveryman intended to collect the box from Calvo's porch, either before the package was signed for or after the mayor or his wife reported that it wasn't theirs. They asked to remain anonymous because the investigation is ongoing.
Police had been tracking the package, which was addressed to Calvo's wife, since a police dog at a shipping facility in Arizona alerted authorities to the presence of drugs inside. It was delivered to Calvo's house by police posing as deliverymen and left on his porch at the instructions of his mother-in-law. After the raid, police recovered an unopened package containing more than 30 pounds of marijuana, but they made no arrests.
The possibility that no one in Calvo's house was the intended recipient of the package is among several theories police are pursuing.
Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said that police have made some "headway" in the investigation, which continues.
"I don't think they've shut down any angles in their investigation," he said.
Special Agent Edward Marcinko, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Maryland, said it is not unheard of for traffickers to ship a package to a stranger's home.
In February, for instance, Dunn Loring resident Sid Phillips said his 76-year-old neighbor opened a UPS package left on his porch and discovered marijuana packed in vacuum-sealed pouches inside.
Phillips said the neighbor called him for advice, and the two of them reported the discovery to police. Officers swarmed the house and collected the drugs without incident. The package, Phillips said, had been sent from Arizona, just like the box delivered this week to Calvo in Maryland.
"If the same thing happened to this mayor, I would totally sympathize," Phillips said.
Fairfax police spokesman Don Gotthardt confirmed that police seized approximately four pounds of what they suspected was marijuana in the Dunn Loring incident.
In another case this year, a College Park area resident reported receiving a package with drugs inside, one of the sources said.
Residents of Berwyn Heights., meanwhile, have expressed outrage over the raid and the shooting of the two dogs, well known to neighbors who often saw the 37-year old mayor walking the dogs.
Calvo has said that sheriff's deputies shot his 7-year-old dog, Payton, near the front door and then his 4-year-old dog, Chase, as the dog ran into a back room. He has said that he and his mother-in-law were handcuffed and interrogated for hours while surrounded by the carcasses and blood of his pets.
"There is not anybody in the town who is not outraged at how this came down," said Ann Harris Davidson, a Berwyn Heights resident for 22 years.
A rally in support of Calvo and in memory of his dogs has been scheduled for tomorrow evening at a ball field in the town. Berwyn Heights Police Chief Patrick Murphy said his eight-person department has been besieged by phone calls from as far away as Louisiana from people who mistakenly believe his officers were involved.
Murphy said he is angry that, instead, his officers were not informed ahead of time of that the county planned a major operation inside the town limits, especially in light of a 2006 incident in which then-Prince George's Police Chief Melvin C. High expressed formal "regret" that Berwyn Heights police were not told of threats made to an abortion clinic.
"I believe there is absolutely no credible reason why notification to my police department should not have been made," Murphy said. He said he is confident his officers could have entered Calvo's house without violence.
Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a spokesman for the Prince George's police department, said officers had a "no-knock" warrant, which allowed them to enter the house without alerting Calvo. Such warrants are issued when police fear they might face armed suspects. He said they notified Murphy immediately after entering the house.
"They were not notified before then due to the integrity of the ongoing investigation and for officer safety purposes," Copeland said.
The dogs were shot by county sheriff's deputies. The Sheriff's Office did not return calls for comment yesterday. A sheriff's spokesman has expressed regret over the death of the dogs but said deputies on the scene felt threatened by the pets.
Ivey said the marijuana seized could have fetched as much as $70,000.
"From my perspective, the key part is figuring out where the drugs came from and who should be held accountable for that," he said.
Staff writer Henri E. Cauvin contributed to this report.