FBI to Review Raid That Killed Mayor's Dogs

Berwyn Heights, Md., Mayor Cheye Calvo and wife Trinity Tomsic held a news conference at their house Thursday, asking for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate a county police raid on their home during which their dogs were killed.Video by News Channel 8/WJLA-TV 7
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 8, 2008

The FBI has launched a review of the violent law enforcement raid of the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo in Prince George's County last week that resulted in the deaths of the family's two dogs.

The agency has begun "reviewing the events that occurred at Mr. Calvo's residence," said Richard J. Wolf, spokesman for the FBI in Baltimore, which has jurisdiction over federal civil rights investigations in Maryland.

The FBI announcement came in response to a call yesterday by Calvo and his wife, Trinity Tomsic, for such a probe. Calvo and Tomsic suggested a systemic problem might exist in county law enforcement.

"We have witnessed a frightening law enforcement culture in which the law is disregarded, the rights of innocent occupants are ignored and the rights of innocent animals mean nothing," Calvo said, surrounded by county elected leaders and friends on the front lawn of his house. "A shadow was cast over our good names. We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us."

June White Dillard, president of the NAACP's local chapter, also called for a thorough investigation and said Calvo experienced police action familiar to many young black men in the county.

County police said they would cooperate with the FBI review. "We've tried to establish a pattern of transparency and clarity about the way in which we do our work, and I'm sure the chief will be cooperative and forthcoming in any investigation," Prince George's police spokeswoman Sharon Taylor said yesterday.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Mario Ellis said the department had not been informed of the FBI's plans. "If they deem it necessary to do that, we welcome it," Ellis said, adding that the department has also begun the standard review it conducts any time a deputy fires a weapon.

The Prince George's Sheriff's Office SWAT team and county narcotics officers raided the home after Calvo brought in a 32-pound marijuana-filled package addressed to his wife. They tied up Tomsic's mother and Calvo, and they interrogated the mayor for hours.

On Wednesday, police announced they had arrested a package deliveryman and another man in connection with a scheme to smuggle marijuana by intercepting packages addressed to unsuspecting recipients.

Police Chief Melvin C. High said that Calvo and his wife were probably innocent victims of the conspiracy but that the case remained under investigation. He and Sheriff Michael Jackson defended the actions of deputies and officers who carried out the raid.

FBI reviews precede investigations and are used to determine if law enforcement agencies followed procedures. The agents will likely look at both the forceful entry of the mayor's home by sheriff's deputies and the narcotics investigation by county police that led to the search, legal experts said.

They will examine "what information did the police have about the residence at the time they went there, what justification did they have to enter under those circumstances," said Jim Sotos, a lawyer who has written about evolving search and seizure law.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company