A police search warrant team going after a drug dealer targeted the wrong address and burst into the apartment of an innocent resident who shot and wounded two officers believing they were home invaders, Prince George’s law enforcement officials said.
Police Chief Hank Stawinski apologized for the error Thursday and said he has halted executing search warrants until the department reviews how it corroborates information to confirm addresses and the location of investigative targets.
As soon as officers entered the apartment, the man inside immediately surrendered when he realized police were on the other side of the door, Stawinski said.
The man yelled, “‘You’ve got the wrong address! Don’t shoot my daughter!’ ” according to Stawinski.
No criminal charges will be filed against the resident, who fired at police with a shotgun, said Stawinski, adding that police “did not draw the right conclusion” about their target.
“We served the search warrant at the address that we identified through the investigation, however the investigation led us to the wrong address,” Stawinski said. “The individual that we are targeting does not live at that address . . . a law-abiding, hard-working citizen of Prince George’s County and his daughter were home at the point where we were executing that search warrant.”
The incident began about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday as police were on the third floor of a garden-style apartment in the 2700 block of Lorring Drive in Forestville. Nine officers from the Emergency Services Team, essentially a SWAT team, knocked on the door and announced that they were police, department spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan said.
Hearing no response from inside, police began using a device to pry open the door to the unit, Donelan said. The man inside fired a shotgun at the team “as soon as they were able to open that door,” Donelan said.
An officer fired back but didn’t strike anyone inside the apartment, Donelan said. Two officers were wounded, one in the shoulder and one in the hand.
The resident and his daughter had fallen asleep in front of the television and did not hear police announce themselves, Stawinski said. When the father awoke to a commotion, he believed home invaders were trying to break in, and instructed his daughter to run and hide, Stawinski said.
“That individual acted to protect himself and to protect his daughter from what he believed to be the threat of home invasion,” Stawinski said. “I am confident that he did not intentionally fire that weapon at police officers because they were police officers . . . this man was devastated when he realized he had fired upon police officers.”
Stawinski said that he conferred with Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks and that both agreed that the resident would not be criminally charged in the shooting.
The officers were flown to shock trauma in Baltimore after the shooting. As of Thursday afternoon, one officer has been released from the hospital. The other remains hospitalized to undergo surgery on an arm.
Late Thursday, police officials identified the officer who fired a single shot inside the home — after the resident shot and wounded the two officers — as Cpl. Daniel Siculietano, who has been with the department for seven years. He was placed on administrative leave as officials investigate the incident, per standard department policy, police said.
Stawinski would not explain how astray police were Wednesday from the targeted drug dealer, saying the investigation is ongoing.
A confidential informant led investigators to the address at which they were serving the search warrant Wednesday night, Stawinski said. But the chief said he is “not satisfied” with the amount of information investigators used to obtain the search warrant and with the efforts to verify the information from the informant.
Stawinski said the process of verifying information to get a judge to sign off on a search warrant involves the use of databases, sources and investigative methods.
The chief said he wants to see a “broader representation of those methods than what we saw in this case.”
Stawinski has ordered a freeze on executing search warrants until they all are thoroughly reviewed. The chief also said disciplinary measures and departmentwide policy changes could result from the review.
“I want to assure that we will make certain that this does not repeat itself,” Stawinski said.
The incident startled other people in the apartment building, including Kiara Tilghman, who lives a floor below the shooting site.
Tilghman, 28, was drifting off to sleep beside her 2-year-old son when her sister walked into her room saying police were entering their building. Tilghman went to her door and heard loud banging overhead. She saw officers in the hallway dressed in green and bulletproof vests and heard them give commands outside the door.
“They were just ramming the door, and I heard them tell them to back away from the door,” Tilghman said in a phone interview.
She said when officers finally broke through the door, she heard shouts to “Get down! Get down!” She did not hear gunfire but soon heard a voice say, “You’ve got blood on you. Are you hit? Are you hit?”