But the man wasn’t there. Police had booked him in county jail the previous day, and family members would later say he hadn’t lived at the residence in more than a year.
That was apparently unclear to authorities on the scene, who descended on the property in unmarked cars early Thursday morning.
As an “entry team” approached the side of the house, authorities said, Rylee pointed a gun at federal agents. When she refused commands to drop the weapon, they opened fire, striking her several times, according to authorities.
The botched raid sent Rylee to the emergency room, where she was treated for gunshot wounds.
Moments before the shooting, authorities had stopped Rylee’s fiance, Christopher McLeod, in front of the house and ordered him to put his hands up. He told The Washington Post he stood frozen as officers crept through the carport. He heard them yell “Gun!” he said. Then came the burst of shots.
“I thought I was watching my fiancee be killed,” he said.
The Alabama State Bureau of Investigation is now investigating the incident, which stemmed from a broad narcotics mission in the area involving local authorities and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman. Cox declined to comment on the incident in detail because the investigation is ongoing, but said Homeland Security Investigations, a division of ICE, helped carry out the raid as part of a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force.
The State Bureau of Investigation, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals, which also participated in the raid, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Speaking with local media, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran acknowledged that Rylee was never a suspect and blamed authorities’ errors on a “miscommunication.” Officers were searching for 41-year-old Nicholas McLeod, who, according to jail records, had been booked more than 12 hours earlier on drug charges. Cochran said police would not have gone to the house had they known he was already in custody.
“We do know that there is a miscommunication in this situation. We don’t know the exact cause,” Cochran told WALA last week.
“We’ve narrowed it down, though, to one of two things,” he said. “Either the investigators did not make one final check this morning before sending the teams out to make the arrests, or the warrants section did not communicate to the computer system that the warrants were no longer active. We’re running that down."
Attorney information for Nicholas McLeod was not immediately available.
The incident bore similarities to other officer-involved shootings at people’s homes that have garnered national attention in recent years, fueling calls for greater accountability from law enforcement and better safeguards for civilians.
In one high-profile case earlier this year, police in Fort Worth fatally shot 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson after being called to her house late at night to investigate an open door. Jefferson’s family attorney said she thought the officers were prowlers and drew a gun to protect herself and her 8-year-old nephew. The officer has been charged with murder.
Alabama and Texas are among more than 20 states with “castle doctrine” laws that give people broad legal protections if they use fatal force to defend themselves in their homes. Law enforcement officers are also generally protected under federal law from being sued for actions performed in the line of duty, as long as they do not violate what courts have defined as people’s “clearly established” rights. In officer-involved shootings, police rarely face criminal charges.
Rylee remained in the hospital on Christmas Eve, and she was expected to make a full recovery, according to Christopher McLeod, 20. “It’s remarkable how well she’s doing considering everything that happened to her,” he said.
At the time of the raid, McLeod and his roommate had just stepped out the door and were taking out the trash before heading to work. Authorities rolled up in unmarked cars, jumped out and ordered them to put their hands up.
As officers were frisking the men, McLeod told them that he had guns in the house and that he had a permit for them. He said he also told them Rylee was inside asleep and asked if he could call her out. The officers said no, according to McLeod.
“She had to have been terrified,” he said. “She’s not some gangster person.”
Shaky video clips from the scene posted by WPMI showed McLeod and his roommate standing in the front yard with their hands in the air, flanked by authorities. Off-camera, other officers could be heard shouting before the footage cut out. Another clip showed paramedics wheeling Rylee on a stretcher into an ambulance.
McLeod said he wasn’t certain Rylee was safe until he saw her in the hospital. He said they have lived together in the house, which is owned by his family, for almost a year, and that Rylee was getting ready to apply for college. His uncle had not lived there in “well over a year,” he added, and had not come to visit since they moved in.
None of the agencies involved identified the officers who fired shots at Rylee. Cochran, the sheriff, told local media that none of his deputies discharged their weapons and that nobody from his agency had been suspended in connection with the shooting. There was no body camera footage, he added, because Mobile County deputies are not outfitted with the devices.
Rylee’s family members said they want a full explanation from authorities.
“I don’t know who is to blame for it,” Rylee’s sister, Erin Rogers, told WPMI. "But somebody is, and it’s not Ann, it’s not Chris, it’s not anybody who lived at that house, because they didn’t do anything wrong.”