The video above is footage from a June 2012 SWAT raid in Evansville, Ind., on 68-year-old Louise Milan and her daughter. The raid came after someone had threatened local police officials on an Internet message board. I’d submit that people post threats on the Internet all the time. Certainly they should be investigated. But it’s far from clear to me that it merits a SWAT response.
But it’s actually worse than that. As it turns out, neither Milan nor her daughter made the threats. They were made by a neighbor who had accessed their open wireless connection. This isn’t the first time police have rushed to raid the wrong home under such circumstances. It seems like the sort of thing that, again, might be prevented with a little investigation before you go shattering glass doors and scaring the hell out of 68-year-old women. The video was recently released as part of Milan’s lawsuit against the police and the city. The city is arguing that the use of force here was “objectively reasonable” and that even if it wasn’t, the officers are protected by qualified immunity.
There’s another lawsuit pending from a raid in Baton Rouge.
Lying in a pool of his own blood about two months ago with his two front teeth knocked out, Brett Percle recently recalled, he watched as police officers ransacked his friend’s Baton Rouge home.
The officers, members of the Baton Rouge Police Department’s Special Response Team, were looking for marijuana and anything else that might be pertinent to an investigation into whether drugs were being dealt from the Lila Avenue home off GSRI Avenue between Gardere Lane and Nicholson Drive, according to police documents.
When the police showed up at the home, Percle, 22, was there visiting an old college roommate. He wanted to hang out and play some music at the house . . .
About 2:30 p.m. on June 11, Percle and the other four people inside the Lila Avenue home heard a knock on the door. Before anyone had time to react, Percle said, a team of officers wearing black military-style outfits barged in with guns pointed at the occupants and ordered everyone to lie down on the floor.
“They were prepared for war,” Percle said in a recent interview. “Everyone had grenades. Everyone had a machine gun.”
Just inches away from a prone position, Percle felt a blow to the back of his neck, which caused his face to slam into the tile floor. Teeth went flying. Blood started flowing.
“I thought I was going to faint from the amount of blood I lost that day,” said Percle, who lives in New Orleans. “While I was on the ground in handcuffs, bleeding, one officer decided to play the drums,” which were among several instruments in the house, Percle said.
Percle estimated the search lasted 10 to 15 minutes. He requested an ambulance, but he didn’t see anyone call for one.
“They got a kick out of seeing me with no teeth,” he said . . .
Officers ridiculed Percle, he said, calling him a jack-o’-lantern. On several occasions, Percle said, officers walked up to him and asked, “How did you lose your teeth?” One suggested his teeth must have been rotten before the beating, Percle said, while another told him he must have slipped and fallen.
Percle was never arrested or charged with any crime. In fact, he said he’s never been arrested.
But he was taken back inside the house and strip-searched in front of about a dozen officers, he said.
“It was embarrassing,” Percle said.
An officer also took the keys to Percle’s vehicle at one point, ransacking it as well, Percle said.
The search warrant gave police permission to search vehicles “associated with the use and distribution” of controlled dangerous substances. Percle’s car was parked across the street and at least one house over, he said.
The cops claim to have found three ounces of pot. Yet, oddly, no one was ever charged. So black fatigues. Big guns. Flash grenades. Strip searches. Physical abuse. Utter disregard for anyone in the house who may be innocent. All in search of pot.
What we saw this week in Ferguson was disturbing. But it’s just a sliver of a much, much larger problem.