In another example of drug war excess, officers raided and vandalized the home of Beach Park, Illinois resident Paul Brown on Friday afternoon of last week. The apparent impetus for the raid was a mysterious package delivered to the house 10 minutes earlier. Brown’s son-in-law, Wilmer Aries, received the package and noted that it was not addressed to any of the house’s residents. Instead, it bore the name “Oscar” and an unfamiliar last name.
Brown, a 58-year-old architect, explained that the officers with the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group broke down his front door in the no-knock raid, handcuffed him, and pointed a gun at his face. “The garage door was open. They could have just walked in,” he said. “They didn’t have to crash the front door down.”
Although the officers seized the package, claiming it contained marijuana, their two-hour ransacking of the house, including ripping out insulation from the basement walls, uncovered no evidence to incriminate anyone in the house and led to no arrests. “They were upset they didn’t find anything. When I asked them who was going to pay for the door they basically said, ‘Not us’,” said Brown, who noted the door on his luxury home was valued at $3,000 some 12 years ago and the lock set was another $130 from Home Depot.
Brown even noted that the officers, far from apologizing for their mistake, seemed to be congratulating each other on the operation with high fives and fist-bumps. His subsequent calls to the MEG were not returned, nor were calls from news outlets. He has hired a lawyer to file a civil suit and explains that he and his 77-year-old mother-in-law were particularly shaken by the incident. “She’s afraid to even take a nap on the couch now,” he said. “I can hardly sleep. It changes your frame of mind.” His lawyer, Christopher Cohen, characterized the Browns as “innocent bystanders in the war on drugs.”
As Reason.com notes, this is not the first time a wrongful no-knock raid was carried out in the U.S. based simply on the delivery of a package of marijuana. In 2008, the home of Cheye Calvo, mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, was raided by a SWAT team and his two dogs fatally shot. The mayor complained, leading to an investigation, but as the raid was ultimately ruled legitimate, this will likely not be the last such incident.
The brutal methods used by SWAT teams throughout the country are not news in the war on drugs. This steady militarization of our police forces in the pursuit of drug seizures has largely gone unnoticed in the press until recently, when some high-profile incidents highlighted some of the uglier tactics used when raiding potential drug dens.
Two such cases were those of Tarika Wilson, who was killed while holding her baby, and Cheye Calvo, the mayor of a small Maryland town who had his home raided and two black Labradors killed by local SWAT because a package of marijuana was sent to his house without his knowledge.
A similar incident occurred on Feb. 11 in Columbia Missouri, resulting in the death of one dog and the shooting of another during a raid on the home of Jonathan Whitworth, who police suspected of selling marijuana. Police stormed into his house and immediately opened fire on the dogs, before they realized that there was a 7-year-old child in the house. A grinder, a pipe, and a small amount of marijuana were found, but no evidence of distribution.
Watch the video below, keeping in mind that police later tried to charge Whitworth with child endangerment, as if having a little marijuana in the home is more dangerous to a child's wellbeing than storming into their house with automatic weapons and killing their dogs.
Spokesperson Officer Jessie Haden defended the decision to commence the raid without verifying who was in the home by saying, “If you let too much time go by, then the drugs are not there.” Well they weren’t. But no one paid too much attention until the video surfaced that showed the raid in detail. Now people are paying attention.
It’s a little sad that it requires graphic video of dogs yelping as they die and a child being rushed out the door to get people to ask questions about something that happens all too often in every state in this country because of the government's war on marijuana.
One year after a SWAT team shot and killed two Labrador retrievers in a marijuana raid on an innocent small-town mayor's family, the Prince George's County, Md., sheriff responsible has announced his department did nothing wrong.
Here's The Washington Post's summary of the incident that occurred last July:
Members of the SWAT team killed [Cheye] Calvo's black Labrador retrievers after deputies broke down his door and raided his home in search of a drug-filled package that had been addressed to Calvo's wife.
Law enforcement officials have since acknowledged that Calvo and his wife, Trinity Tomsic, were victims of a smuggling scheme that used a FedEx driver to ship drugs. They said the couple knew nothing about the box. County police, who were leading the drug investigation, have said they were unaware it was the mayor's house.
Some drug investigation. PG County cops failed to even Google Calvo to determine whom they might be dealing with. They also neglected to coordinate with the sheriff in Berwyn Heights, the small D.C. suburb where Calvo served as mayor, who said he could have cleared this up with a simple visit to Calvo's home.
Yet PG County Sheriff Michael Jackson insists his investigation proves "what I've felt all along: My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities."
Actually, maybe Jackson's right. I've made this point before, but if his deputies did their jobs the best they could, then maybe it's time to change the policies that shape their jobs.