Pubdate: Sat, 09 Jun 2007
Source: Capital, The (MD)
Copyright: 2007, The Capital
Authors: Earl Kelly, And Scott Daugherty, Staff Writers
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


Still Probing How SWAT Team Hit Wrong Place

Citing legal concerns, Annapolis police officials are refusing to
apologize for terrorizing four immigrant tenants when they raided the
wrong Spa Cove apartment earlier this week, saying it could take 10
days before they even know what went wrong. "In this day and age,
people have to apologize, but as soon as you apologize, you put
yourself in a defensive position legally," Officer Hal Dalton, city
police spokesman, said after a media conference.

Officer Dalton said the department was talking with the City
Attorney's Office, which handles civil legal matters. City Attorney
Shaem C. Spencer was not available for comment this morning.

All four tenants in the apartment that was raided Wednesday are
natives of El Salvador and speak little English. Officer Dalton said
he did not know if any of the estimated 12 to 15 officers who broke
through the door and entered the apartment could speak Spanish.

The department sent an Hispanic officer today to talk with the
residents of the apartment and to explain the procedure for filing a

The attorney who represents the residents of the apartment, Carroll
McCabe, also was unavailable for comment this morning.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer and Police Chief Joseph Johnson did not attend
last night's news conference.

Chief Johnson declined to comment this morning. Ms. Moyer declined to
discuss the case, except to say "They made a mistake and that's not

One resident, Silvia Bernal, 30, said in a story about the incident
that was first reported in The Capital that police never identified
themselves, but kicked her husband in the groin and pushed her to the
ground. They then handcuffed them both as two other residents of the
apartment - another couple - returned from a trip to the store.

Mrs. Bernal said someone in the group of officers apologized for the
mistake and an officer asked her to sign a paper, but she refused.

Officer Dalton said he didn't know what the piece of paper was, but
stressed that the department did not ask Mrs. Bernal to sign any legal
waivers. He said it might have been a medical waiver from the fire

He said that none of the officers involved in the matter have been

Alderman David H. Cordle, R-Ward 5 and chairman of the Public Safety
Committee, said this morning police had not briefed him about the raid.

Mr. Cordle, an investigator with the State's Attorney's Office, said,
"I have been on search warrants, and I have prepared dozens and dozens
of search warrants, and usually the team that executes the warrant
will swing by to check the location before executing the warrant."

He called the event "a relatively harmless mistake in the scheme of
things - there was no gunfire, and there were no deaths."

Mr. Cordle said there may have been a typo in the warrant or the
application to a judge. He said the officer requesting the warrant
usually prepares the application.

He also said he doesn't believe police entered the apartment without
announcing themselves.

"When we go through the door, we are screaming "Police! Police!
Police!" he said.

Officer Dalton said he has seen "perhaps a dozen" cases of raids being
executed on the wrong address during his 30 years as an officer.

He said "all the information isn't in yet," and it could take 10 days
or more to investigate the matter.

It was around 8:20 p.m. on Wednesday when officers carrying assault
rifles and shields busted open the door to an apartment at 905
Primrose Road, while the couple inside were having dinner.

The police then used a loud "flash-bang" grenade to disorient and
subdue the two.

When the second couple tried to help Mrs. Bernal, police pushed them
to the floor, the victims said. The second woman, who is 4 months
pregnant, ran outside and clung to a railing while her husband pleaded
with police to take it easy on his pregnant wife.

The husband said an officer replied: "I don't care."

"All I could hear was this woman screaming," said Sam Adams, who
witnessed the raids from the parking lot. "They just kept telling her
calm down, calm down."

Officer Dalton said he doesn't know if the officers did anything
wrong, but said all of their actions will be reviewed. He said city
officers are trained to behave professionally and use only as much
force as required. Each raid is different, but the officers' actions
are typically dictated by how the people inside the house react, he

Shortly after raiding the apartment - witnesses said it took about 20
to 25 minutes - an officer on the scene exited the building and
realized they had the wrong building. Neighbors said the heavily armed
officers ran out of 905 Primrose Road, piled into a large truck.

They drove around the parking lot, and jumped out again in front of
901 Primrose, which was the address they originally intended.

"That was the craziest thing I ever saw," said Tim Goss, who witnessed
the two raids from his balcony. "I bet they felt pretty dumb."

No one was home at the 901 Primrose apartment when police broke down
the door to that apartment.

The apartment was largely undisturbed yesterday, with a package of
toilet paper and a bag of clothing laying in the middle of the living
room. A Mexican flag and silk flowers decorated the walls.

Aside from a damaged door, there was no sign of the

Officer Dalton declined to comment about what led to the warrant at
901 Primrose, citing an ongoing drug investigation. He said a judge
signed the warrant authorizing the officers to break down the door,
rather than requiring the officers to knock and announce their
presence first.

"Obviously they had some circumstances to warrant it," he

Officer Dalton said no-knock warrants are sometimes necessary to
protect officers from dangerous suspects and keep people from
disposing of evidence.

Officer Dalton said the ASET team participated in 45 raids and
standoffs in 2006 - about two or three a month.
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