Botched Raids & Collateral Casualties in the Drug War

The War on Drugs erodes civil liberties
and unleashes a reign of terror on innocent "civilians".

Minister dies as cops raid wrong apartment

By Joseph Mallia and Maggie Mulvihill

A 75-year-old retired minister died of a heart attack last night after strug gling with 13 heavily armed Boston Police officers who stormed the wrong Dor chester apartment in a botched drug raid.

The Rev. Accelyne Williams struggled briefly when the raiding officers - some of them masked and carrying shotguns - subdued and handcuffed him, then he collapsed, police said.

Williams, a retired Methodist minister, was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest at 4 p.m yesterday at Carney Hospital said hospital spokesman William Henderson.

"There is a likelihood or possibility that we did hit the wrong apartment," said Police Commissioner Paul Evans at a news conference last night. "If that's the case, then there will be an apology."

Evans said an investigation into the "facts and circumstances surrounding the execution of a search warrant" was under way. Said one police source: "It's a terrible thing that an innocent victim died. Everyone feels terrible. He was totally legitimate."

Said Verna Green, who was visiting her sister in another apartment in the building: "They scared him to death." Police raided the second floor apartment at 118 Whitfield St. based on inform ation from a confidential informant, the source said. No shots were fired. "Everything was done right, except it was the wrong apartment," the source said.

"When you're going in, you're expecting heavily armed people. (The entry team's) job is to put everyone down, then withdraw. Then the other unit goes in." According to the source, police were grilling the informant last night, and are still interested "in an apartment in that building - just not the Williams apartment."

Mayor Thomas M. Menino expressed his sympathy to the victim's family, and asked Evans for a full report, said Mayoral spokeswoman Jacqueline Goddard. Evans said the drug officers, accompanied by the police entry team, went to the apartment where Williams and his wife, Mary, lived and forced their way in at 3:15 p.m., Evans said.

"With the assistance of the department's entry team, they did make a forced entry. A struggle ensued, and the occupant was handcuffed and collapsed,"Evans said.

Evans said it wasn't clear whether police officers knocked on Williams' dooror identified themselves before ramming down the door. Some of the 13 officers wore clothing that clearly identified them as Boston Police officers, Evans said.

Police found no drugs or weapons in the apartment, he said. Two neighbors mourned Williams as they watched a detective lead the retired minister's wife to a police car, hours after the bungled raid. The wife had been away from the apartment shopping when the raid took place, a police source said.

"Her husband is dead! He's dead!" said Callie Davis, 50, who lives in a fourth floor apartment with her husband and grandchildren. Williams and his wife had lived alone there for at last the past three years, she said. "I called her 'Mom' and him 'Pop.' I'm going to miss him," Davis said. "He's probably dead because he was so scared. He probably thought someone wastrying to kill him," Davis said.

Williams on Wednesday brought her three cans of evaporated milk - he knew she loved to drink it - and some pancake mix, Davis said. "He was like that. He always gave me things."

"I was in my house and I heard all this boom, boom, boom! It happened so quickly" said Verna Green. "This man died because of some dumb thing. The police should pay for this thing. They should pay big." Green said she saw police carrying a battering ram and shotguns, and she later saw officers performing CPR on Williams, trying to revive him. Williams' upstairs neighbor, Demetra Stinson, said he was a quiet man who had trouble climbing stairs. "He could barely move. He came up the stairs really slowly," Stinson said.

A police source said the result was clearly the result of "bad information." "The question now is whether the officer who prepared the warrant put down the wrong information, or did the informant dupe the unit," said the source.The head of the drug unit that conducted the raid was reported to be Lt. Det. Stanley Philpin, a seasoned veteran.

"I'm surprised if it was Stanley's unit," said one source. "He is one of the best, if not the best - a very capable guy.

"The drug detective who was with the entry team was so sure of the apartment that he literally pointed at the door and said, 'This is it.' Then they burst right in."

"You'd be surprised at how easily this can happen," said the source. "An info rmant can tell you it is apartment on the left at the top of the stairs and there could be two apartments on the left at the top of the stairs," the source said.

"Or people could rent rooms within an apartment that the informant doesn't know about. You are supposed to verify it, and I'm not making excuses, but mistakes can be made."

On "hits" or raids, members of the entry team generally wear black knit masks that are designed to "psychologically freeze people where they stand." The Williams' second-floor apartment building, at 116-118 Whitfield St., has eight apartments. The other three apartments on the Williams' side of the building are occupied by families with children, and the other second-floor apartment is also occupied by a family with children.

Seek Out Guns In BHA

For someone who claims to know the people and problems of public housing, Boston Housing Authority Administrator David Cortiella seems terribly out of touch. Cortiella is fighting a plan embraced by President Clinton as well as federal housing officials, that would allow searches of apartments for drugs, guns and other contraband. He calls the plan "martial law" and a violation of constitutional rights. Let's hope that Cortiella is simply misinformed when he uses rhetoric like that.

The constitution bans unreasonable searches; we think there's plenty of reason to introduce a kind of martial law in public housing. It's not as if police SWAT teams will routinely slam through the doors. The federal plan simply asks tenants to agree in their leases to allow searches without warrants, as a condition of their tenancy. "Too much of our public housing is in shambles," U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros said. "We must change course." The HUD secretary quoted a Chicago public housing tenant who, fed up with violence there, pleaded, "Just make it stop." Cortiella should listen to his own tenants, who live with gun shots and police sirens as a matter of routine. Tenants here too will tell him, "Just make it stop."

In his two-year, $60 billion Housing Choice and Community Investment Act of 1994, Cisneros has requested more money for community policing, youth recreation and other anti-crime efforts in public housingdevelopments. But the warrantless search plan is by far the most direct and effective way to rid developments of the criminal activities that destroy the quality of lives for those that live there. It is dramatic to be sure, but no more dramatic than violent crime in America, where a child dies of gunshot wounds every two hours. Cortiella is starting important initiatives to improve life in the projects. He says he wants to evict tenants when drugs are found in their apartments. But he's not willing to take the tough steps necessary to find those drugs in the first place. Bold leadership is needed to make public housing safe, and in Boston, the leadership is timid.


New York Post, September 9, 1993.

The Justice Department has confirmed that Brett Kimberlin was unfairly silenc ed during the 1988 presidential election. Kimberlin, who claims he was Dan Quayle's former pot dealer, was placed in solitary confinement by former prison director J. Michael Quinlan after scheduling a press conference to tell his story. Richard J. Hankinson, the Justice Department's inspector general, said in a report that although Kimberlin "was treated differently and held to a stricter standard of conduct" there was no "conspiracy to silence" him.


Sacramento Bee, January 26, 1994

When Manuel Medina Ramirez, a 63-year-old retired golf-course groundskeeper, was routed from his slumber at 2 AM by armed men breaking down the door of his modest Stockton, CA. home, he instinctively reached for his bedside pistol. Shooting into the darkness, he brought one of the men down; the others return ed fire, and Ramirez was shot dead in front of his son and daughter, who had also been awakened.

The armed men turned out to be a Stockton police antidrug team who had obtained a warrant for the house after a friend of the Ramirez family was found with marijuana in his car and gave the police the Ramirez address as his own. "He died not knowing they were police officers," said Maria Ramirez, the victim's 23-year-old daughter. She said that her father had allowed the friend to use his address to get a driver's license. The officers claim they had identified themselves, but Maria says her father spoke poor English and couldn't understand them. No drugs were found in the house. "These were very quiet people," said a neighbor. "I never saw anything going on that could indicate drugs at all."

DEA Does It Again

Denver Post, July 16, 1993

A Colorado woman was hospitalized after eight DEA agents forced open her door, cursed her, and beat her to the ground - before realizing they were at thewrong house. Daniel Thomas, the man they were really after, was later charged with amphetamine manufacture. The Jefferson County DA has not commented on whether charges will be brought against the agents. In a letter to the DA, Wheat Ridge Mayor Ray Winger wrote that "drug manufacturers must be controlled but not by people who cannot even get the address for the raid correct."


Akron Beacon Journal, March 23, 1993.

A 32-year-old mom and her three young kids were terrorized when a gang of black-clad men knocked down their front door and rushed into their apartment. Only when the family was lying on the floor at gunpoint did the mom, indentified only as Joyce, recognize the intruders as Akron police officers. "I never heard them indentify themselves," Joyce says. "All I saw were black uniforms, helmets and guns." The officers from the Akron Police Department Street Narcotic Uniform Detail shortly realized that the address on the warrant was incorrect. "It didn't look like any drug house," says unit leader Lt. Harold Craig.


San Diego Union-Tribune, March 5, 1993

Michelle and Tony Jones of Poway, CA. have filed a $10 million suit against the DEA and Customs Department after they were detained and falsely accused of drug dealing. The couple were fingered by Ronnie B. Edmonds, the same informant whose bad tips had previously led to the botched drug raid which resulted in the shooting of an innocent San Diego business executive, Donald Carlson. Carlson, who was critically wounded, has his own $20 million lawsuit pending. Edmonds is wanted on 25 counts of making false statements to drug agents.


Seattle Times, December 12, 1993

Jose and Esperanza Navarro won a $100,000 settlement in their suit against city and county authorities in Medford, OR. for a wrongful raid on their home. Under the settlement, police deny any wrongdoing in their mistaken raid on the Navarro residence. An informant told the police that a drug dealer lived "in the second house on the right," according to court documents. He didn't count a house on the corner, and police busted the wrong house.

Cops Bust Mayor

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 5, 1992

A police SWAT team in Venice, MO. broke down the back door and crashed through the window of the home of Mayor Tyrone Echols in a fumbled crack raid. Police claimed that the goof resulted from a wrong address on the search warrant, but the furious Mayor Echols, a black man, says the cops were lucky he was not home at the time. "I probably would've taken my pistol and shot through the door." Noting that the incident took place just as contract negotiations between police and the city were starting, Echols says, "Don't think I haven't considered the possibilities. I'm no fool."

Police Screw Up Live, On the Air

Associated Press, May 25, 1992

A camera team from the TV show Cops recorded a police team in King County, WA. as, guns drawn, they burst into a private home, rousting a sleeping couple and their children from their slumber, slipped handcuffs on the half-naked woman and finally realized they were in the wrong house. "They pulled me out of bed and put a gun on me," complained victim Theresa Glover. "Here I am with my butt showing, and I see the camera." Cops decided not to air the fumbled crack-bust footage, to which the grateful commander of the local precinct, Maj. Larry Mayes, says, "How much more embarassing can you get?" But this was not the precinct's first such foible - last year, officers mistakenly charged into the home of another local resident, Terry Krussel. In both cases, policehad written the wrong address on the search warrant.

Feds Ransack Tulsa Home

American Rifleman, March 1992

Johnnie Lawmaster returned home last December 16 to find that his front and back doors had been broken down with a battering ram, and his personal papers, legally-registered guns and ammo strewn all over the floor. Furniture was broken and gas, electricity and water had been shut off. The only explanation was a note reading: Nothing Found - ATF. Neighbors informed Lawmaster that 60agents in a joint team of local and state police and the Federal Bureau ofAlcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms had raided the house to search for illegal weapons. Lawmaster's lawyer is demanding to see the affidavit supporting the search warrant, but the Tulsa federal attorney has had it sealed.

Army Chopper Spooks Cattle

Maine farmer Bill Melgey is suing U.S. government for $150,000 following an incident in which an Army helicopter swooped down over his land at tree level, terrifying the cows Melgey was herding. Melgey was trampled in the subsequent stampede and sustained permanent injuries.

Cops Bust Rose Bushes

Glastonbury Citizen, June 18, 1992

Mark Campbell of Glastonbury, CT. is suing the local police department for $750,000 over a faulty 1989 bust which cost him his job, home, and family.Cops raided Campbell's new condominium on a tip from DEA, which had tracked a fertilizer shipment from Applied Hydroponics to the condo. Police did find marijuana plants in Campbell's basement but Manchester Superior Court Judge Sam Sferazza ruled that the search warrant had been illegally obtained and dropped the charges after Campbell testified that he had seen the Applied Hydroponics ad in Popular Science, and had purchased the fertilizer for the rose bushes outside his condo. In the meantime, however, Campbell had been fired from his job, his wife left him and took the kids to avoid prosecution, and the condo was foreclosed when he could no longer meet payments.

Cops Bust Elderberry Bushes

Santa Fe New Mexican, April 30, 1992.

The Florida ACLU is representing an Orlando family in a $200,000 false arrest suit after the sheriff's department mistook their elderberry bushes for marijuana plants. Two dozen deputies swarmed over the home of Ed and Jane Carden, drawing guns and handcuffing family members face-down in the yard before realizing their mistake. "It was terrifying," says Ed Carden.


Seattle Post Intelligencer December 18, 1992

The DEA has agreed to provide reimbursement for damages sustained to the home of Gracia Figueroa of Pasco, WA. after it was ransacked by their agents in a raid which turned up no contraband. But Figueroa, who says agents broke down her door, pulled her daughters from their beds and held them at gunpoint, still plans to sue. DEA calls the raid legitimate, noting that Figueroa's exhusband had been arrested on a drug charge in Wisconsin the day before.


Miami Herald, December 4, 1992

Steve Decter and his wife were taken into custody and hauled across 400 miles of open sea to Key West after their cabin cruiser, the Night Breeze, wasstopped by the Coast Guard for a "routine inspection" during a vacation cruise in the Caribbean. The Coast Guard had the Night Breeze stripped, incurring some $8000 in damages, but no contraband was found. The Coast Guard says a computer check indicated the Night Breeze had recently been overhauled in Cartagena, Colombia, a notorious drug port. Decter says the Coast Guard never told him why he and his wife were being held until after they arrived in Key West. "We were kidnapped for four days," he says.


San Diego Union-Tribune, December 2, 1992.

Donald Carlson, the vice president of the Fortune 500 Anacomp company who was shot by DEA and Customs agents after a bum tip from a paid informant, is seeking $20 million in damages. Carlson suffered a punctured lung in the mistaken raid.


San Diego Union, December 1, 1992

William Hauselmann, a 64-year-old retired ranch foreman was wrestled andpinned to the floor of his Oakdale, CA. home by Stanislaus County drug agents as his wife was held at gunpoint in her bathrobe. "They were like bandits -whooping and hollering like they were the ones on drugs," said Marian Hauselmann, 61. The Sheriff's Department admits that the tip that led to the raid was "180 degress wrong."

SWAT Team Terrorizes Elderly Couple

USA Today, December 1, 1993

Retirees Marian and William Hauselmann say their worst vice is that they eat too much bratwurst. But in November, a SWAT team with ski masks kicked down the doors of their Oakdale, Ca. home and held them at gunpoint for 45 minutesas they searched for drugs. The Sheriff's Department now admits that the informant's tip which led them to the house was "180 degrees wrong." But the Hauselmann's still have nightmares. "They put a pillowcase on my head and handcuffed me and forced me to stay on the floor," says Marian. "My husband and I tried to speak and they screamed to shut up. It was the worst thing that ever happened to us." William, 64, who has a heart condition, says officers stepped on his back and cut his face while wrestling him to the floor. Marian still complains of sore wrists caused by the plastic cuffs. "Funny thing is,after they realized their mistake, they had to ask us for something to cutthem off with!" Although they now have trouble sleeping, Marian says "we're not going to a shrink. It's those police who need psychiatrists."


NY Daily News, November 5-6, 1992

Sylvia Romero, 20, a pre-med student at New York's Fordham University, and her sister Elsa, who is on medication for a nervous disorder, were sprayed in the face with Mace, strip-searched, handcuffed, and made to lie on the floor as 15 plainclothes housing police ransacked their Bronx apartment in a surprise raid. "As I approached the door, they were banging it down," says Romero. "I asked what was going on. Through the crack they sprayed me in the face with Mace."

Romero says the officers wore civilian clothes and did not identifythemselves. When she asked what was happening, one cop shouted, "Bitches shut the fuck up!" The sisters were dragged from the apartment, sobbing and handcuffed, but were released when no contraband was found. They returned tofind the apartment trashed and their pet dog Crissy missing. Police said that they had taken the pet to the pound, and the Romeros had to pay $25 to get Crissy back. The Romeros' mother Victoria, who also lives at the apartment, had been visiting her son Pedro Segarra in Hartford, CT. when the raid happened. Segarra, who is an attorney for the city of Hartford, says, "My mother's biggest fear was that someone would break into the apartment and something would happen to her children. She never expected that it would be the cops."

Housing Police Chief Joseph Keeney said a "high-level informant" had dropped a tip that the apartment was being used to store heroin and defended the raid as "standard procedure." But Ron Kuby, the Romeros' attorney, accuses the police of racism. "This is the kind of thing that simply does not happen to white people in New York City, no matter what the offense."


Tulsa World, September 23, 1992.

Jerry and Denise Jones of Guthrie, OK. are seeking $6 million in damages from the federal government following a mistaken drug raid on their home. In December 1991, DEA agents knocked down the Jones' front door with an ax and wrestled Jerry to the ground while pointing guns at Denise and their 8-year-olddaughters Laura and Misty before realizing they had read the address on the warrant wrong.


Florida Times-Union, October 29, 1992

Two Jacksonville police officers were arrested in an investigation of charges that a group within the city police force has been planting crack cocaine on drug suspects. Sheriff Jim McMillan says that at least 16 pieces of crack have been found in two police cars and that more arrests are possible. The officers are charged with using their own crack as evidence against arrested suspects. The scandal could taint up to 200 drug cases now pending, and McMillan says, "There's no doubt that some folks have gone to jail that probably wouldn't have if this hadn't been done. I think they've been wronged."


Family Feels "Raped" By Bogus Bust

Indiana Daily Student

When Bloomington Police knocked on the door of Michael and Katrina Moore at 10:30pm on August 4, their 11-year-old daughter answered. The officers barged in, knocking the girl back, then proceeded to the bedroom and rousted the sleeping Michael and Katrina from bed. Relates Katrina: "I said, 'Officer, I'm not dressed,' and he said, 'I don't care, get up...." Katrina says he kept the flashlight aimed at her breasts as she hurriedly dressed. Over the next two hours, the officers searched the house top to bottom, but only found a bong - in the bedroom of the Moores' 17-year-old son. The Moores' have filed a complaint, but police say the warrant was based on an informant's tip. "They were very rude, very hateful," says Katrina. "They treated us like we were dirt. I feel like I've been raped."