USA: Police State

SWAT Raid Roundup

from The Agitator

  • Police in Louisiana break into home during nighttime raid, terrify two women and eight children. They promised to return to fix the door, but as of Friday, had yet to do so.
  • Police in St. Paul, Minnesota bust in on a family, kill the dog, ransack the house, handcuff three children at gunpoint, and force them to sit next to the corpse of their former pet. They had the wrong house. They still found a gun in the basement, which was apparently illegal under Minnesota law. The head of the family was arrested, and is still in jail.
  • The same Baltimore cop who killed Cheryl Lynn Noel recently killed a man wielding a sword during a forced-entry raid. That man also wasn’t the suspect police were looking for. The article points out that thanks to the law Cheye Calvo helped pass in Maryland, we know that there are 1,600 SWAT raids each year in the state, most of them search warrants for drug offenses. None of the state officials interviewed seem to have a problem with this.
  • Local journalist goes to SWAT camp, gets a goose of self-esteem from the adrenaline rush.
  • The Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin is a good reminder that though these mass shootings are often put forth as the reason why we need SWAT teams, the SWAT guys generally don’t arrive until after the shooting stops. That said, while we regularly criticize aggressive police tactics and point out the reality that the job isn’t nearly as dangerous as it’s often portrayed, there are of course times when it is quite dangerous. So let’s acknowledge the heroism of Lt. Brian Murphy, the cop who took eight bullets while trying to give aid to the other victims.
  • A bad tip from an informant leads to a wrong-door SWAT raid in Chicago.

When Chicago police broke into his Austin home with guns drawn and a search warrant, Markee Cooper Sr. . . .  and his family could only look on as drawers and closets were searched for crack cocaine based on an alleged informant’s tip.

On Friday, a federal jury awarded Cooper and his family $565,000 in damages after finding one officer at fault for a falsified warrant and two others responsible for the illegal 2007 search.

[Cooper] and his wife testified at the trial that their two young sons, Markee Jr., 13, and Zion, 8, were traumatized at seeing their father confront a roomful of cops with guns before kneeling to the living room floor and handing over his badge and weapon.

“It’s a horrible experience for a child to see or even think about,” Cooper’s wife, Sherita, said after the verdict was announced. “I’m just glad that justice was served.”

The city of Chicago will have to pay $450,000 in compensatory damages awarded by the seven-woman, three-man jury, said Cooper’s attorney, Brendan Shiller. The jury also assessed punitive damages against three of five officers — money they will be responsible for paying, Shiller said.

Officer Sean Dailey, who testified that he secured the warrant based on information from an informant named “Lamar” who told him crack was being sold out of the second-floor apartment in the Cooper’s building, was assessed by far the most — $100,000. Sgt. Salvatore Reina was found liable for $10,000 and former Lt. Dennis Ross for $5,000.

Cooper’s legal team argued that Dailey either made up the informant or was reckless by making no effort to try to verify the tip. They pointed to the sketchy information Dailey initially had about Lamar’s background — no last name, phone number or address.

“I think this verdict shows that the informant didn’t exist, and he made it up,” Shiller said of Dailey. “And if he made up an informant, the city needs a better policy to prevent this from happening again.”

The officers’ attorneys argued that Dailey played by the rules, informing the Cook County state’s attorney’s office before going to a judge for the warrant. Dailey testified that the same informant had given him three previous tips that led to criminal charges. That the information turned out to be bad was not intentional, the defense argued.

“That’s called, ‘I ain’t perfect,’” Mitchell said during closing arguments Thursday. “Was it serious? Yes. Was it malicious? No.” . . .

[Cooper] testified at trial that he thought he was the victim of a home invasion when he first heard someone breaking into his residence, only to find about a dozen plainclothes officers with guns drawn.

It’s really rare to get any damages for a wrong-door raid, much less to see punitive damages assessed to the officers involved. Qualified immunity is a pretty high hurdle. and juries tend to be sympathetic to cops.

But Cooper’s description of the terrifying raid, and his first thought that he was being invaded by criminal intruders, seemed to have some resonance with this particular jury. Before you click over, see if you can guess what Cooper does for a living.