More on the Vang Khang Raid

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

I’m quoted at length in this piece by St. Paul Pioneer-Press columnist Ruben Rosario on botched SWAT raids.

The piece itself is great, but the comments are pretty sad. Lots of stuff along the lines of, “if this guy had learned English, he’d have known they were cops.” Jesus. They wrongly invaded his home. Also, I’m pretty sure Kathryn Johnston spoke English. Pretty sure, in fact, that most people on the raid map later determined to have been innocent who mistook raiding cops for criminal home invaders also spoke English. Khang’s wife says she heard no announcement of any kind, foreign language or otherwise.

As for the Khang raid itself, the police are in prime CYA form:

Minneapolis police say they are not to blame for a mistake that sent a SWAT team into the wrong house over the weekend.

[…]

“It was bad information that came on the informants end, not on the police end,” said Jesse Garcia, a Minneapolis Police spokesman.

Garcia said after the informant gave police three addresses they did their homework.

“Like I said, this is a long-term investigation that involved surveillance, looking at background of this whole situation to find out exactly what’s going on,” said Garcia.

In addition, a judge reviewed the information from police. The judge OK’d the three search warrants.

“The first two addresses were very good, a lot of information, numerous guns were recovered,” said Garcia.

[…]

WCCO-TV asked police if they would make police changes to prevent a mistake.

“I don’t think it was a mistake on our part, you know, we did everything correctly. We did everything in good faith, we followed the search warrant, we did everything correctly. It turns out some of the information that was given on the front end from the informant, just wasn’t right,” said Garcia.

But the informant works for the police. Informants aren’t sworn public servants. They aren’t trained to become police officers. They aren’t accountable to the public. Most, in fact, are pretty shady characters. The police ought to be independently coroborrating every informant’s tip before they go kicking down doors. Even a reliable informant could inadvertently transpose numbers, or get a street name wrong.

So don’t blame this on the informant. It’s the job of the officers he’s working with to corroborate the information he gives them. If his information is wrong, and they act on it, it’s their fault, not his. The fact that they shot up the wrong house by itself indicates that the police made a mistake, here.

Here’s more from Minneapolis police:

“This house was part of a package of very credible information that resulted in other successful enforcement actions,” she said. “This was the end of a chain of things, and there was no reason to question the credibility of the information.”

Except that, quite obviously, the information wasn’t credible. Or they wouldn’t have nearly killed an innocent family.

The police apparently knocked out six windows in the Khang home, some of them before the shooting began. The fired 22 rounds, spraying the Khang home with shotgun blasts.

One local media outlet is reporting that the police were investigating a black street gang. Had they taken the two minutes to type the address into the local property records website, they’d have seen the name “Vang Khang” pop up, which should have at least hinted at the possibility that the address might bewrong, and that it would probably be worth the time to do a bit more investigation before heading out to play soldier.

The fact that the police didn’t even take this small, not particularly labor intensive step by itself puts the lie to the statement that they “did everything correctly.”

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30 Responses to “More on the Vang Khang Raid”

  1. #1 |  Nick T | 

    Now wait a second, if a JUDGE OK’d the search then the Police must have done everything right!!

    I think it’s the Judge’s job to corroborate the evidence and do his or her own surveilance and google searches! It’s not the judge’s job to, hmmm, I don’t know, take the police at their word that information THEY are reporting is accurate.

    Also, little known fact: Judge’s are all knowing creatures, descended from unicorns.

  2. #2 |  Garrett J | 

    Don’t you just long for the days when so-called conservatives would have sided with the innocent people trying to protect their homes?

    I’m not sure whats more disturbing in the comments to that piece- the anti-immigration rhetoric that would blame a middle of the night raid on the fact that someone didn’t speak English very well or the fact that people are perfectly willing to accept this and similar incidents as unavoidable mistakes.

  3. #3 |  Chris | 

    I try to have as little contact with the police in this town (Minneapolis-Saint Paul area) as I can. Every single officer I have interacted with has been rude, abusive and totally unwilling to listen to any sort of reason. They can’t even obey the traffic laws of this state so I have no faith that they will be willing to respect the rights of the citizens they are “sworn to protect”.

    I don’t believe all police officers are bad. It just seems to me that there are quite a few that need to be doing some other line of work where they can’t hurt or kill anyone.

  4. #4 |  Chris | 

    Also-

    If the police stopped using excessive force, they probably would not have to pay out millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements (The latest one was 4.5 million for the Duy Ngo case) and have more in their budget for training.

  5. #5 |  Joe Mama | 

    “This was the end of a chain of things, and there was no reason to question the credibility of the information.”

    In my best Harvey Keitel voice…”How about now???”

  6. #6 |  Whiskey | 

    ain’t nobody going to compare to this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rico_Police#Controversies

    Cop shoots himself, starts to walk away, turns back, and shoots guy on ground something like five times.

    on video.

  7. #7 |  Joel Rosenberg | 

    They didn’t even have to check the property records. They could have just, well, looked and noticed that a Hmong guy, his Hmong wife, and six little Hmong kids were unlikely to actually be a black street gang.

    I mean, let’s be serious — did they think that black gangbangers are disproportionately midgets who dress up as Hmong?

  8. #8 |  Roach | 

    I agree police should have intelligent procedures to double and triple check informant information, home address information, and the like before going on raids.

    But do you think it makes your argument more persuasive and the libertarian position more credible to describe sworn law enforcement officers, particularly SWAT, who deal in many cases with violent and homicidal suspects as “playing soldier?”

  9. #9 |  Joel Rosenberg | 

    Each to his own; I think that to describe masked men wearing military gear, using military weapons and kicking in doors and using something very like military house-clearing tactics* as “playing soldier” is, if anything, perhaps a tad generous.

    _______________________________
    * It’s pretty clearly legitimate for a military fire team to return fire without knowing exactly who or what they’re shooting at. In the case of the MPD SWAT team, who fire in excess of two dozen rounds into the Vang’s house through walls without, it appears, ever identifying who their target was, either they’re remarkably bad shots or they were, it’s fair to say, “playing soldier.”

  10. #10 |  Whiskey | 

    I agree with Roach for the first time. They’re not playing, they’re bona fide.

  11. #11 |  Heartless Libertarian | 

    I’d call BS on the cops saying they actually did surveillance, at least at the address in question. Even minimally competent surveillance would have indicated that the house was inhabited by a family of Asians, not African-American gang members.

    And honestly, I don’t care if the cops announce or not. I haven’t broken any laws (that I know of). Therefore, I have no reason to expect the cops to come to execute a search warrant on my home, knock or no-knock. Therefore, if anyone knocks down my door at 2 AM, I think it is reasonable to assume they’re hostile, and react accordingly, even if they are screaming “Police! Search warrant!”

    You want to search my house, get your warrant, and come by in daylight, when people are home and awake, ring the bell, and wait nicely, and you won’t be met by gunfire.

  12. #12 |  Chris D | 

    Hearing about this story and others like it infuriates me.Forget about being wake up at dark thirty in the morning to the sound of your front door being demolised,forget about some thugs firing (is this right??) 20 ROUNDS indiscriminately in to the house and at You.And after the smoke clears literally , How well do you think your kids or you are ever going to sleep again,these kids not to mention the parents are traumatized for life.Serving in Desert Storm,we had rules of engagements to follow in the Army.The one rule for me after reading this story that sticks out most is the one that states do NOT fire unless you see your target.These cowboys need to use the range more often and learn some firing Discipline.And where are these Gunslinger with their full body armor,high tech weapons and training when the shit hits the fan like when incidents like Columbine and Virgina Tech shootings happen.I’ll tell you where or better yet watch the videos,there the one’s HIDING behind garbage cans and cars while the people their sworn to protect and serve or in these cases KIDS take the bullet.

  13. #13 |  Cactus Jack | 

    “Garcia said after the informant gave police three addresses they did their homework.”
    ————————————————————–
    There’s one word that covers that statement; HORSECRAP! Had they done their “homework” they would’nt have hit the wrong house. If they had done anything in the way of surveillance, which I understand is SoP when investigating someone, they would’ve know it was the wrong house.

    Minneapolis PD; you screwed up big time so admit you did, make amends, and take steps to prevent it from happening again. That’s what PROFESSIONALS do.

  14. #14 |  Double Tap | 

    Nothing to see here.

    Just move along.

    MOVE along.

    MOVE!

  15. #15 |  code red | 

    Having heard this story before, (countless times), we already know how it will turn out. Officers involved are promoted, department receives more funding, and absolutely no jail-time for the real criminals.

    The decision to continue these pointless raids in non-violent situations was made by the highest court in our land, which nullifies using the jury box against these criminals.

    And, while there always remains hope in the ballot box, our future votes have absolutely no affect on the present.

    The only answer CAN be found in the ammo box. Specifically, practice, practice, practice… AND up sizing your home defensive weapons. Higher calibers, better ammo. (Heck, if the 2nd meant anything, Vang Khang would have been using HE ammo to defend his family). And that’s the key, which there is absolutely no question of, he was acting in self-DEFENSE.

    I second Heartless Liberation. Just because we know the odds are against a successful repealing of the criminal attackers does NOT mean the battle isn’t worth fighting. We don’t have to win every battle, but we DO need to make the fights costly enough for the enemies of freedom to re-think their strategy. If this situation happened to you and you wouldn’t be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend your life, you never would.

    “May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” Samuel Adams

  16. #16 |  Joel Rosenberg | 

    Okay, let’s assume that:

    a: Khang had fired back with ammo that had either pierced the vests, or hit the cops in places that they weren’t covered,

    b: had badly injured or killed one or more cops, and

    c: had ended up, well, your choice: dead, alive, convicted, unconvicted, whatever.

    What good result would have come out of this? Police would, you think, have become more likely to refuse to participate in doorkicking teams? Become likely to check out the intended, err, benefactees of police attention? What?

    Me, I think that all that — and, for that matter, this — is likely to do is make doorkickers’ trigger fingers even more itchy, and these spray-and-pray guys’ fingers were far too itchy as it is.

  17. #17 |  code red | 

    Are those chains I hear?

    Vang Khang was righteously acting in self-defense. As a freedom loving patriot who doesn’t want this situation to EVER happen again, my hope would be he would have stopped ALL of his attackers, dead. I say dead because his criminal attackers showed willingness to violently attack an innocent family in their HOME. Such a flagrant disregard for human life leaves me no hope for rehabilitation.

    But guess what? No matter how you feel the rest will play out, once dead, a violent criminal NEVER attacks again.

  18. #18 |  buzz | 

    “Are those chains I hear?”

    Apparently you are under the delusion that there will be a judge there at the firefight. Had he killed all his attackers, dead, there would have been all officers on duty rushing to officer down calls and the firefight would more than likely end with Mr Khang and family also dead. Just being right and legal doesn’t stop bullets. Everyone came out of this alive, and there should be a massive legal judgement coming down the road.

  19. #19 |  WarHorse1961 | 

    “Everyone came out of this alive, and there should be a massive legal judgement coming down the road.”

    Agreed. That’s the best we could hope for. But the judgment should be against the officers and judge involved. A judgment against the city is a judgment against the CITIZENS of the city. They had nothing to do with this.

  20. #20 |  the friendly grizzly | 

    I believe one way to slow this nonsense down is to find some way to sue the ninja raiders, the ones authorizing the raid, and the judge who signed the warrant, PERSONALLY in addition to taking the agencies involved into court.

    Were I in the legislature I would introduce a bill that exposes all of these clowns to liability. Wanna play this game? Then if you foul it up, bye bye house, car, savings, and pension. Your wife and kids gonna go hungry or homeless? Deal with it.

    I have reached a point I will not go into a restaurant if I see more than one cop car in the parking lot. I want to eat my meal in peace.

  21. #21 |  Rick | 

    It’s sad to say, but the only one’s who can effect a significant policy change are the City administrators, and the only way to get their attention is with a swift kick to their pocket book or prolonged outrage from the citizens.

  22. #22 |  Persona non grata | 

    What should be mandatory:

    There should be crystal clear police doctrine in place prior to the deployment of SWAT teams and their support elements. The first criteria met should be the collection and vetting of SWAT actionable information. Time sensitive situations would require a common sense approach to deployment of SWAT.

    The use of SWAT teams should be the final resort not the first option.

    SWAT teams need to weed out the “cowboys” from within.

    Communities across the US should demand their local police departments have SWAT teams use of force doctrines in place and that they are enforced with any transgressors held accountable to the community both civilly and criminally.

    SWAT teams should not be serving warrants.

    Grab/snatch teams are much less violent options over SWAT teams serving no knock shock and awe display warrants.

    We the taxpayer fund this madness and we the taxpayer can end it.

  23. #23 |  Persona non grata | 

    oderint dum metuant

  24. #24 |  straightarrow | 

    The only way to stop this and something I have been trying to popularize is a new law. Yep, that’s right. One more law. Only this time it works in our favor.

    When any officer is killed or injured in a “no-knock” raid, right address or not, it is to be considered just a cost of doing business with no liability either criminal or civil accruing to the citizen. If, the raid is conducted against the wrong address criminal and civil penalties accrue against the individuals officers and their supervisors involved and the agencies for which they work.

    Anybody want to bet on whether much more judgment would then be used before resorting to this, the last of all options?

  25. #25 |  Robert | 

    For those of you who think killing off cops is going to help solve the problem, just think a minute what will happen if cops start getting killed in these raids. They’ll start using even more aggressive tactics. As ridiculous as it sounds, I wouldn’t be suprised to see swat teams start buying tanks and lobbing a few shells into a house before driving through it.

    The more we up the ante, the worse they’ll get. I’m not sure what the solution will ever be (if we find a solution and don’t end up in even more of a police state), but I can guarantee you that it isn’t killing police.

  26. #26 |  teqjack | 

    Gosh, if they were surveilling the place for some time before the raid, one wonders what was seen that lead them to go ahead with the raid.

    I can actually understand occasionally getting an address wrong. But while perhaps a reason it is not a very good excuse.

  27. #27 |  bearing | 

    For those who wanted to know on what basis the police thought the information was good….

    The latest update at the Strib says:

    Police have said they had no reason to believe the Logan Avenue address was inaccurate because [the informant] repeated it several times.

  28. #28 |  marydess | 

    The MPD cops have raided the wrong homes several times in the past and they keep on doing it, so when they don`t verify their information they turn around and blame the informants. When they make a mistake and shoot another cop, then they say it was the victim cop`s fault(Duy Ngo). It doesnt matter whet the MPD cops do they always say they are right and they can Never do wrong as long as they can blame someone else.

  29. #29 |  Phil Kep | 

    They also said Duy Ngo looks like a black man and thats why that same Minneapolis Swat team shot Ngo. What would have happened if they shot one of the kids in the house.

  30. #30 |  Funeral, Puppycide, Mistaken Gunfire, Wounded Cop, Threats, Ransacking | The Agitator | 

    […] one ranks right up there with the Hmong raid from a few years ago, which also took place in Minneapolis. If the fallout from this one is similar […]

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