(Yet) Another Isolated Incident

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Here’s one from Montgomery County, Maryland:

Kenyan immigrant Nancy Njoroge had been living in the United States for a year when a Montgomery County SWAT team burst into her Gaithersburg apartment at 4 a.m., handcuffed her and her two teenage daughters, and searched her apartment, court records show.

Police found nothing.

The reason: Njoroge lived in No. 202 of her apartment complex. The police had a search warrant for apartment 201.

After rejecting an offer from the county’s claims adjuster of a “couple of movie passes,” the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the county on the family’s behalf for unspecified damages, according to ACLU records filed in court.

The ACLU said the purpose of the lawsuit was to hold the police department accountable for its mistake.

“Officers had but one apartment to locate, in a quiet and well-lit hallway in the dead of night, without distraction and with clearly marked doors and numbers,” ACLU lawyer Fritz Mulhauser said in a letter to the county…

Court records don’t give a clear reason why the police raided the wrong apartment, and the county attorney assigned to the case did not respond to inquiries for the story. But in court records, a SWAT team leader indicated that it was an isolated incident.

The movie passes were a nice touch. The raid actually happened in 2005, but after negotiations with the county failed, the family filed its federal civil rights suit this month.

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52 Responses to “(Yet) Another Isolated Incident”

  1. #1 |  z | 

    Seriously, I hope the “movie passes” line is not a literal description of the settlement offer.

  2. #2 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Didn’t they know they were just supposed to take the movie passes, be thankful they didn’t have any dogs, and STFU already?

    Note for the humor-impaired: /satire

  3. #3 |  Ginger Dan | 

    Jesus Harold, Radley! Are you pouring it on this morning because the Injustice is going offline?? First it was cloudy skies and now, movie passes!?!! Movie passes? I’d bet if this family was white, they wouldn’t have even tried that nonsense, but they figured, “Hey, they’re foreign. Foreigners love American movies, so a few free passes ought to cover this..”


  4. #4 |  SJE | 

    No, its movie passes AND free popcorn. The cops were really sorry.

  5. #5 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Hold on…what movie?

    I mean “Mr.&Mrs. Smith” came out in 2005!

  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    In PG County they can raid your house, bust things up, kill your dogs. No compensation. So far, “movie pass” Montgomery County is ahead of PG County.

  7. #7 |  Bob | 

    They passed up on sweet, sweet movie passes? Wow.

    Gee, if they had knocked nicely during the day, they wouldn’t have alerted the apartment right next door… the one with 600 grams of coke and 27K in cash.

    Oh wait, they went in no knock at 4 am, caused all kinds of commotion, and the real perps STILL didn’t have time to ‘flush the stash’.

    So, what’s the point of no-knock, again?

  8. #8 |  Thom | 

    What’s with the cops not being able to read numbers? Even McDonalds makes you take a basic math test before they’ll hire you.

  9. #9 |  perlhaqr | 

    Perhaps a literacy test before you can be a cop is in order.

  10. #10 |  seeker6079 | 

    I love the message in the movie passes, one the offerors didn’t realize:
    “We don’t like in reality. You shouldn’t either!”

  11. #11 |  Hamburglar007 | 

    If the cops were really sorry they would have thrown in junior mints.

  12. #12 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Ending the drug war is probably the only sure-fire way to drastically reduce the number of botched raids. I mean, it’s not like they’re ever likely to improve their record if they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

  13. #13 |  dave smith | 

    Sure, ending the drug war will reduce the number of botched raids, but even with the current drug war, why can’t the cops get the right house EVERY F******TIME?

    What I can’t believe is this: why isn’t even the most hardened “law and order” type forced to realize that the police are out of control by the frequency of stories like this.

    I mean even if you are very in favor of the drug war, don’t you want to get the right house?

  14. #14 |  MacGregory | 

    wrong-door raids and movie pass compensation
    I’m beginning to think that the “Police Squad” tv show and movies were documentaries.

  15. #15 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #13 dave smith

    why can’t the cops get the right house EVERY F******TIME?

    I think you might be expecting too much from the boys in blue. Even doctors who institute numerous safety checks to prevent mistakes accidentally leave equipment inside surgery patients an estimated 1500 time a year.

    The problem with cops is that they think mistakes will happen no matter what they do to prevent it, so why do anything. They’re perfectly content to live with the mistakes because there is very little downside. To them, apologizing should be all that’s necessary and if you don’t settle for an apology, then you’re being unreasonable.

  16. #16 |  Marty | 

    I refused a movie pass settlement offer from the asshole telemarketer that woke me up about some vacation deal- instead, I’m getting free passes to Disneyland! all I have to do is take a tour of some timeshare place…

  17. #17 |  Frank | 

    #8 If you pass the McDonald’s math test you are too intelligent to be a cop. (Google “New London Police Lawsuit” it should be close to the top)

    Let’s see, have your door kicked in by stormtroopers and put in fear of getting raped or worse, and the “county claims adjuster” offers them some free movies? I think I just discovered a new definition of “government chutzpah”. This clown needs to taken out behind the woodshed for the ass-beating daddy never gave him.

  18. #18 |  Chris in AL | 

    The cops could get it right every time. But as it stands right now, they can enter any home, anywhere, anytime and without any cause. All they have to do is say they got the address wrong. And our politicians don’t think our cops should even maintain the illusion of competence, so they always say it is ok to keep getting addresses wrong.

    Strange that we have to obey more laws than any other population in history, our tax code alone is so ponderous that for many people it is impossible to know every facet of the law and all they tell us is ‘ignorance is no defense’…yet these worthless, ignorant, incompetent jackasses aren’t even expected to get an address right. Fedex is held more accountable for getting an address wrong, and they don’t come in assaulting people with deadly weapons.

  19. #19 |  SJE | 

    #15 Dave Krueger

    “Even doctors who institute numerous safety checks to prevent mistakes accidentally leave equipment inside surgery patients an estimated 1500 time a year.”

    Yes, but I can sue my surgeon, he can’t hide behind “qualified immunity,” and he certainly wouldn’t be bragging about it on his facebook page.

    Another factor is that a lot of surgery is not readily visible to the doctor because (a) they avoid cutting people open more than absolutely necessary and (b) they are covered by all sorts of body tissue and blood. I’ve seen many surgeries and its understandable that you could miss something.

    This compares with cops who cannot read well marked numbers on a door because it was “overcast” etc.

  20. #20 |  Bob | 

    I would be far more tolerant of these ‘mistakes’ if the people executing them would discover them in a civilized manner. But when you bang on someone’s door to the point of damaging it, then demand entry and force people that are clearly non threatening to the ground… you don’t get to make mistakes.

    If Fed Ex made a mistake, and tried to deliver a package intended for someone else to me… the error would be discovered after he calmly rang the doorbell and asked me to sign for the package. Same for the Pizza guy, the Mail lady when I get a certified letter, etc.

    My door would not be damaged, I would not be held at gunpoint by jackbooted thugs. It would be handled in a civilized manner.

    Fuck, they’re serving a warrant. What’s the guy gunna do, beam out? Cover the doors and windows, ring the doorbell. Check that address one more time while you wait.

    Fucking assholes. Not everybody is Pretty Boy Floyd.

  21. #21 |  Bill | 

    I’m going to go and buy some movie passes, and put ’em in my gun case. That way, if I ever shoot a cop who accidentally busts down my door, I’ll be able to offer them the passes right away.

  22. #22 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “After rejecting an offer from the county’s claims adjuster of a ‘couple of movie passes’…”

    Really? That’s the most insulting shit I’ve heard recently. And when you follow drug war screw-ups, you get used to having your intelligence insulted.

    But the issue here is not with the police being mathematically-challenged or stupid. I have taken written exams for police departments, and while subject matter varies, they generally cover topics such as vocab, reading comprehension, basic mathematics, geographic orientation, logic/reasoning, situational questions, etc. I have always passed these tests by a comfortable margin, but they are usually not that easy, and I am a college grad that finished with a 3.7 GPA. Also, many officers in my area (and probably yours), have completed associate’s degrees, if not bachelor’s degrees, by the time they begin the recruitment process.

    So, the issue at play in this case, and in many of these cases, is not that the police are stupid or that police tests aren’t challenging enough. The real problem is that the drug war has degraded the quality of police work. Carelessness is acceptable, because the narc squad is just too damn busy to dot all its I’s and cross all its T’s. Got to keep those numbers up. Got to put dope on the table, and asset forfeiture funds in the department’s coffers.

    And the emphasis of the job right now is not on methodical investigation, critical thinking and problem-solving (like it should be). The current fad is kicking in doors, initiating sweeps and round-ups on the corners (with little to no probable cause), and playing up the “dangers of the job” that the SYSTEM is actually creating. This system has the uncanny ability to turn intelligent recruits into shallow automatons focused only on numbers and “action.” Calling the cops stupid misses the point and makes the problem seem less serious than it really is.

  23. #23 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I’m not arguing in favor of what these cops did. I’m simply saying that there are going to be mistakes because people make mistakes. If you demand perfection, you’re being unrealistic and you will always be disappointed.

    However, aside from improving procedures, which should happne, butu doesn’t, the number of warrants served in this manner can be drastically reduced, thereby diminishing the frequency with which these kinds of screw-ups happen. One way to reduce the number of warrants is to abandon the drug war. (Yes, I know that’s preaching to the choir)

    In this case, the cops unnecessarily damaged the door, mistreated the occupants by making them get down on the floor, blamed the overcast weather for their own ineptitude, and fell short of the mark in compensating the homeowners.

    On the plus side, they did apologize and left the house immediately (apparently without killing or stealing anything). Also, there’s no evidence (as of yet) that they falsified any investigative information, planted any drugs, tased or maced anyone, or arrested or detained anyone.

    When compared to most of the cases I read about on this site, I view this as one of the less egregious.

  24. #24 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #22 Helmut O’ Hooligan

    “After rejecting an offer from the county’s claims adjuster of a ‘couple of movie passes’…”

    Really? That’s the most insulting shit I’ve heard recently.

    You got that right. That’s a pretty clear indicator of how seriously the city takes events like this.

  25. #25 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Dave Kruger: Yeah, this agency takes it about as seriously as most of them, unfortunately. In the warped world of Drug War America, wrong door raids are just part of “doing business.” Sort of like a trip to jail for a corner drug dealer.

    Perhaps if the county started by repairing any and all (structural) damage done during the raid, reviewed its policies, punished the person (s) who screwed up, and paid for any counseling required by the victims of this mistaken raid, I’d be a bit more satisfied. But movie tickets? These officers didn’t interfere with this family’s “enjoyment of the show,” they traumatized them. And for what.

  26. #26 |  SJE | 

    #23 Dave: point taken. Of course, if we could sue cops like we can sue surgeons, there would be less mistakes. Offering movie passes doesnt pass the laugh test, and a surgeon’s lawyer would never put forward such a ridiculous offer. A few thousand, at least.

  27. #27 |  Ginger Dan | 

    I’m gonna keep the flood gates open. The cop who beat the bartender in Chicago got off with no jail time. That’s right Agitatorians, if you are a cop you can get drunk, kick the sh*t our of a woman half your size and not go to jail.

    Money quote from the judge:

    “If I believed sentencing Anthony Abbate to prison would stop people from getting drunk and hitting people, I’d give him the maximum sentence,” Fleming said

    Whole thing here:


  28. #28 |  michaelk42 | 

    If the movie passes didn’t work, was the next offer a Blu-ray copy of Paul Blart: Mall Cop?

    “If I believed sentencing Anthony Abbate to prison would stop people from getting drunk and hitting people, I’d give him the maximum sentence,” Fleming said

    How about just stopping Anthony Abbate from getting drunk and hitting people, start small? Criminy.

  29. #29 |  Sheri | 

    Does the ACLU only help foreign people or people of color????? When my son was murdered by the cops during a botched raid, the ACLU refused to help us and acted like we had a disease! They wouldn’t even talk to us about the case, only told us there was nothing they could do. Guess it’s nice they are helping this woman and her daughters, but no one was killed during this raid, just inconvenienced.

  30. #30 |  Chris in AL | 

    “If I believed sentencing Anthony Abbate to prison would stop people from getting drunk and hitting people, I’d give him the maximum sentence,” Fleming said”

    Judge John Fleming, you are a worthless cock bag.

    But using his own logic, I hope somebody burns Fleming’s house down. Because throwing them in jail will not stop other people from burning other cock bag’s houses down, so there should be no jail time involved.

  31. #31 |  SJE | 

    “If I believed sentencing Anthony Abbate to prison would stop people from getting drunk and hitting people, I’d give him the maximum sentence”

    I must assume that the judge has NEVER sentenced anyone to jail for drug possession, since the evidence is pretty strong that it hasn’t stopped people from using drugs.

    Anyway, it doesnt matter what the judge says. Because of the new professionalism, I am sure that Anthony Abbate will be disciplined by the Chicago PD and treated like a pariah

  32. #32 |  Aunt Sue | 

    After my nephew was murdered by cops we sent over 4,000 signatures to the ACLU asking them to assist us in assuring justice would be served for him. They refused to accept them. Finally we were able to find the president at a local meeting & attended. Afterwards we pressed her to talk to us & she quickly told us the ACLU didn’t address these types of “problems”. She referred to his death as a “problem”. Defending these people is strictly a publicity stunt since the ACLU has come to have a reputation much like PETA in their defense of dead fish!

  33. #33 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #26 SJE

    #23 Dave: point taken. Of course, if we could sue cops like we can sue surgeons, there would be less mistakes. Offering movie passes doesnt pass the laugh test, and a surgeon’s lawyer would never put forward such a ridiculous offer. A few thousand, at least.

    Hmmm… Apparently I was confusing two different raids in my posts. I actually was thinking about the Indianapolis raid on the two older folks when I made comments #15 and #23.

    I blame it on work which is such an annoying distraction when I’m busy trying to bang out angry condemnations of government.

    Anyway, sorry if my remarks don’t seem to exactly fit the context of this thread.

  34. #34 |  Steve Verdon | 

    See no if they had thrown in a free popcorn and drink it would be fine. But no, they went cheap, the bastards.

  35. #35 |  supercat | 

    People need to start referring to badged burglars robbers, et al., such as those who broke into Apt. 202 without any warrant or exigent circumstances to authorize such conduct, by appropriate titles (“badged robber”, etc.) Any harm that befalls such crooks during their crimes should be viewed as a benefit to society.

  36. #36 |  Radley Balko | 

    #29 and #32

    As you know, I’ve written about Clayton’s case, and am of course sympathetic.

    But in defense of the ACLU, they do have limited resources, and tend to take on cases where they believe (1) there’s a good chance of winning, and (2) a court victory will have some symbolic or precedence value. Their goal is to change policy, so they don’t take cases that don’t have that potential, even if it’s a case where someone was clearly wronged.

    The other thing is that what cases they take on are usually determined by the individual state chapters. So the issues the ACLU in Ohio considers high priority might be very different than what the ACLU in Maryland considers important.

    And I have seen the ACLU represent white and middle class people in plenty of drug-related cases.

    That said, I do understand your frustration, and none of this is to say that the ACLU was correct in declining to take Clayton’s case. What happen to him was obviously an outrage.

    I’m just saying there’s a lot of variance in the organization from state to state, and like any non-profit, they have to chose their cases carefully to get the most value out of the resources they have available.

  37. #37 |  Sheri | 


    Thanks for the reply and information. Sometimes when you’re so close to something, especially something life changing, you don’t see the whole picture.

    It would have been nice if someone from the ACLU would have actually spoken to me or my family and clarified their position. Instead, we were turned away with a wave of the hand.

    The things on this site enrage me and there’s no where to turn.

    Thanks again for your time Radley.

  38. #38 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #26 SJE

    Of course, if we could sue cops like we can sue surgeons, there would be less mistakes.

    Yep. I don’t think the average guy on the street (even the most cynical) has even the beginning of an inkling about what police, prosecutors and judges are capable of and how little is done to rein them in or make them pay for their crimes.

    Blatant misconduct and utter incompetence are the norm. Being caught is the exception, and being punished is almost unheard of. Some of the cases we hear about here point to the systemic problem in some localities, but generally, the cases are scattered around the country and, as a result, officials can hide behind the “isolated incident” defense.

    But, the magnitude of evil and wholesale mass destruction of innocent lives that the justice system is willing and able to bring down on unsuspecting citizens is nowhere more clearly exemplified than it is in the child abuse cases of the 80s and early 90s. In Bakersfield where the hysteria got it’s start, they destroyed entire families, hiding highly exculpatory evidence, coaching children to condemn their parents, lying, and tricking them into testifying to things that never happened. Children were conned into sending their parents to prison for terms measuring in the hundreds of years. As is always the case, the conviction happens a lot faster than the exoneration and it took decades before some people got their convictions thrown out. In the end, thirty four convictions were overturned and two more died in prison.

    But you know what? Despite investigations that clearly identified wrong-doing on the part of the prosecutors, cops, and child protective services, not a single charge was ever filed against those that perpetrated that state-orchestrated crusade of wanton cruelty to ordinary citizens. Many of them still retained their jobs, including the district attorney who still holds the office to this day.

    Government will always do what it can get away with and the threshold at which citizen sheep start to question or condemn abuse of power by the justice system is so high that these narcissistic hyper-ambitious freaks of nature essentially operate with almost absolute impunity (and it’s not like they have a conscience to get in their way).

  39. #39 |  supercat | 

    After my nephew was murdered by cops we sent over 4,000 signatures to the ACLU asking them to assist us in assuring justice would be served for him.

    If your nephew was innocent, unless he opposed Christianity, the ACCLLU (Anti-Christian Criminal Lovers’ Leftists’ Union) won’t be interested. They’re only interested in protecting bad people.

    Their argument is that if the government can protect bad people, it will also be able to attack good people. That is true. If the government were unjustly attacking only bad people, it would be right and proper for the ACLU to protect such people from unjust attack. On the other hand, by systematically protecting only bad people, the ACLU works against good people’s civil liberties. Given a choice between going after real criminals and facing the wrath of the ACLU, or going after law-abiding people without risking such wrath, which do you think the police are going to prefer?

  40. #40 |  Radley Balko | 


    Thank you for the Sean Hannity, dumbed-down caricature of the ACLU.

    The ACLU takes the cases it feels will have maximum impact. On issues of criminal justice, the people whose rights have been violated are in fact often criminals. That doesn’t mean the state was right to violate their rights, and shouldn’t be held accountable when it does. It’s important that the ACLU choose cases that have the greatest potential to change the law, regardless of the savoriness of the people they’re representing.

    I don’t agree with the ACLU on everything. For example, I think they’re on the wrong side of hate crimes laws and various education issues. I wish they’d spend less time and money on petty church/state issues and more on drug war and criminal justice issues (not because I disagree with them, but because I think it’s a waste of resources). I wish they cared about the Second Amendment.

    But the idea that they never represent “law-abiding people,” or that they “systematically protect only bad people” is pretty ignorant.

    Look up Tulia or Hearne, Texas. The ACLU’s John Holdridge (who heads up their death penalty project) was almost single-handedly responsible for getting Dr. Michael West suspended from several professional organizations. The ACLU was sounding the alarm about innocent people on death row well before DNA testing came along to prove them right. And many in the organization quite literally risked their lives during the civil rights movement.

    “The ACLU works against good people’s civil liberties” is flat wrong. They do far more good than harm.

  41. #41 |  Craig | 

    @26 “Of course, if we could sue cops like we can sue surgeons, there would be less mistakes.”

    Guys, you CAN sue the cops. 42 USC 1983. People don’t do it. They are scared, they are ignorant of their rights, or for whatever reason, they just don’t. The option to discipline the cops and make them pay personally is out there. I can’t stand it when people just say “but we can’t do anything”

    You CAN do something. If a cop steps out of line, sue them, sue them, and keep suing them.

  42. #42 |  Windy | 

    Craig, right on the mark. I would add: sue them personally, so any award granted the plaintiff comes out of the cops’ own pockets rather than the taxpayer’s coffers. This is the mistake I think Cheye Calvo made, he filed a lawsuit against the county and the Sheriff’s department. He should be suing each and every one of those involved in his case, as individuals, from the lowest rookie on the raid right up to the Sheriff himself.

    Sheri and Aunt Sue, you should do the same thing, sue each and every individual who was in on the planning and/or carrying out of the raid in which your loved one was killed. I believe that there is no charge for an initial consultation (about a lawsuit) with most attorneys, and the attorney’s fee and costs come out of the award, so ask for enough more than what you want to cover the attorney’s costs and fees (and make sure you get a hungry attorney).

  43. #43 |  Windy | 

    #26 In your sentence:
    “Of course, if we could sue cops like we can sue surgeons, there would be fewer mistakes.”
    you should have used the word “fewer” rather than “less”, just a nit I have to pick as that’s one of my pet peeves.

  44. #44 |  needer-needer | 

    Aptly named Windy: Begin your sentences with capital letters, insert commas within the close-quote-marks, refrain from employing a comma-splice, and insert a comma before your as if you’re intent on casting asparagus from glass housings.

  45. #45 |  Professor Coldheart | 

    The last line of the linked Washington Examiner article:

    ““In six years as the supervisor of the tactical section, I have led approximately 600 raids,” Sgt. Darin Magee, whose job was to lead the SWAT team to the correct apartment, said in a statement. “This is the first such error that I have made and I hope this will be considered when the situation is judged.””

    600 raids in 6 years is 100 raids per year. That’s roughly 2 SWAT team raids per week (taking out two weeks for vacation). Does that strike anyone else as a little much? Isn’t it time to mobilize the National Guard, declare martial law and confine citizens to their homes?

  46. #46 |  colson | 

    Isn’t it about time to come up with a drinking game for swat-induced “isolated incidences”?

  47. #47 |  J sub D | 

    Isn’t it about time to come up with a drinking game for swat-induced “isolated incidences”?

    Why do you hate my liver?

  48. #48 |  SJE | 

    #41: suing cops.

    I realize you can sue under sect 1983. It a high standard and expensive (Federal Court and all that), and runs up against qualified immunity, the funds of the FOP and the blue code of silence. Not so with surgical malpractice.

    I think that the market place makes my case for me.

    If you want to sue to cops, you probably need the ACLU or probono action from a big name law firm. Not a high chance of success. If you want to sue for medical malpractice, you will find lawyers lining up to take your case.

  49. #49 |  Aunt Sue | 

    Thanks for the in-put everyone! As far as suing my family did sue each officer individually & all but just a couple were thrown out. Sheri might want to expand on that. It was pathetic & the courts actions added insult to injury. It is my wish that all of the concerned folks who come to this site whether to post or because they have a personal story to tell would come together as one entity. The only way to have any effect at all on this continued outrage is to unite. We see it in other areas, different subjects why not us? I would be more than willing to work in that direction if we could unite. I threw everything I had into trying to vindicate Clayton I would do so in an attenpt to vindicate others as well. The only good that can come of Clayton’s death or the death of these other folks is to stop the killing now. The war must stop!

  50. #50 |  supercat | 

    wish they cared about the Second Amendment.

    They actively oppose it (see their response to Heller. Further, while citizens have a right and duty to resist patently unlawful actions by criminals (including government personnel), the ACLU seems to care nothing for that right. If government agents can commit with impunity arbitrary crimes against the citizenry, what rights of citizens remain meaningful?

    I’ll admit that the ACLU does occasionally do something good, but they ignore some of the most severe threats to individual liberties. Given some of the marginal cases they pursue, their claim that they have insufficient resources to deal with far more important issues rings hollow.

  51. #51 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I think the ACLU is, more often than not, on the libertarian side of an issue, but probably just barely. In any case, they piss me off almost as often as not.

    HERE they’re fighting the dress code of a private club in Kansas City because they say it discriminates against minorities whose rights, as we know, supersede the rights of property owners.

    I appreciate what they do in some cases, but some of their fundamental precepts are irreconcilable with libertarian principles.

  52. #52 |  Max D. | 

    Hope for some kind of compensation from individual officers?