Evansville SWAT Team Responds to Online Threats, Raids the Wrong House

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

First watch this breathless local news report, which includes video from the raid. The police shatter a window, then set off at least two flash grenades in the house—clearly before they could have any idea who or what might be inside. The family’s front door was actually already open. But what’s the fun in walking through an open door when you’re decked out in battle garb?

The raid was in response to some online threats made against police officers and their families. So in response to words, the police brought violence. And you wouldn’t know it from the fawning local news reporter in the link above, but yes, they brought that violence upon innocent people.

Stephanie Milan said she managed to remain calm because she knew her family hadn’t done anything wrong. Still, she was stunned and confused.

After speaking to Milan and her grandmother, Louise, police determined those inside the house had nothing to do with their investigation.

Police were executing a search warrant for computer equipment, which they said was used to make anonymous and specific online threats against police and their families on the website topix.com.

“The front door was open. It’s not like anyone was in there hiding,” said Ira Milan, Stephanie’s grandfather and owner of the property for many years. “To bring a whole SWAT team seems a little excessive.”

Ira Milan said the perpetrator of the threats likely used Stephanie’s Internet service connection from an outside location, which led police to the East Powell Avenue address.

But Police Chief Billy Bolin said, “We have no way of being able to tell that,” and the concerning Internet posts “definitely come back to that address.” . . .

Bolin said the SWAT team used its standard “knock and announce” procedure of knocking on the wall and repeating the words “police search warrant” three times before entering.

The police chief said the procedure doesn’t require officers to wait for a response.

“It’s designed to distract,” he said.

Note the complete lack of regret. Or even consideration of the possibility that they might have first considered the possibility that this was an open wireless connection, that the comments had been spoofed, or that they might have mistakenly traced an IP address to the wrong physical address.

Now, of course, everyone slips into bunker mode.

Police were executing a search warrant approved by a judge. Such warrants are routinely filed in the Vanderburgh County Clerks Office, but officials in the clerks office said Friday afternoon they had no record of a warrant served on that address.

When asked by the Courier & Press for access to the document that allowed them to force entry to the home, Bolin refused. He said it might contain information that would compromise their investigation. However, he said the document didn’t contain names of any suspects.

“We have an idea in our mind who it is, but we don’t have evidence yet,” Bolin said.

Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann also refused to release the warrant.

The Courier & Press filed Freedom of Information requests Friday afternoon seeking the document from the police department, clerk’s office and prosecutor’s office.

As of yesterday evening, the warrants had not yet been filed with the county clerk’s office. According to the Courier & Press, police and prosecutors are refusing to release them, even though state law apparently gives them no justification for keeping a warrant sealed once the search has been completed.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

34 Responses to “Evansville SWAT Team Responds to Online Threats, Raids the Wrong House”

  1. #1 |  nigmalg | 

    They’re making threats and we’re going to address that. We owe that to our families, to our children and to the community. We’re not going to let these types of people take over and have us scared in our own homes.

    Somebody call The Onion.

  2. #2 |  marie | 

    Bastards. And that goes for the local press, too.

  3. #3 |  Leo | 

    Bolin said the SWAT team used its standard “knock and announce” procedure of knocking on the wall and repeating the words “police search warrant” three times before entering.

    The police chief said the procedure doesn’t require officers to wait for a response.

    “It’s designed to distract,” he said.

    Designed to distract. Awesome. Thanks, U.S. Supreme Court

  4. #4 |  KR | 

    Oh, I’m sure it’s just an isolated incident.

  5. #5 |  GreginOz | 

    The surprise is not that “someone”made threats to the cops (by hacking wi-fi), the surprise is that no-one has yet killed a whole bunch of pig-ignorant Gummint thugs, who treat taxpayers like the serfs they resemble…

  6. #6 |  Evansville SWAT Team Responds to Online Threats, Raids the Wrong House | The Agitator #NoAgenda | Open Source Daily Source Code | 

    […] Evansville SWAT Team Responds to Online Threats, Raids the Wrong House | The Agitator. Share this:EmailDiggPrint Pin ItShare on TumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  7. #7 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Police were executing a search warrant for computer equipment, which they said was used to make anonymous and specific online threats against police and their families on the website topix.com….
    So they raid the wrong house, which will no doubt lead to
    more threats against police and their families. How very cyclical.
    Let the games begin…

  8. #8 |  Burgers Allday | 

    I’d like to know exactly what the “threats” were.

  9. #9 |  Bergman | 

    Designed to distract. Lovely. The reason they are supposed to announce their identities and the fact of the warrant is to allow people to comply with the lawful order, since resisting such a lawful search is a crime. But by only using such an announcement as a distraction or to confuse the victim, the police are essentially guaranteeing the validity of a self-defense plea when a cop gets shot and/or killed.

    Part of the job is serving the warrant. It’s the warrant that changes a home invasion robbery (felony) into a lawful act-of-government. If the target of the attack doesn’t know the warrant exists, then self-defense is justified, and is possibly even a citizen’s duty. Even if they know the people attacking are police. Likewise, not knowing if the people kicking your door in are police means the victim can only choose to be a citizen or to be a victim, self-defense laws are quite clear on the matter. There was an incident recently where at least one home invasion burglary team has started screaming “POLICE! SWAT RAID!” as they go in, so their victims won’t resist. Want to read something fascinating on the subject of resisting police? Google “John Bad Elk vs The United States.” The law that decision was based on has not changed one iota, and the Supreme Court has never reversed itself on that ruling.

    True, a SWAT raid is intended to apply overwhelming force, and one guy (or one family) against a SWAT team is at an extreme disadvantage for any resistance. But it can be done, and just like with SWAT teams, stacking the deck in your favor beforehand can make all the difference (doors that can’t be battering-rammed by anything short of an APC, A/V recorders that kick in on motion in the yard, windows they can’t throw grenades through, etc, etc).

  10. #10 |  marie | 

    Designed to distract. Everything they do is designed to distract. They choose to invade the home when kids are present precisely because they know the kids will be a distraction for the parents.

    Oh, I could go on. I have before; I will again. People need to know this shit happens…and it happens when it shouldn’t.

  11. #11 |  marco73 | 

    This takes SWATTING to a whole new level. Instead of calling 911 and saying “There’s someone shooting kids at 123 Elm Street!” the creep just has to immitate the IP address of his target/victim. Then use the stolen IP to make specific enough threats against some police and their familiy, and Viola! a SWAT team shows up at your intended target’s home.
    Nothing in the story rises technically above something a persisant 13 year old couldn’t accomplish in a couple hours.

    The cops would get a whole lot more cooperation from the locals if they just admitted they were had, and that the cops would now go full force against the real culprit. Circling the wagons and stonewalling the press just make the situation that much worse.

  12. #12 |  CB | 

    @#8 Burgers Allday >I’d like to know exactly what the “threats” were.

    Maybe that’s why the search warrant docs are sealed.

    >Stephanie Milan said she managed to remain calm because
    >she knew her family hadn’t done anything wrong.

    I guess her family doesn’t have any dogs!

  13. #13 |  croaker | 

    It’s long past time we started using USA PATRIOT against these domestic terrorists. Not the family, the SWAT tean and the butthurt police chief who ordered the attack.

    Round them up, strip them of citizenship, and farm their asses to a Turkish Prison to rot. Then round up their families. The real terrorists wear uniforms and collect government paychecks.

  14. #14 |  Fascist Nation | 

    Don’t leave your wifi open to hacking. While it may be your right to do so, it is unfortunately time and time again proven dangerous so long as brutal ruthless governments (are there any other kind) exist.

  15. #15 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Maybe that’s why the search warrant docs are sealed.

    Yeah. One latent joke here is that keeping the search warrants sealed will prevent the real target from knowing that they are looking for him.

    Ummmm, no. Not doing a SWAT raid on the wrong house might have prevented tipping off the real culprit (assuming there even is a real culprit). Sealing the search warrant accomplishes nothing because the SWAT raid with the tv crew let the proverbial cat out of the bag.

  16. #16 |  Quiet Desperation | 

    Is there an active brain cell in the police these days?

    Send a couple detectives over to ask questions. When it’s clear that the family there had nothing to do with it, try and setup something to catch the real perp should he connect to their wifi again.

    The police forces of the US are behaving like cults.

  17. #17 |  Andrew S. | 

    @Fascist Nation: Plenty of people still use WEP password protection (as a result of hardware limitations), which can easily be broken. IP addresses can be spoofed (especially if you want to SWAT someone without getting your hands dirty by having to use the telephone). Having protected WiFi isn’t always going to protect you.

  18. #18 |  el coronado | 

    Same shit, Different day. Every day/week/month/year, they ramp up the force level…just a little bit, but after awhile, it adds up. Mark my words, in 10 years or less, they’ll be using ‘flash’ RPG’s, and that knockout gas the Rooskis used in the Dubrovka Theater hostage situation – the one that only killed 1 in 3.

    Why? ‘Cause it’s FUN!! Also, because that’s how you train animals: incrementally. Sticks and carrots.

  19. #19 |  Personanongrata | 

    Ladies, gentlemen and children of all ages please return to your seats and tune in for the next installment of SWAT Clown Amateur Night in tonights episode on location in Vanderburgh County IN, starring the clowns of Evansville SWAT, co-starring the chair polishers at Vanderburgh County Clerks Office, directed by Police Chief Billy “Flash Bang” Bolin, rubber stamped by Vanderburgh Prosecutor Nick Hermann and last but not least brought to you by the everyday folks who pay their taxes and never question authority.

    Why didn’t the clowns at Evansville PD send over a uniformed officer who could then have knocked on the door like a human being?

  20. #20 |  StrangeOne | 

    @ Andrew S.

    Every kind of wi-fi can be hacked given a persistent attempt. I think your screwed either way. Don’t protect your wi-fi and the police will argue that you getting SWATed is the result of your negligence. Protect your wi-fi and the police will argue that had no reason to believe your wi-fi was hacked so they SWATed you.

    If the police gave any concern to catching the right people, then this wouldn’t happen at all, their is no justification for the raid in the first place. Either someone took proper precautions and wiped their hard drive, or they didn’t. You’ll find the same answer with two uniformed officers and a daylight search warrant. A minimal degree of investigation is all it takes to prevent this kind of “mistake”. People just need to realize the cops simply don’t care. Right house, wrong house, doesn’t matter. They’ll drag along a camera crew (an excellent sign of just how dangerous they really thought this was) and pat themselves on the back either way.

  21. #21 |  Personanongrata | 


  22. #22 |  Stevelaudig | 

    Evansville isn’t far from “Brazil”. Brazil Indiana that is. heh.

  23. #23 |  John Spragge | 

    Honestly, come on officers, learn a little about the secret life of Internet tough guy, like the rest of us who don’t get a search warrant every time some pissant in their parents’ basement makes a threat. As a helmet camera cyclist, I have had very specific threats where the Internet tough guy specified the exact make of truck and the type of tire they planned to squash me with. Neither I nor Ford Motor Company felt concerned enough to take out search warrants.

    And by the way, will somebody please let these fawning reporters know that reporting means finding stuff out, not simply repeating what the brave strong police force tells you.

  24. #24 |  A Critic | 

    ““We have an idea in our mind who it is, but we don’t have evidence yet,” Bolin said.”

    Ha! The collective has no mind.

  25. #25 |  Bobbi Kroll | 

    Of course police and their families need to be protected.
    But I had the (apparently incorrect?) understanding that
    police were GUARDIANS of public safety, first of all.
    I’d be very interested to know if police pay to repair the
    window and other damages.

  26. #26 |  Marty | 

    instead of ‘threat assessment’, they’re looking for ‘swat opportunities’.
    ever since Columbine and the unabomber, these idiots think everything that can go ‘boom’ is a nuclear bomb. even looking past the obvious totalitarian state issues, their techniques suck, the reporting sucks, and their justifications are lame.

  27. #27 |  Burgers Allday | 

    by the way, they have now given us an edited version of the suspect’s posts. The portion given is not a threat and also has been edited to try to make it look like a threat (which it does not even in its edited version.

    specifically, the supposed threat is: “I hate police of all kinds . . . I have explosives.”

    The dot, dot, dot is the editing to which I am referring. However, even this edited statement is not a threat, and it is likely even much less close to being a threat in its non-edited version.

  28. #28 |  Articles for Friday » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    […] Radley Balko: Evansville SWAT Team Responds to Online Threats, Raids the Wrong House […]

  29. #29 |  Evansville Police Unconcerned About Raiding the Wrong House | The Agitator | 

    […] has an update to the Evansville SWAT raid I posted about earlier this week. To recap, the police brought a SWAT team—and a TV crew—after someone posted a series of […]

  30. #30 |  The Anonymous Philosopher | 

    What surprises me, is that nobody has thought to ask the family that got raided, for a copy of the Search Warrant. The Police (Or as I oh-so-lovingly refer to the ones that enjoy the Robocop Mentality so much, Squeals-on-Wheels) are supposed to leave a copy of the warrant at the place they searched. Not only that, but the warrant is to list, in detail, places, items and persons to be searched as well. These warrants are supposed to be in great detail, so there’s no doubt exactly what is permissible for them to collect/seize. Key word there is “Supposed”. While the Police are negligent in many things, leaving a warrant behind is not usually one of them, because it covers their own a$$es. My wager would be, if they didn’t leave a copy of the warrant with the family, as the law proscribes they are to do, then there isn’t a warrant, and they’re scrambling to get a judge to sign a backdated one to put on file before people get too upset.

  31. #31 |  Is America a Police state? - Page 45 - Religious Education Forum | 

    […] Evansville SWAT Team Responds to Online Threats, Raids the Wrong House | The Agitator […]

  32. #32 |  Carl Weetabix | 

    Our local hospital has open WiFi. Hmmm… would they have done the same there?

  33. #33 |  anonymous | 

    Its a prank guys someone did it just to fuck around….

  34. #34 |  Randall H. Trantham | 

    I decided to web-search for anything related to “warrant backdating” and found this posting.

    Funny, in this nation, other than this posting, the only references to backdating are related to the SEC scandal and Indian law (not developed well yet in that country).

    I discovered firsthand six years ago the crookedness of the criminal “justice” system in a case where I was pulled from my home at gunpoint with no warrant presented or left. A warrant is referenced in the trophy press-release at the next publication opportunity, but one was not seen by me until six months after the incident.

    My attorney committed malpractice and collusion in order to protect police and their pursuit of retaining money seized from me (money legal and provable as such).

    In the Banana Republic of Louisiana our jurisprudence allows police not to even be required to present a warrant (officer safety by prioritizing a “protective sweep” and such), police do not even have to have a warrant in their possession (“misplacing” of the warrant is accepted), the affidavit is not required to be affixed to said warrant, and many other travesties.

    In this new millenium, the digital age, there is no reason for there not to be a digital paper trail of so-proffered warrant documents, and there should be video of the execution of said warrant. This will be a long time coming; legislative lawyers don’t want to impede the revenue flow.

    Oh, the old microfilm way of recording documents filed with the court; that is being phased out for bar-code stickers. Can you say manipulatable and not readily discerned by the common citizen?!

    Just thought you would appreciate my take. I do not hate lawyers, judges, and police; I just think they are all liars and crooks.

    Oh yes, look up the term “qualified immunity.” This is a real miscarriage vehicle in the cover-up efforts.

    One more thing: read the case State v Barrilleaux, 620 So. 2d 1317. This case law also shrouds illegal activity; the later-composed warrant claimed can now perform such functions as allowing illegal police activity to actually be omitted, with the explanation of “lack of knowledge.” Notice how the focus just went from no warrant at all to a warrant being improperly applied for. Show knowledge at your door by requesting a warrant and the “lost warrant” case kicks in.