Ars 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 threats against cops on a Internet discussion board. They had the wrong house, apparently due to an unsecured wireless connection. Here’s what happened next:
. . . the cops did some more investigation and decided that the threats had come from a house on the same street. This time, apparently recognizing they had gone a little nuts on the first raid, the police department didn’t send a SWAT team at all. Despite believing that they now had the right location and that a threat-making bomber lurked within, they just sent officers up to the door.
“We did surveillance on the house, we knew that there were little kids there, so we decided we weren’t going to use the SWAT team,” the police chief told the paper after the second raid. “We did have one officer with a ram to hit the door in case they refused to open the door. That didn’t happen, so we didn’t need to use it.”
Their target appears to be a teenager who admits to the paper that he has a “smart mouth,” dislikes the cops, and owns a smartphone—but who denies using it to make the threats.
You’d think the fact that for the second house they decided not to send the SWAT team, and that the result wasn’t a massacre of police officers, well, you’d think that maybe they have learned something from all of this.
And you’d be wrong. Here’s the police chief’s justification for the flashbangs and full-on battle garb in the first raid:
The police chief said officers went to 616 East Powell because they had traced the violent threats against them to an IP address they linked to that street address. They “looked at the names associated with that (street) address,” Bolin said, and came up with a 21-year-old relative of the residents — a man of whom they later turned up troubling photographs.
“He was posing with a gun hanging out of his waistband and there’s another where he’s pointing the gun at the camera in gangster-type poses,” Bolin said.
The police chief acknowledged that the man, whom he declined to name, has only “some minor things in his past with the criminal system.”
Police surveilled the house at 616 East Powell and saw an 18-year-old girl — but not her grandmother — coming and going.
“But seeing her come and go could very well fit with, she may be the girlfriend of this guy or she may live there but that doesn’t mean he’s not up there,” Bolin said.
Bolin said the girl and her grandmother convinced police the man does not live with them and had nothing to do with making threats against officers.
Why did police toss flashbang stun grenades and break the storm door?
Bolin said police wanted the element of surprise against a man they thought could have been armed and dangerous.
“They were very serious threats, and then coupled with the picture of the guy that listed that as his address, we’re thinking you know, obviously the poster of those comments hates the police,” he said.
“We train with a SWAT team for a reason. This isn’t like a street fight where two guys bloody their lips. Our officers have families, and they want to go home at the end of the night. I mean, we don’t sign up for this to take a chance to get killed.”
Well, actually you do. That’s kind of the point of the SWAT team. Note too the “element of surprise” justification. When the suspect is a legitimate threat, that might make some sense. But when someone inside mistake the cops for criminal intruders and attempts to defend himself, “we need the element of surprise” changes to “he should have known we were cops.”
It’s one or the other. You can’t make both arguments.