SWAT Raid Roundup

Sunday, August 12th, 2012
  • 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.

 

–Radley

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29 Responses to “SWAT Raid Roundup”

  1. #1 |  Joshua | 

    “Was it serious? Yes. Was it malicious? No.”

    His lawyer thinks this is a good argument, but it isn’t. The verdict is in line with it not being malicious. Somebody who is grossly negligent should pay money. Somebody who is “malicious” should be in jail.

  2. #2 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

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

    We need to establish a new standard; if you are going to kick in somebody’s door and enter his home like Sherman entering Atlanta, you goddamned BETTER be perfect. If you don’t have absolutely everything lined up properly, then expect to be supporting the citizens you terrorized for the rest of your unnatural life.

  3. #3 |  Bergman | 

    “Was it serious? Yes. Was it malicious? No.”

    Given the way the feds are so eagerly deleting mens rea requirements from federal laws, not being malicious isn’t the protection it once was.

    I agree with Joshua: The award is perfectly proportional. Make a mistake without malice that causes great harm and pay money. Carry out exactly the same act out of malice and while you still might end up paying money in that case as well, you should be paying it from behind bars.

  4. #4 |  Burgers Allday | 

    I think in the St. Paul case the police are going to argue that they had the correct house because it is the one that the Confidential Informant identified. The police may even agree that the Confidential Informant made a mistake, but, if they do, they will likely argue that the mistake of the Confidential Informant is not something the police should be punished and/or liable for. If this is the way it plays out, the family might not make it past summary judgement phase.

    Also, since Franco got convicted, his false arrest and malicious prosecution claims will probably be Heck-barred and may not even make it past the pleadings phase.

  5. #5 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Re: Sikh temple shooting..
    I second Radley’s praise for the action’s of Lt. Murphy. Any person who attempts to stop a massacre, aids the injured and takes 8 bullets in the process deserves such praise.

    My father is a retired police officer. He was still on the job in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting. Before he retired, his department was sending officers through training that emphasized getting patrol officers to the suspect fast and eliminating the threat ASAP way before SWAT ever showed up.

    Killing or incapacitating one of these shooters is probably the only way to stop these events once the suspect starts killing. Since a large number of these mass killers commit suicide as police close in, there is no time to set up a perimeter or anything of that nature. That will only lead to high body counts, as we have seen. It will be up to patrol officers, on-site security or motivated private citizens to stop these suspects. SWAT should not be an immediate consideration.

  6. #6 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Even before I clicked over, it was pretty obvious that Cooper was a policeman– “handing over his badge and weapon.”

    It’s an unusual pleasure to some of the police officers have to pay punitive damages.

    I assumed that the informant deliberately targeted the home of a policeman. Am I expecting too much?

  7. #7 |  croaker | 

    Shiller thinks the cops have to pay punitive damages? That’s indemnified by union contract, or by union insurance. He needs to put down the crack pipe when talking to reporters.

  8. #8 |  Bob | 

    #6 Nancy Lebovitz

    I assumed that the informant deliberately targeted the home of a policeman. Am I expecting too much?

    You mean the one that probably doesn’t exist in the first place? Hell, this could also be a scam targeted at getting the union to pay the settlement. Although, that seems to be a long shot. More likely, this was the “Good cop” on the force, and this was their way of weeding him out.

    He might have caught on to the little “Confidential Informant that doesn’t exist” scam and was targeted for it.

  9. #9 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Bob, it’s so hard to tell when you’re being cynical enough and in the right direction.

    On reconsideration, I’m going with the boring option of the address being random (whether from an invented informant or someone who lied to stay out of jail) as most likely.

  10. #10 |  Bob | 

    #9 Nancy Lebovitz

    Bob, it’s so hard to tell when you’re being cynical enough and in the right direction.

    On reconsideration, I’m going with the boring option of the address being random (whether from an invented informant or someone who lied to stay out of jail) as most likely.

    You are probably correct. Ockham’s razor and all.

    All in all, the end causality here is probably just lax police policy. If your system is set up to allow short cuts like this, (No investigation, no need to document your informant, etc.) you advantage the people with the willingness to take those shortcuts. In a perverse way, that laxness is all win for the police, lots of raids means lots of police jobs and lots of overtime. Minimal investigation requirements means raids can be stacked up like cord wood waiting to be executed. It’s no longer about “justice” but about keeping the police machine busy and justifying increased budgets.

  11. #11 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    FBI sends an informant into a California mosque to act as an agent provocateur. This American Life covers the story of what happened when the mosque tried reporting the informant to the FBI:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/471/the-convert

  12. #12 |  SJE | 

    I doubt the outcome would have been so good for the family if the head of the house was not a cop.

  13. #13 |  SJE | 

    Also interesting that a police officer cannot distinguish between a police raid and armed criminals. I’d bring that up next time a home owner shoots a police officer in one of these ill-considered raids.

  14. #14 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @5 – Right, multiple shooters can never go wrong, when there’s no training or standards, in a situation which can tax Special Forces. Again…

  15. #15 |  SP | 

    “Yes your Honor, my client did shoot and kill 5 heavily armed police officers that burst into his home unannounced in the dark of night. Was it serious? Yes. Was it malicious? No.” Like that would ever fly. While the outcome of the actual case is some small consolation, I believe that the verdict was mainly based on the fact that the victim was a police officer.

    This incident, however, raises some interesting questions:

    Did the raiding officers check to see who the resident at this location was supposed to be?

    Why didn’t they just arrest him as he reported for work? This would have exposed less people to any potential violence. Oh that’s right, kids and pets are expendable.

    Will the lying officers be fired?

  16. #16 |  nigmalg | 

    Burgers,

    I think you’re right about the cops blaming the CI for the mistake. That’s why the defendants weren’t able to suppress the gun evidence. It was technically the “correct house”, at least according to the thorough and thoughtful investigation conducted by the crackhead.

    It’s a wonder why all raids don’t vest all responsibility to a confidential informant. It’s so much more convenient.

    *sigh*

  17. #17 |  Ed Kline | 

    I guess it’s ridiculous of me to think that judges shouldn’t be giving out search warrants on nothing but the tip of a CI. I have always wrongly thought that more evidence would be needed to justify allowing the state to just walk into citizens homes. We get the judges we deserve when we don’t hold them accountable for this kind of stuff.

  18. #18 |  Frank Hummel | 

    RE: Chicago raid

    A cops gets some taste of his own medicine. Good.
    Department and individual pigs get to pay punitive damages. Good.

    Too bad the wife and kids had to go thru the ordeal.

  19. #19 |  j a higginbotham | 

    off topic

    http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/police-stops-when-pulled-over-30186.html

    “If a police car is following you with its siren blaring or emergency lights flashing, pull over to the right safely and quickly. Pull over in a way that will be most likely to calm down an angry or annoyed traffic officer. Use your turn signal to indicate any lane changes from left to right, and slow down fairly quickly, but not so quickly that the officer will have to brake to avoid hitting you. Pull over as far to the right as possible so that, when the officer comes up to your widow,”

  20. #20 |  Burgers Allday | 

    I guess it’s ridiculous of me to think that judges shouldn’t be giving out search warrants on nothing but the tip of a CI. I have always wrongly thought that more evidence would be needed to justify allowing the state to just walk into citizens homes.

    This is an under-discussed point. Back when I went to law school they were called CRI’s for Confidential Reliable Informants because policemen generally considered that they had to make some kind of falsifiable showing that the informant was reliable. I think that warrant application papers still make a point of alleging that the informant is “reliable,” but it is no longer expected to be a falsifiable showing. Probably mostly a function of ex-prosecutors now overwhelmingly being the deciders on warrant applications.

    In the Chicago case, the policeman only won because the judge let the policeman explore the issue of the reliability of of the CI before trial. In the MN case, the judge might or might not let the family explore facts relating to the reliability of the CI (before trial and then during). I could definitely imagine the MN judge, when the time comes, saying, “plaintiffs have not presented any evidence to show that the CI was unreliable, so summary judgement on the issue of whether the warrant was obtained based on dishonest premises in violation of 4A.” Of course, plaintiffs can only show that the CI is unreliable (or non-existent) if the judge allows meaningful discovery on this issue. BTW, if it does go down that way in MN (and I hope it doesn’t), this actually would not be “qualified immunity.” It would simply be summary judgement based on “no Constitutional violation shown.”

  21. #21 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Oh, yes: hurrah for Lt. Murphy. Hero. Good on Mr. Balko for alerting us (I wasn’t reading about the Sikh shooting because I didn’t realize that there was anything at all interesting about it).

  22. #22 |  Collin | 

    21 comments to a link about a made up informant and no Fuzzy Dunlop reference?

  23. #23 |  Deoxy | 

    “Yes your Honor, my client did shoot and kill 5 heavily armed police officers that burst into his home unannounced in the dark of night. Was it serious? Yes. Was it malicious? No.”

    Legally speaking, if officers do a raid on the wrong house, wouldn’t it be entirely legal for the homeowner to kill them in self defense?

    I mean, they have no warrant and no exigent circumstances. Legally, how are they any different from home invaders?

    Yes, I know that, de facto, they are the nobility and we are the peasants, that the courts will find a way to make you pay. I’m talking about the actual law.

  24. #24 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Hard to have much sympathy for a cop who became a victim of the same tactics that non-cops are subjected to everyday. I’d be willing to bet he still doesn’t see much wrong with the practice aside from the fact that, since he’s a cop, it shouldn’t have happened to him.

  25. #25 |  Russ 2000 | 

    “Was it serious? Yes. Was it malicious? No.”

    If he hadn’t been playing on the side that tries every day to weaken the “malice aforethought” defense, he might have a point.

    Besides, half-assed police work IS malice aforethought.

  26. #26 |  bw1 | 

    Your challenge to guess Cooper’s occupation would play better if your excerpts didn’t mention his handing over his badge.

  27. #27 |  Defense against tyranny | Cryptic Philosopher | 

    […] College Station police now send SWAT teams to serve legal documents? It would not be unprecedented. Hopefully a revolution will not be started by gun-toting mouth breathers who can’t see past […]

  28. #28 |  Militant Libertarian » SWAT Raid Roundup | 

    […] from The Agitator […]

  29. #29 |  bruce strong | 

    now, if it were you or me that made such a mistake do you think we would get off with just a fine?
    until these police departments are held seriously to be responsible for their shoddiness this type of travesty will go on and on.
    we are all equal under the law. fairytale time.

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