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Officers raid wrong house - Resident says family traumatized
North County Times ^ | 5/7/05 | William Bennett

Posted on 05/25/2005 9:04:12 PM PDT by ambrose

Officers raid wrong house - Resident says family traumatized

By: WILLIAM FINN BENNETT - Staff Writer

MURRIETA ---- When Mapleton resident Rodolfo Celis heard a knock on his door last Saturday night, he said he never suspected anything was amiss.

That is, until he opened the door and looked down the barrel of a rifle.

Several Murrieta police officers then entered his home in the 33500 block of Eugenia Lane, he said. They herded the 54-year-old father and five of his family members, including two young children, into the living room and sat them on a couch at gunpoint, he added.

"They didn't even show me a warrant or ask permission, they just pointed rifles," Celis said, adding that the officers then proceeded to search the house and garage for a suspect and automatic weapons.

The six officers believed a parolee armed with automatic weapons was inside the home and that was the reason they entered the house without a warrant, Murrieta police Lt. Bob Davenport said Friday.

"He was considered armed and dangerous," Davenport said. And in cases of that type, a search warrant is not necessary, the lieutenant said, adding that "at some point," Celis gave them permission to search the remainder of the house.

There was just one problem. They had the wrong house.

The Celis home is next door to the house officers intended to search, Davenport said.

The events leading up to officers arriving at Celis' home began earlier Saturday. Murrieta officers received word that a black sport utility vehicle ---- with automatic weapons and other guns inside ---- was parked in front of a Temecula home. The report from their Temecula counterparts indicated that officers believed the vehicle belonged to an at-large parolee, who was listed as living at the house next door to the Celises in Murrieta.

When officers arrived on Eugenia around 9 p.m. Saturday, they thought that the man they were looking for was armed and dangerous. They counted the houses from the corner of Mapleton Street and Eugenia Lane and believed that the numbering sequence of the houses on the street indicated that Celis' house was the right address, although the darkness may have made it difficult to check the exact number on the house, Davenport said.

"They couldn't light it up with a flashlight to verify the numbers, because that would put them at a tactical disadvantage," he said.

As they walked toward what they thought was the right home, they saw a black sports utility vehicle parked in the driveway.

Asked whether the officers had checked to see if the license plate matched the one at the Temecula address, Davenport said he was not sure whether Murrieta officers had a license plate number for the SUV seen in Temecula.

The lieutenant said there was also some uncertainty as to whether the license plate number that was reported in fact belonged to the SUV or another vehicle that had been towed away from the same address about 30 days before. But the SUV did match the description of the one seen at the Temecula address, he said.

"All the SUV does is verify in their minds that they are at the right house," Davenport said. "It was just a piece, but not a critical part of the puzzle."

Officers also were suspicious when they heard people talking in the Celis' garage, he added.

"They assumed they had the right location," he said.

He confirmed that Celis told the officers that the man they were looking for, Johnny Lopez, 25, had never lived at his house. Celis told the officers that a man matching Lopez's description had lived next door.

"Not until they left the house did they realize that the address didn't match," Davenport said.

Celis said his family is still traumatized by what happened. The memory of having guns pointed at his entire family won't fade easily, he added.

His 15-year-old son was terrified, Celis said. Seeing the boy's fear that night, Celis said he felt powerless and mortified that he could do nothing to protect him.

"When I saw my son's face, I felt ashamed because I wasn't doing what a dad is supposed to do," Celis, 54, said. "I felt like I should have protected my kids."

Celis' son Rudy said that on the night of the raid, he came into the living room to see what the commotion was and, "they told me to put my hands up; they searched me and were asking, 'Where is Johnny Lopez?'"

Rudy's sister-in-law, Jennifer Celis, said she couldn't believe that the family was treated like common criminals.

"They were pointing rifles at us," she said.

When Jennifer asked the officers why they had come to their house, that night, "they kept telling us to shut up, shut up and wouldn't tell us what they were looking for."

Now, Celis is thinking about hiring an attorney to look into the matter, he said.

"I am not looking for any money, but I would like to at least alert the community so they know we're not criminals," Celis said. "I would like the Police Department, before they do something like that again, to make sure they are going to the right house."

He said he can't help but wonder whether the officers came to his home because his family is the only Latino family living on the street. A group of Latino people lived in the house where the officers were supposed to go Saturday night, Celis said. But he added that those people moved out of the neighborhood a few months ago.

"I think they saw my family coming in and out of the house and because we are the only Latino family on the block, they thought this was the place," he said.

Davenport denied that race played any role in what happened.

He said that when the officers approached the home, they had no idea that a Latino family was living there.

"Of course it was a mistake, but they were under the assumption that they were at the right house and were within their legal bounds," he said. "That's a mistake we will explain (to Celis) and apologize for; we are all human and are going to err on occasion."

Asked if the mistake will generate any policy or procedural changes within the department, Davenport said: "We are going to review what happened and make a decision on what to do in the future."

On Friday afternoon a police sergeant who participated in the search called Celis to apologize for the mistake.

"I accepted his apologies, but I keep thinking what would have happened if one of my kids had gotten scared and tried to run ---- somebody could have been shot," Celis said.

Contact staff writer William Finn Bennett at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2624, or wbennett@californian.com.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bang; blacksuv; donutwatch; evilsuv; leo; suvcrime
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1 posted on 05/25/2005 9:04:13 PM PDT by ambrose
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To: ambrose

Did the cops look like this?

2 posted on 05/25/2005 9:07:05 PM PDT by Max Flatow
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To: ambrose

We're from the government and we're here to help you.

3 posted on 05/25/2005 9:07:13 PM PDT by xrp (Fox News Channel should rename itself the Missing Persons Network)
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To: Max Flatow

heh...8 seconds apart!


4 posted on 05/25/2005 9:07:31 PM PDT by xrp (Fox News Channel should rename itself the Missing Persons Network)
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To: xrp

Beat you to it!


5 posted on 05/25/2005 9:07:44 PM PDT by Max Flatow
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To: ambrose
This sort of inexcusable bungling seems to be happening with increasing frequency. The post just preceding this one is about another mistake in a house raid. I had to look to make sure it wasn't a duplicate post. :-)
6 posted on 05/25/2005 9:08:29 PM PDT by drt1
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To: ambrose

Yikes. There would be hell to pay if that happened in my house.


7 posted on 05/25/2005 9:08:59 PM PDT by Fatigued Mother
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To: ambrose
"I accepted his apologies, but I keep thinking what would have happened if one of my kids had gotten scared and tried to run ---- somebody could have been shot," Celis said.

I'd eventually get around to thinking about the armed felon I didn't know I had for a next door neighbor. I'd thank the police and leave the attorney out of things.
8 posted on 05/25/2005 9:09:13 PM PDT by A Balrog of Morgoth (With fire, sword, and stinging whip I drive the Rats in terror before me.)
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To: ambrose
"They couldn't light it up with a flashlight to verify the numbers, because that would put them at a tactical disadvantage," he said.

So what kind of tactical advantage does one gain by raiding the wrong house?

9 posted on 05/25/2005 9:13:00 PM PDT by USNBandit (sarcasm engaged at all times)
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To: ambrose
I take issue with the headline. You know, most of us would read the "Officers raid wrong house" part and pretty much understand that the residents would be a tad bit traumatized.

What they need to be asking is "what steps are being taken to keep this from happening again?"

But hey...that would require solving a problem instead of milking the "outrage."

10 posted on 05/25/2005 9:13:59 PM PDT by pollyannaish
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To: ambrose
Asked if the mistake will generate any policy or procedural changes within the department, Davenport said: "We are going to review what happened and make a decision on what to do in the future."

Why should a cop who conducts a raid which is not even facially authorized by a warrant be regarded as anything other than an armed home-invasion robber? Start holding cops accountable and I don't think it will take long before they start insisting upon checking certain details of any raid in which they take part.

11 posted on 05/25/2005 9:20:28 PM PDT by supercat (Sorry--this tag line is out of order.)
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To: A Balrog of Morgoth

I agree with you. Murrieta/Temecula are my neighbors and are growing cities. It seems crime is increasing or just being reported on more. Yes, mistakes happen. I'm sure these officers aren't laughing about it. I'm a bit defensive about our law enforcement because of the local news always showing certain groups of people coming down on our officers when they injure a criminal by defending themselves. My local news is all Los Angeles. These officers are damned if they do and dead if they don't.


12 posted on 05/25/2005 9:26:17 PM PDT by CaliGirl-R
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To: ambrose

Well, at least they knocked this time. Now, if they could only work on the part where they show the warrant, explain why they are there, and double-check the address, folks would be a lot less edgy.


13 posted on 05/25/2005 9:27:01 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: ambrose
"Sorry citizen ...thought you were someone else."

One of these days a SWAT member is going to get one right between the headlights from a homeowner who believes their house is under assault by home-invasion robbers.

I don't know what a distict attorney would do to the poor bastard who unwittingly kills a cop under such circumstances, but I certainly have my suspicions.

14 posted on 05/25/2005 9:28:51 PM PDT by The KG9 Kid (Semper Fi!)
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To: The KG9 Kid

If that happened the DA wouldn't have to worry, the occupants would all be dead.


15 posted on 05/25/2005 9:44:14 PM PDT by eastforker (Under Cover FReeper going dark(too much 24))
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To: The KG9 Kid
One of these days a SWAT member is going to get one right between the headlights from a homeowner who believes their house is under assault by home-invasion robbers.

Why are cops who raid a home in a manner which is not even facially justified by a warrant regarded as anything other than home-invasion robbers?

16 posted on 05/25/2005 9:49:15 PM PDT by supercat (Sorry--this tag line is out of order.)
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To: The KG9 Kid

There was a case in Malibu several years back... Man woke up to hear people busting into his house. He pulled out his gun and went to see what was happening... The intruders wwere cops, serving a warrant based on a bogus claim that there was pot at the house. Cops shot the homeowner dead.

LA District Attorney refused to prosecute. The Ventura District Attorney investigated and determined that the cops raided the home out of a desire to seize it for cash (police departments get to keep the proceeds from drug related seizures)


17 posted on 05/25/2005 9:55:40 PM PDT by ambrose (NEWSWEAK LIED .... AND PEOPLE DIED)
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To: ambrose
I think I remember that incident. The police were (and probably still are) free to use their SWAT weapons to collect revenue to fund... well, more SWAT weapons for one thing.

This is not the country I grew up in.

18 posted on 05/25/2005 10:07:25 PM PDT by The KG9 Kid (Semper Fi!)
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The police dept is lucky that noone was injured as a result of their screw up.

Personally, I think a little bit more information than "a black SUV in the driveway" is needed.

How many black SUV's are there in any given neighborhood? My neighbors on both sides each have black SUV's! LOL

Make/model, tag, address. If their family's lives depended on this information being known...they'd find a way to confirm it.

19 posted on 05/25/2005 10:15:57 PM PDT by TNdandelion
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To: ambrose

A million dollars for everyone in the house is a good start at an apology.


20 posted on 05/25/2005 10:21:48 PM PDT by KingNo155
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To: A Balrog of Morgoth
I'd eventually get around to thinking about the armed felon I didn't know I had for a next door neighbor. I'd thank the police and leave the attorney out of things.

if you have ever had anything like this happen to you or to someone dear to you, you might not get around to thanking the police... you would feel horrible... helpless... furious...

21 posted on 05/25/2005 10:24:17 PM PDT by latina4dubya
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To: ambrose

Cops are out of control, period.


22 posted on 05/25/2005 10:28:44 PM PDT by Ursus arctos horribilis ("It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!" Emiliano Zapata 1879-1919)
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To: supercat
"Why should a cop who conducts a raid which is not even facially authorized by a warrant be regarded as anything other than an armed home-invasion robber? Start holding cops accountable and I don't think it will take long before they start insisting upon checking certain details of any raid in which they take part."

Exactly. I can not believe the people who are posting the family should be grateful the police TRIED to raid a criminal's house and instead terrorized a citizen and his family.
Pathetic. I think this is exactly WHY we have a constitution and this country. King George and ilk were doing this sort of stuff so the founders left and came to America to get away from that..
According to Jefferson the rule of law applies even more to the government than the individual citizen. I hope they sue and win big.
23 posted on 05/25/2005 10:30:45 PM PDT by JSteff
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To: JSteff

"Uncle Joe" Stalin would be pleased. He would admire today's American (or anti-American, as the case may be) police.


24 posted on 05/25/2005 10:40:50 PM PDT by henderson field
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To: shotokan

FYI

At least no one was killed. If they were the Swat boys are above the law and would not be charged. This type of shit is going to ruin the moral authority of the real police.


25 posted on 05/25/2005 10:50:39 PM PDT by Nov3 ("This is the best election night in history." --DNC chair Terry McAuliffe Nov. 2,2004 8p.m.)
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To: latina4dubya

>>When Jennifer asked the officers why they had come to their house, that night, "they kept telling us to shut up, shut up and wouldn't tell us what they were looking for." <<

This would be, to me, the most frustrating part of the entire issue. Tell me to shut up in my own home and I promise you will be explaining it to my attorney!

Just because you have a badge is not any reason not to show me your warrant and explain quickly why you entered my home without my permission. The moment I told you that you have the wrong address, I would expect you to verify it and then immediately cease all operations, apoplogize and get the hell out.

Keeping me in the dark while you (the police) romp through my home will never be acceptable to me! Every minute that you continued will be money from your budget to mine.


26 posted on 05/25/2005 10:51:19 PM PDT by B4Ranch ( Report every illegal alien that you meet. Call 866-347-2423, it's a FREE CALL)
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To: ambrose
Yep, that was a clear cut case of government sponsored murder if there ever was one. The Forest Service wanted his land, and he refused to sell. So, the Forest Service bogused up a 'tip' that there was pot growing on the property.

Here's something most people don't know about that case.

After the homeowner died, his house burned down under suspicious circumstances and his widow all of a sudden decided to accept the Forest Services generous offer to buy the now uninhabited land.

Funny, eh?

L

27 posted on 05/25/2005 11:03:53 PM PDT by Lurker (Remember the Beirut Bombing; 243 dead Marines. The House of Assad and Hezbollah did it..)
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To: All
The police say they were within their rights even though they made a mistake. They are wrong. The probably cause they used was only good for the correct residence. They didn't have probable cause to enter the incorrect residence and in fact required a warrent or permission to enter. They violated this families civil rights and should be brought to task for it.

IMO probable cause is unconstitutional, I don't see anywhere in the bill of rights that states they can enter without a warrent, this is another right usurped by judges.

Also the part about the SUV, when they said it was only a "piece" of the puzzle and wasn't critical, it was the only pie ce they had and was most certainly critical. Not knowing the license plate number and not checking it if they did know is inexcusable.

While I fully support our police I do not see these things as human mistakes "that we all make". Cops are like doctors, when they make mistakes people sometimes die, they can't afford to make mistakes and then pass it off as just another day's work. This is BS.

28 posted on 05/25/2005 11:05:50 PM PDT by calex59
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To: Blue Jays
Hi All-

"..."They couldn't light it up with a flashlight to verify the numbers, because that would put them at a tactical disadvantage, he said..."


Who says you need flashlights? Just walk across the lawn in pure darkness and read the number on the side of the house or on the mailbox...there is enough ambient light in virtually any part of our country to do that.

On second thought...nah. Just point loaded rifles at completely innocent people instead. All citizens should know by now to use glow-in-the-dark paint on house numbers or to illuminate them with 500-watt spotlamps around the clock. [/sarcasm]

~ Blue Jays ~

29 posted on 05/25/2005 11:06:24 PM PDT by Blue Jays (Rock Hard, Ride Free)
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To: The KG9 Kid

"Sorry citizen ...thought you were someone else."

Sorry, cops have never heard of the word "citizen." You're a "subject"


30 posted on 05/25/2005 11:08:16 PM PDT by agitator (...And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark)
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To: Blue Jays
On second thought...nah. Just point loaded rifles at completely innocent people instead. All citizens should know by now to use glow-in-the-dark paint on house numbers or to illuminate them with 500-watt spotlamps around the clock. [/sarcasm]

Yeah, maybe we should all have glow in the dark license plates also, and have 5 foot numbers on the side of our houses so the cops can see them better, or an audio that would anounce the street number every 30 seconds, that might work.

31 posted on 05/25/2005 11:10:19 PM PDT by calex59
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To: Blue Jays

What about us that don't have street numbers? }:^)


32 posted on 05/25/2005 11:14:08 PM PDT by Roccus (Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati)
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To: ambrose

For a conservative news forum, it's amazing how few realize the close connection with Gestapo raids like these with no legal consequences whatsoever and the war on drugs. It's all one and the same. RICO and forfeiture laws, disregard for legal constraints on searches and seizure, a booming prison industry and very little being done to stop it. Quite lucrative if you get into the food chain at the right point. A big dirty money circle. And today it might be drugs. Tomorrow it might be the Smith & Wesson you keep in your nightstand. Governments constantly test their populace to see what they'll put up with.


33 posted on 05/25/2005 11:15:53 PM PDT by SpaceBar
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To: calex59
Hi Calex59-

Oh yeah, I almost forgot...

Each home needs a 12' x 12' black square painted on the roof with the house number printed in 10' fluorescent yellow numerals inside. Makes it easier for the chopper to shine the floodlights from above. ;-)

~ Blue Jays ~

34 posted on 05/25/2005 11:17:47 PM PDT by Blue Jays (Rock Hard, Ride Free)
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To: ambrose
"They couldn't light it up with a flashlight to verify the numbers, because that would put them at a tactical disadvantage," he said.

Like raiding the WRONG house and making a boatload of noise and disturbing people in the WRONG HOUSE isn't going to tip off the bad guy ??

Idiots.

35 posted on 05/25/2005 11:23:34 PM PDT by Centurion2000 ("THE REDNECK PROBLEM" ..... we prefer the term, "Agro-Americans")
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To: pollyannaish
What they need to be asking is "what steps are being taken to keep this from happening again?"
 
restoration of constitutional government for starters?
36 posted on 05/25/2005 11:25:09 PM PDT by tomakaze (Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum.)
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To: B4Ranch
Keeping me in the dark while you (the police) romp through my home will never be acceptable to me! Every minute that you continued will be money from your budget to mine.

i just don't get it when people pretty much accept anything and everything the police do... i am grateful to the police... they've come to my aid at different times... most that i've met have been decent... but i'm not going to thank them when they mess up badly...

37 posted on 05/25/2005 11:39:13 PM PDT by latina4dubya
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To: JSteff
"...I think this is exactly WHY we have a constitution...

We do??? Oh yes... that "doormat" that legislators, law enfarcement and many others wipe their feet on and scoff at.
38 posted on 05/25/2005 11:45:50 PM PDT by Outland (Some people are damned lucky that I don't have Bill Gates' checkbook.)
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To: ambrose; Chapita; Squantos; Travis McGee
They couldn't light it up with a flashlight

I have night vision with in-fared, I sure the elite cops can afford them too.

The authorities excuses are getting weaker and weaker as the mistakes pile up.

39 posted on 05/26/2005 1:34:47 AM PDT by razorback-bert
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To: ambrose
re: There was a case in Malibu several years back... Man woke up to hear people busting into his house. He pulled out his gun and went to see what was happening... The intruders wwere cops, serving a warrant based on a bogus claim that there was pot at the house. Cops shot the homeowner dead.
LA District Attorney refused to prosecute. The Ventura District Attorney investigated and determined that the cops raided the home out of a desire to seize it for cash (police departments get to keep the proceeds from drug related seizures)

 
I remember that one.
Government agencies were interested in the property of this reclusive millionaire. A warrant was issued based on concocted "evidence" of supposed marijuana plantings, and a major raid was conducted with a 32-man assault team. Scott was shot to death in front of his wife. No drugs were found.
A later official report found: "It is the District Attorney's opinion that the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department was motivated, at least in part, by a desire to seize and forfeit the ranch for the government. Based in part upon the possibility of forfeiture, Spencer obtained a search warrant that was not supported by probable cause. This search warrant became Donald Scott's death warrant."
(excerpt from the 1st link that popped up on google. more information linked below)
 
How a 32-Man Assault Team Murdered Donald P. Scott at Trails End Ranch
 
40 posted on 05/26/2005 2:00:11 AM PDT by tomakaze (Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum.)
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To: ambrose
this is more complete i think.
41 posted on 05/26/2005 2:09:37 AM PDT by tomakaze (Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum.)
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To: razorback-bert

Years ago, we had enough sense to contact the mail man to point out the right house. It worked in white neighborhoods as well as non-white locales.


42 posted on 05/26/2005 2:12:02 AM PDT by Chapita (There are none so blind as those who refuse to see! Santana)
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To: ambrose
They couldn't light it up with a flashlight to verify the numbers, because that would put them at a tactical disadvantage," he said.

Yeah, their disadvantage weighed against the LETHAL DANGER they put an innocent family in. Maybe someone should inform the cops that taking risks in defense of innocent citizens is all part of their job.

Let's just hope no officers were traumatized in this incident.

43 posted on 05/26/2005 2:18:40 AM PDT by ARepublicanForAllReasons (Don't worry. My suit is triple-flameproof)
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To: ARepublicanForAllReasons
Let's just hope no officers were traumatized in this incident.

I know you're being sarcastic.. but every once in a while, a cop does get busted for abusing his authority... so guess what the cop does then? He goes on permanent disability for "stress" !!!!

44 posted on 05/26/2005 2:23:52 AM PDT by ambrose (NEWSWEAK LIED .... AND PEOPLE DIED)
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To: SpaceBar
I agree with your post. But, don't forget how all the local police departments were more than eager to get a piece of the war on terror money. Now the police can buy more goodies and look more para-military.

Don't you fell safe from terrorists, knowing that your local police dept has some shiny new APCs?

45 posted on 05/26/2005 2:37:15 AM PDT by dc27
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To: ambrose

Nail every one of the cops who organized and led this raid to a wall. Bursting into the wrong house is like operating on the wrong patient. I have no sympathy nor any patience with such ineptitude and one mistake like this is enough, in my view, to disqualify these cops from ever serving in law enforcement.


46 posted on 05/26/2005 2:37:28 AM PDT by muir_redwoods (Free Sirhan Sirhan, after all, the bastard who killed Mary Jo Kopeckne is walking around free)
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To: dc27
fell = feel

Late night freeping

47 posted on 05/26/2005 2:38:06 AM PDT by dc27
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To: ambrose

Breaking and entering, false imprisonment, and using a fire arm in the commission of a felony.

You lock up a few "wrong house" jackboot LEO's with their badge in hand, this crap will come to a screaching halt.

The standard MO for this BS =
A few broken doors and maybe a few windows, a few dead pets, a completely botched attempt at apprehending a bad guy and volumns of trampled constitutional rights, terrified citizens with mental scars worth years of therapy and when lucky you get to live, with an apology and a warning not to disguise your house again to look just like your neighbors in moon light.

Welcome to Germany 1941.


48 posted on 05/26/2005 2:44:43 AM PDT by JoeSixPack1
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To: drt1

Chalk up the increasing errors to hiring diversity.
Quotas.


49 posted on 05/26/2005 3:00:02 AM PDT by Joe Boucher (an enemy of islam)
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To: The KG9 Kid

"I don't know what a distict attorney would do to the poor bastard who unwittingly kills a cop under such circumstances, but I certainly have my suspicions."

The lefties would have a field day, claiming this to be a perfect example of why citizens should not bear arms.


50 posted on 05/26/2005 3:05:21 AM PDT by redfreedom
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