BY CURT KOVENER
I am generally a law & order kind of fellow. I do my best to obey the speed limits. Stop at stop signs even out in the country at night. Of course, I’m paranoid enough to know that if no one is around and I roll through a stop sign, red and blue lights affixed to a hidden law enforcement vehicle will suddenly flash in my rear view mirror.
And that paranoia was bolstered last week when I read about a police department big-time boo-boo.
It seems on July 29 in Berwyn Heights, Maryland, a community of about 3,000 residents in Prince George County, the sheriff’s department was staking out the house of who they thought was a drug dealer.
Apparently several residents in the area had been victims of identity theft and drug suppliers in Arizona cooked up a plan where 32-pound boxes of marijuana would be shipped to unsuspecting victims. Parcels would be left by legitimate delivery men on the homes’ doorstep. Shortly the intended drug dealing recipient arrived as a fake delivery man dressed in the appropriate uniform and retrieve the package. It would all appear as normal.
But it seems the fly in the ointment occurred when the husband arrives home, sees a large parcel on his front steps addressed to his wife, picks it up, takes it inside. Then goes upstairs to change clothes so he can walk his two Labrador Retrievers.
Shortly, as he is stripped down to his boxers and socks, he hears his mother-in-law, who recently moved in with her daughter and husband, scream from the kitchen. She saw some heavily armed, non-uniformed men running through their backyard.
Seeing something like that I might scream, but it would probably be some multiple syllabled four letter epitaph.
When the heavily armed guys—who were members of the police SWAT team—heard the scream they knew their cover was blown and they no longer had the benefit of surprise on their side.
With no warning they break down the doors, tie up the mother-in-law at the kitchen table and handcuff the husband in his boxers and socks, thinking they had captured a drug dealer.
Then I read the part that really chapped my southern cheeks. Fearing for their lives from two Labs, they shoot the dogs. No pepper spray, no mace, no non-lethal method; just shot the pets. One dog hearing the loud noise was scared and started running away. They shot that dog from behind.
When the smoke cleared and some proper investigating had been down it was determined that:
•The tied up innocent victims were not drug dealers but victims of identity theft.
•The police claimed to have, but in reality did not have, a “No-Knock” warrant as they first explained. This will be found to be a very costly No-Knock No-No by law enforcement.
•In their investigation, police tracked the dogs’ blood throughout the house. Which is what the man’s wife walked in to see when she arrived home midway through the ordeal. In one news account, a previous pet shooting by the sheriff’s department during an investigation was revealed.
•The county sheriff’s SWAT team, under the excuse of confidentiality & security, did not notify the Berwyn Heights Police Department that they were staking out a home in their community. Had they done so, the Berywn Heights Chief of Police could have told the Sheriff’s Department that they were staking out the home of Cheye Calvo, the town’s mayor.
Yep, the innocent guy handcuffed in just his boxers and socks who just watched some storm troopers kill his two pets, was the elected leader of the community the SWAT guys wrongly invaded.
The Prince George County Chief of Police Mel High (an appropriate name considering what just occurred during this marijuana investigation) didn’t offer an apology “but did express regret about what happened.”
Hmmm…would that be regret his deputies violated the law, regret that there was no cooperation with the local police department which could have prevented the tragic embarrassment, regret that he is embarrassed that the town’s mayor and family was wrongly abused, or regret that two pet dogs whose breed is famous for nothing more threatening than aggressive licking were dead by his deputies’ hands?
The mayor contacted the FBI to investigate the sheriff’s department and has been granted a civil rights review by the FBI.
Prince George County Sheriff Michael Jackson (I don’t make this stuff up) said he was extremely upset that the mayor had contacted the FBI and his department would be investigated for civil rights violations.
“We’ve never been investigated by the FBI in the history of this department,” groused the sheriff.
I bet the mayor’s family has some of the same feeling, sheriff.