In the United States, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not the police force has become too militarized. A lot of current police officers are former military men, which may explain the attitude that a number of cops have. These men have the training to use the military equipment provided to them. That said, there’s no reason for SWAT teams to have access to tanks and other military vehicles to use during drug raids.
Along with the use of former military equipment, a number of police departments have been criticized for their use of military tactics. A hugely controversial tactic is a no-knock raid. This tactic involves police officers not announcing their presence and just breaking into a home. No-knock raids are typically used when searching for drugs, as it doesn’t give potential criminals time to hide any evidence. For homeowners, this can be misconstrued as a criminal breaking into their home, and oftentimes, people try to defend themselves from the raid. Sometimes, people are genuinely trying to resist arrest, but other times, people are trying to protect themselves and their family.
In a country filled with so many guns, it can be dangerous for police units to enter the homes of suspects. When breaking down the door, they don’t know who or what is waiting for them on the other side. They don’t take any chances — they shoot first and ask questions later.
Despite all the training that police departments offer their SWAT teams, raids can still go south. Unpredictable events are bound to happen — but sometimes, the police teams don’t react as well as they could have. Here are 15 examples of police raids that went horribly wrong.
15. Judy Sanchez — Wrong Apartment
The two-year investigation into a drug- and weapons-dealing operation lead was planned to end with a no-knock raid on an apartment in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The FBI chainsawed (what?) through the door of Judy Sanchez’s apartment and held her at gunpoint for 30 minutes. During the raid, Sanchez’s three-year-old daughter witnessed the entire ordeal, terrified about what was happening to her mother.
According to Sanchez, she tried telling the FBI (while they sawed through her door) that they had the wrong apartment. She thinks she told them over fifty times, but they continued with the raid anyway.
After holding her at gunpoint for 30 minutes, the FBI realized that they really did have the wrong apartment. They’re planning on reimbursing Sanchez for the door, though she says that she and her daughter now have trouble sleeping at night. Sanchez sleeps with a baseball bat near her bed. Not sure if that will do much the next time the FBI comes to her door with a chainsaw, though.
14. Thomas Torres — Police Broke Wrong Guy’s Arm And Laughed At Him
A state police raid went horribly wrong after it left the 54-year-old resident, Thomas Torres, hospitalized despite police finding no evidence of drugs. According to reports, police broke down the door of Torres’s first-floor apartment, punched him in the face, stomped on his head, and laughed at him as they searched through his apartment for drugs.
Torres tried to jump out the window to escape and continued to resist officers’ efforts to detain and handcuff him. As anyone who has been raided will say, Torres told police that they had the wrong guy. Police were unable to locate anything illegal in his apartment and released him to the hospital where he was treated for a fractured arm.
Do you think the police officers felt silly for laughing at him, or do you think that this type of thing happens all of the time in America? We can only imagine how frustrated Torres must have been while pleading with police to stop tearing apart his home. Hopefully, the police covered his medical expenses!
13. Grandma Spaulding — Slammed Into A Wall To Find Stolen Xbox
WHOTV in Des Moines, Iowa, reported that Matthew Spaulding and his family were terrorized inside their home by police that were looking for a stolen Xbox. Allegedly, police officers slammed his grandmother into the wall and slammed his father on the ground.
Slamming an elderly woman against a wall isn’t even the worst thing that the police did during the raid. Matthew Spaulding told reporters that police demanded he get on the ground, and they put him in handcuffs. According to Spaulding, his dog, Sadie, was sniffing his head as he lay on the ground. Police shot the dog as she was next to her owners, with her blood spraying onto his face as he lay helpless on the ground. His dog took off running, and the police shot her a few more times, killing her.
12. Tracy Lee Ingle — Got Into A “Shootout” With Police
Tracy Lee Ingle woke up to the sound of someone breaking down the door of his home and a number of people outside of his bedroom window, shattering it. He thought he was being attacked by armed robbers, so he reached for a broken gun, but when he did so, an officer inside the house fired his weapon, hitting Ingle above the knee. When the officers outside heard the first shot, they, too, fired on Ingle, hitting him four more times.
The no-knock raid was executed with the hopes of shutting down a drug operation believed to be running out of Ingle’s home. Despite not finding drugs in the home, police charged Ingle with running a drug enterprise because they found a scale and a number of small plastic bags in his home.
11. Henry Magee — Killed Cop & Got Away With It
Everything’s crazier in Texas. There’s a law in Texas that allows property owners to shoot people in order to protect their property and family from intruders. This law was tested in 2013 when Henry Magee shot and killed Burleson County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Sowders during a no-knock raid on his mobile home.
Magee admitted that he had shot the Deputy in court but said that he was firing from his home to protect his pregnant girlfriend and himself from someone that he thought was breaking into his home.
The grand jury responsible for his case decided that there simply wasn’t enough evidence against Magee for him to stand trial for a capital murder charge. However, the jury indicted him for the less than five pounds of marijuana plants found growing inside of his mobile home. He was indicted for possessing marijuana while in possession of a deadly weapon, which is a felony drug charge.
10. Kathryn Johnston — Wrongly Raided And Killed
In what can only be described as a botched drug raid, three undercover officers cut off burglar bars and broke down 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston’s door using a no-knock warrant. Police stated that Johnston fired at them (probably thinking they were robbers), and they opened fire.
The officers fired 39 shots, five or six which hit her. None of the officers were hit by Johnston’s gunfire; however, the officers were injured after the altercation. These injuries were attributed to “friendly fire” from each other’s weapons.
An investigation into the raid revealed that the officers had planted marijuana in Johnston’s house after the altercation. Furthermore, the paperwork stating that drugs were present in her house and was used to obtain the warrant for the raid had been falsified. Officers had lied about the cocaine they submitted as evidence by claiming they had bought it at Johnston’s house.
The three officers were tried for manslaughter and other charges surrounding the falsification of the raid and were sentenced to ten, six, and five years. Johnston’s family were awarded $4.9 million in 2010 as part of a settlement agreement with the Atlanta Police Department.
9. Dwayne Perry — Wrong Plant
In 2014, Georgia police officers took to the skies to look for marijuana plants. They meticulously tracked down a man, Dwayne Perry of Cartersville, Georgia, whom they believed they saw watering marijuana plants.
Perry said that he noticed the helicopter flying over his home. He tried not to think too much about it, but what was happening dawned on him when police officers and a canine unit appeared on his doorstep.
Instead of finding marijuana, police officers discovered that Perry was watering his okra plant. The plants look somewhat similar, and while one is illegal, the other is an ingredient in gumbo that is deliciously legal.
8. Joshua Peters — Swatted
In the world of professional streamers, getting visits from the police has become a regular occurrence. The prank, referred to as “Swatting,” usually happens when a viewer finds out the address of a streamer. This viewer then calls the police, making up some sort of emergency, which results in a number of armed police officers racing to the streamer’s house and interrupting their live stream.
One of the most famous instances of a streamer getting swatted happened in 2015 to Joshua Peters, aka KoopaTroopa787. While streaming on Twitch with his noise-cancelling headphones on, he didn’t hear 10 armed police officers enter his home. He only realized that he was being swatted when his mother called up to him, which was picked up by the microphone on his headset.
Peters, who was on the verge of tears, told his stream that officers had a gun pointed at the head of his little brother during the ordeal. He called out the prankster on his stream in a video where he said that his family could have been seriously hurt during the raid. He said he had no problems with people targeting him but asked pranksters to leave his family out of it.
Peters later revealed that someone had called the St. Cloud Police Department, the police department where Peters lives, and told officers that someone had shot the caller’s roommate and at that point had the gun pointed the gun at him. The caller gave Peters’s address, and before the call ended, police heard two gunshots from the other end. Naturally, the police rushed to the scene.
7. Thomas & Darren Russell — Dog Murdered For No Reason
Two teenage brothers, Thomas and Darren Russell, were victims of a raid in 2009. Officers announced they had a warrant to search both units of the flat that they lived in. 18-year-old Thomas Russell opened the door and asked the officers, who had their guns drawn, if he could lock up his 9-year-old dog, Lady, before the officers searched the apartment.
Officers refused the request and entered Thomas’s flat. Soon after, the dog ran around the corner of the flat with her tail wagging. One of the officers, Richard Antonsen, shot Lady, killing her. Thomas Russell was arrested and charged with obstructing police but was found not guilty in court. No drugs were found in his apartment. However, police found drugs in the other unit of the building.
The Russells launched a lawsuit against the police department, claiming excessive force, false arrest, and illegal seizure for taking the dog’s life. Any dog owner would go ballistic if the police killed his family companion. It’s a shame that this seems like it’s a fairly common occurrence. Tthe family was awarded $333,000 for the death of Lady.
6. Judge Ilona Holmes — Police Standoff At Wrong Address
You would think that while planning a raid, officers would ensure that they were going to be raiding the correct address. You would think that someone would do a quick fact check or surveillance of the property to confirm that the suspect lives on that property. That isn’t always the case.
Broward Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes, her sister, and her sister’s family were ordered at gun point by several Broward Sheriffs Deputies on an Easter Sunday to step outside with their hands up.
When Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes stepped outside, she announced who she was and that she was armed. Her, her sister, and her sister’s family exited the home through a side door. Police demanded that she put the gun down and had their own guns drawn and pointed at her.
Judge Holmes put the gun on the grass and announced her every move to police. She had her cell phone in her other hand, and as she leaned down to place it on the ground, police yelled at her to step away from the gun. She told police to calm down and that she was simply putting her phone down.
Soon after she dropped her phone, one of the higher-ranking sheriff’s deputies recognized her, and the whole situation deescalated. I bet those officers had a whole lot of a** kissing to do after that.
5. Eurie Stamps — Shot As He Lay Face Down Complying To Police Orders
On January 5, 2011, police in Framingham, Massachusetts, conducted a drug raid on an apartment. They were looking for 20-year-old Joseph Bushfan and Dwayne Barrett. Bushfan was arrested before the raid began as he walked out of the apartment, which he did not live in. The apartment belonged to 68-year-old Eurie Stamps and the mother of Joseph Bushfan, Norma Bushfan-Stamps.
Police began the raid and ordered Eurie Stamps to lay in the hallway, face-down, with his arms over his head. He complied and wasn’t giving the officers any problems. He wasn’t even a suspect in the case. He just happened to live in the apartment that police were raiding.
Officer Paul Duncan saw Stamps laying on the ground, complying with police orders, and decided to take it upon himself to restrain Stamps further. As he tried to pull Stamps’s arms behind him, Officer Duncan fell backward, causing his gun to discharge, shooting Stamps.
Despite the fact that an innocent, unarmed person, was shot dead in his own home while complying with police orders, no charges were filed.
4. Walter & Rose Martin — Accidentally Raided Over 50 Times In 8 Years
Can you imagine being regularly raided by police, sometimes as often as three times in a single week? It would be absolute torture — but I wonder if you would get used to it. Would you get used to it and think “not this again,” or would the surprise of police banging on your door scare the hell out of you every time?
We could always ask Walter and Rose Martin, an elderly, law-abiding couple, who were raided by police more than 50 times over 8 years. According to police, Walter and Rose Martin’s Brooklyn home had been used to test a department-wide computer system in 2002. This led to a glitch, which caused police to believe that there were murderers, robbers, and rapists living in the Brooklyn home.
3. Aiyana Stanley-Jones — Shot While She Lay Asleep On Couch
The death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones was a hugely controversial case and is often cited in arguments that police in the United States have become too militarized. On May 16, 2010, 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was shot as she slept on a sofa inside of her home on the east side of Detroit.
Police were raiding her home in an operation designed to arrest her uncle, who lived in the apartment upstairs. Her uncle was the main suspect in the murder of a teenager a few days prior to the raid.
Officer Joseph Weekley was the first to enter the home seconds after a flashbang grenade was thrown inside. The grenade caused Aiyana’s blanket to catch fire, and Weekley fired one shot through the child’s head. He claimed it was an accident and said that Aiyana’s grandmother had caused the fatal shot because she was wrestling with him at the start of the raid. The grandmother, Mertilla Jones, claimed she was pleading with officers to let her grab her granddaughter from the couch before they raided the home. An A&E film crew captured the entire raid as they were filming a reality television show at the time.
2. Police Team Accidentally Use Flashbang Grenade On Baby
There are too many innocent victims during police raids. With the amount of training that officers have, you would think that they could pull off an operation without any collateral damage. But that isn’t the case. Do officers need more training to pull off these military style raids?
A case that has stood out in my mind as one of the worst executions of a SWAT raid happened in 2014. A Georgia SWAT team from the Cornelia Police Department entered the residence of Wanis Thonetheva on May 28. When officers tried to break down the door, they realized it was blocked by something on the other side. One of the officers threw a flash-bang grenade into the residence. When officers entered the home, they discovered a portable playpen was blocking the door, and the flash-bang grenade landed where a 19-month-old was sleeping.
The grenade seared a hole through the portable playpen after exploding on the child’s pillow. The baby had his face ripped open and a large wound on his chest. Wanis Thonetheva was not in the home at the time of the raid.
1. Jose Guerena — Shot 22 Times And Denied Medical Help
Jose Guerena was an Iraq War veteran who was living in Tuscon, Arizona with his wife and 4-year-old son when police raided his home. Police have given conflicting reasons as to why they were searching his home. One report said they were searching for marijuana; others said they were searching the home suggesting that his brother, Alejandro, was involved in criminal activity. Later, officials stated that they were searching his home in relation to a series of home invasions.
The incident began when Guerena was awakened by his wife who had heard noises outside of their home. These sounds were later identified as flashbang grenades, used as a backyard diversion. Guerena sent his wife and son to hide in the closet as he grabbed his AR-15 rifle and crouched down to protect himself. The police had yet to identify themselves. As far as Guerena knew, anyone could have been trying to break in.
Initially, the Sheriff’s Department claimed that Guerena had fired on officers, though that was later proven false. In fact, at the time of his death, the safety was still on Guerena’s rifle. Many of the officers were confused whether or not Guerena had fired on them or if he had his weapon pointed at them but nonetheless fired on Guerena anyway. The five-person team shot at least 71 rounds at Guerena in less than seven seconds. He died after being hit 22 times. The police raid lasted roughly 38 seconds from the time police pulled into Guerena’s driveway and when they shot him. He was denied medical attention from paramedics for around an hour after the incident.
Jose Guerena’s family was awarded $3.4 million as a settlement, police still not admitting any wrongdoing in their killing of Guerena.