Just north of D.C., in the small suburb of Berwyn Heights, a county SWAT team raided a house last week after a shipping service delivered a large quantity of illegal drugs to the front door.
Good police work in the war on drugs? Probably not.
The house is home to Berwyn Heights mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife Trinity Tomsic, and their two black Labs (pictured left). Though the package containing more than 30 lbs. of marijuana was addressed to Tomsic, the couple may have had nothing to do with the drugs. In recent months there have been incidents in which large quantities of drugs were shipped to homes in the D.C. area, where they were then supposed to be intercepted by drug dealers — all without the package addressees' knowledge or involvement. Calvo and Tomsic may have been caught up in just such a scheme.
This would make Calvo and Tomsic the unfortunate victims of an understandable error by the police SWAT team, except...
The police action was yet another guns-ablazin', no-knock raid, in which the officers (in what seems like SOP) shot the couple's dogs, even as one of the pups tried to run away. The cops then handcuffed Calvo and his mother-in-law and interrogated them for hours, while the dogs' bodies laid in pools of blood nearby. The cops later found the package of drugs — unopened, as if it were an unexpected package. No arrests were made.
"My government blew through my doors and killed my dogs," Calvo told the Washington Post. "They thought we were drug dealers, and we were treated as such. I don't think they really ever considered that we weren't."
Of course, it may end up that Calvo and his wife are part of a drug distribution ring, and the police have gotten their man. But even if that's true, was a no-knock, shoot-the-dogs raid an appropriate police action for a lousy shipment of pot?
And what if the current, emerging picture is correct, and this is yet another botched police raid and cops-gone-wild? If that's the case (and I emphazie the "if"), the Prince George's County SWAT team and its superiors need to be held accountable.
Law enforcement officers have a difficult and dangerous job, and I do not make light of that. But their sworn duty is to protect and serve the public, not blast their way into innocent people's houses and shoot their dogs. If they cannot fulfill that duty, then they cannot be law enforcement officers.
UPDATE (8/6): It turns out that the Prince George's County police who no-knock raided Calvo and Tomsic's home did not have a no-knock warrant. The police did have a standard search warrant (which they apparently failed to show to Calvo, as they are supposed to). If that warrant had been executed properly, it is unlikely that Calvo and Tomsic's dogs would have been killed or their house damaged. Add one more to the long list of botched police raids.
This also raises an interesting question: If this illegal raid had been visited on someone other than a white mayor, would it be receiving the scrutiny it deserves?
A SECOND, MORE TROUBLING UPDATE (8/7) is here.