There are times when, despite the potential seriousness of a crime, a little compassion is in order for those and their families, for children cannot be held responsible for the crimes of their parents.
They especially should not be made to suffer if their parents are actually innocent of any crimes.
So it’s with no small helping of disdain we bring you the story of a wrongly accused suspect whose family was made to suffer needlessly because a St. Paul, Minn., storm-trooper drug task force kicked in the wrong door.
According to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Minneapolis, members of the St. Paul Police Dept. drug unit broke down the door to the home of lead plaintiff Roberto Franco and shot the family dog before handcuffing all nine occupants – including three children – who were then forced “to sit next to the carcass of their dead and bloody pet for more than an hour.” The suit states the anti-drug team continued to search Franco’s property even after realizing they raided the wrong house.
It used to be, in America, that you were innocent until proven guilty. Even taking into consideration the dangerous nature of police work, the very act of storming someone’s home to make an arrest presumes guilt more than it recognizes a potential danger, making goofs like kicking in the wrong door all the more heinous.
Adding insult to injury by cuffing kids and making them sit next to the family’s dead dog is just despicable. You can’t make this stuff up.
Try next door
The suit, filed against the officers of the Dakota County Drug Task Force, the St. Paul Police Department, and a federal Drug Enforcement Agency officer who was along for the ride apparently, claims essentially that the task force raided the wrong house, noting that the squad should have gone next door.
Lead plaintiff Franco, in the suit, said Officer Shawn Scovill, who led the raid, “provided false information to a Minnesota District Court judge in order to obtain a search warrant.”
“Defendant Scovill lied when he informed the District Court judge who reviewed Scovill’s search warrant application that Scovill had obtained information from the confidential informant that the plaintiffs’ home was the properly targeted house and that the address and the identity of the individuals who resided therein were the plaintiffs,” it says.
The complaint says the suspect named in the warrant is one Rafael Ybarra; Franco wasn’t named in the search warrant at all, nor was anyone else living in the home, making the resultant hour-long search of his premises even more difficult to understand.
Officers charged with ‘brutalizing’ the family
“There was never a mention of the plaintiff, Roberto Franco, in any documents related to the raid search warrant,” says the complaint, adding that Franco “had never been discussed or considered a suspect by law enforcement, Scovill, or any of the defendants directly or indirectly involved in the raid, relative to any alleged involvement by Franco in any distribution of contraband prior to the wrong house raid.
Officers burst through Franco’s door on the night of July 13, 2010. The complaint said the team acted “negligently” in “raiding the wrong home,” charging officers with “brutalizing” all of the home’s occupants.
The complaint goes on to say that another plaintiff, Analese Franco, “was forced, virtually naked, from her bed onto the floor at gunpoint by officers,” who breached the home “at gun and rifle point.”
“Each plaintiff was forced to the floor at gun and rifle point and handcuffed behind their backs,” the complaint says. “Defendants shot and killed the family dog and forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead and bloody pet for more than an hour while defendants continued to search the plaintiffs’ home.”
The suit seeks $30 million in compensation for civil rights violations and punitive damages.