Victim of Warrantless, Wrong-Door Raid: “I’m not the same person”

After finding two bodies in a burned-out SUV earlier this month, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office traced the vehicle’s owner to the El Pueblo Apartments in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On April 10, the officers gathered at the complex to conduct a raid. At the last minute, they noticed activity in a unit two doors away, and decided to raid that one, too—without a warrant.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the officers knew they’d need a warrant to search the apartment and seize evidence, but didn’t think they’d need one to break down the door and force Bertha Gamboa, 52, and her husband Carlos to the floor at gunpoint. So while one officer requested a search warrant, eight other officers battered down the Gamboas’ door, stormed it with shotguns raised, and made the Gamboas lie flat on the floor.

Minutes later, and without explanation, the officers left the Gamboas’ residence and cancelled their warrant request.

Two weeks have passed since the raid. No arrests have been made in the burned-out SUV case, the Gamboas are complaining of PTSD, and the cops can’t get their stories straight as to why they felt the need to raid an apartment unrelated to their investigation without a warrant:

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jennifer Vega-Brown said deputies needed to secure the Gamboas’ apartment based on information they had received earlier that day. She did not know why deputies thought the Gamboas’ home may have been connected to the West Mesa deaths.

Some details about the decision to enter the Gamboas’ apartment were contained in an email written by Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Kmatz and sent to the Journal on Tuesday.

Deputies had been told that both the Gamboas’ apartment and the second apartment may have contained information relevant to the investigation, Kmatz wrote.

Deputies were in the process of obtaining search warrants for both apartments when officers “observed activity” in the Gamboas’ unit and decided to enter, Kmatz wrote.

“And concerned that evidence could be destroyed, they acted to secure the occupants, NOT to search the apartment prior to obtaining a warrant,” Kmatz wrote. “However, once they secured the two occupants, they were able to determine by speaking with them, that they were not involved” with the West Mesa deaths.

Deputies then dropped efforts to obtain a search warrant for the Gamboas’ apartment, he wrote.

That’s according to the news report in the Albuquerque Journal. According to an unsigned editorial that ran in the paper the next week:

Somehow, the Gamboas’ address became wrongly implicated in the case, and deputies were attempting to get a search warrant for their home, too. But before that could happen, deputies on the scene decided to break in. They soon realized the Gamboas had nothing to do with the SUV case, dropped the effort to get a search warrant and apologized to the couple.

In short, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies had absolutely no discernible reason to break into the Gamboas’ home, but break into it they did, and Bertha Gamboa is paying the price. The night of the raid, Gamboa was so shaken that she began vomiting and was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital, where she stayed overnight. “I’m not the same person like I was,” she told the Journal. “I’m not in this world.”

For more New Mexico drug war insanity, see KOAT7's report on the gear Los Lunas police used to sieze one bag of pot. Note that the SWAT cops insist on wearing balaclavas while they talk to the press! 

For more on people whose lives were upended by wrong-door raids, see the cases of 76-year-old Fred Skinner and Alex Skinner

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  • WTF||

    Some details about the decision to enter the Gamboas’ apartment

    Fuck you, that's why.

  • kinnath||

    Even the soviets had more respect for their population.

  • WTF||

    True - even the Nazis had the decency to knock. (Yeah, I went there.)

  • Loki||

    It's well known that Nazis were like vampires: they have to be invited in.

  • Evil Otto||

    Oh come the fuck on. You're insulting the victims of Soviet oppression.

  • Tonio||

    No, Tulpa, he's not. It's really got that bad. The Soviets didn't have more respect, but we've pretty much reached the same disregard for the law as they had.

  • kinnath||

    Even the soviets had more respect for their population.

  • robc||

    In Indiana, the Gamboas could legally kill the cops.

    Probably not a good strategy to attempt, but still available.

  • ||

    For some reason since you used "could" in the present tense, I imagined them legally hunting down the officers who participated in the raid and murdering them one at a time in increasingly bizarre ways.

  • robc||

    Amusingly, after posting, I realized my tense problem and thought the same thing.

  • ||

    Great minds and all that.

  • Loki||

    That sounds like an awesome plot for a movie. The Only Good Cops..., starring Jason Statham and Gina Carano as the Gamboas.

  • Aresen||

    I don't wish death on any of the officers, just consequences. Like full restitution plus punitive damages to the Gamboas (from the deputies' own funds), loss of job, being permanently barred from any LEO or similar work.

  • sarcasmic||

    If they break in without a warrant then I think they should be shot in the face like any other criminal.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    I simply want them to go to jail for trespassing, brandishing, kidnapping, conspiracy to trespass, conspiracy to brandish, conspiracy to kidnap, and obstruction of justice. Plus they are obviously a criminal organization, so RICO statutes should apply here right? So all their money, and all the money of the organization they belong to should be seized until their innocence is proven and they should have to use a public defender.

    I think that'd be fair.

  • robc||

    Seems a reasonable start.

    But there are also federal civil rights violations to pile on.

  • CE||

    You forgot assault, battery, and false imprisonment.

  • Evil Otto||

    In Indiana, the Gamboas could legally kill the cops.

    They would have to prove (a) the entry was illegal, and (b) the cops knew it was illegal, and (c) they themselves knew it was illegal.

    I wouldn't call that "available"...exactly why I don't like the way that law was written. Too much gray area, particularly in the moment when the decision to shoot is made.

  • nicole||

    Fortunately for the Albuquerque PD and others like them, a social media agency is now starting a vertical practice targeted at LE. You know, so they can "appear tough...but helpful and friendly" too, as they shame you on teh Facebook.

  • sarcasmic||

    ...and apologized to the couple

    I highly doubt that.

  • Loki||

    Minutes later, and without explanation because they were disappointed by the fact that they went to all that trouble of knocking down their door and didn't get to shoot a dog, the officers left the Gamboas’ residence

  • DJF||

    The police are going to charge the Gamboas with felony ‘failure to have a dog available to be shot’.

  • Brutus||

    America, RIP

  • Almanian...still||

    They killed America!!

    YOU BASTARDS!!

  • sarcasmic||

    While on the one hand I would love to see stories about cops busting down the door only to be shot in the face and have their brains blown out the back of their head, the reaction would be even more 'shoot first ask questions later if at all' tactics (officer safety!), rather than treating citizens with even the slightest bit of respect.

  • robc||

    I find Emmerson Biggins' suggestion to be acceptable.

    And unlike shooting the cops in the face, it might change behavior in the proper way.

  • sarcasmic||

    Except that Biggins' suggestion will never happen.

    Cops are trained to rely on their training, and not to second guess themselves. The idea is they wouldn't be able to do their job if they had to think before they act. They're supposed to fall back on training and simply react.
    Then when they do something they know is wrong, they are trained not to admit it. Supposedly they learn not to repeat their criminal mistakes, but what they really learn is that they can commit criminal acts with impunity.

    Shoot them in the face and they can't commit any more criminal acts.

  • Evil Otto||

    Shoot them in the face and they can't commit any more criminal acts.

    1. They'll be replaced by others with similar "training".

    2. If this happens a lot it will lead to even more hamhanded tactics becoming even more prevalent.

  • ||

    2. If this happens a lot it will lead to even more hamhanded tactics becoming even more prevalent.

    Maybe not. If these guys had to wonder if they were going to be shot the next time they went through a door, they'd probably be more judicious in deciding whether to execute no-knock warrants, especially if the law started recognizing the right of citizens to defend their homes from armed invaders, even if said invaders are wearing silly costumes. In the end, the police are grossly outmanned and outgunned.

  • Public Citizzen||

    But...They didn't HAVE a warrant when they went through the door.
    So no-knock doesn't apply.
    They never OBTAINED a warrant which would be their first defence for the actions they had already taken.
    There appear to be some pretty clear violations of Constitutionally Guaranteed rights here.
    Looks like the family involved may have just won the lotto.

  • Coeus||

    The threat of getting shot in the face has already led to them being much more careful about serving warrants in Indiana. They've already made some beneficial policy changes.

  • Peter L||

    If the homeowners had taken this course, we would have one injured policeman and two dead citizens. The police would justify the killing by saying they were only reacting to being shot at, obviously these were criminals or they would not be shooting at police.

    If the police entered suddenly, and these are law abiding citizens who have no reason to expect anybody to attack them, what is the chance they would even be able to get to a gun?

  • Carston||

    ...or it was actually the house of another LEO, and he shot them in the face, then all their head explode because they cant figure out whose ass to cover.

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    So in all of that I read not one fact suggesting why what those cops did should not be a criminal act. Never mind firing them, they should all be in jail.

  • ||

    They're not even pretending that there's rule of law any more. So who's going to tell me that it still exists? Huh?

  • ||

    Dunphy?

  • ||

    I figured Professor Pomeranian, but yeah, dunphy too.

  • Evil Otto||

    People in power ignoring the rule of law is nothing new.

    On 95% of the cop misbehavior threads here (including this one) I'm condemning the misbehaving cops. dunphy has a similar record, you just remember the disagreements selectively, and also hold against him and I the fact that we don't immediately jump to condemning all cops everywhere.

  • Tim||

    Has the latest Biden thing been broken here yet?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMRYuq4-PqI

  • ||

    Thanks for the link.

  • Aresen||

    "Evidence may be destroyed".

    The perfect answer to the 4th amendment.

  • o3||

    and evidence may be invented

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The phrase "I'm not the same person" often seems applicable in this sort of raid. As in, i'm not the suspect they were looking for - or even the address they were looking for.

  • NeonCat||

    They were not free to Gamboa.

  • Almanian...still||

    Subtle.

    Therefore, +3 internets to you

  • Evil Otto||

    Barring some sort of astounding evidence that the cops really did see something justifying a raid -- unlikely since they cancelled their warrant request -- this is horrible, and the cops should be held accountable.

    However, if being held at gunpoint is enough to give you PTSD, you're quite the fragile creature.

  • Tonio||

    Perhaps so, Tulpy, but this is something that the vast majority of Americans will never experience. So it would better further the cause of liberty to keep beating the victim drum for these folks, no matter how distasteful it is to you.

  • tarran||

    That's right Tulpy, getting PTSD after being the victim of a violent home invasion by multiple individuals wearing body armor and brandishing weapons who keep you prisoner for ten minutes at gun-point does imply some degree of fragility.

    I have a suggestion: you should take up counseling rape victims. With your attitude, I'm sure you'd get those crybabies to shape up and stop whining in no time!

  • juris imprudent||

    So Tulpa, do tell us all about the last time you were thrown to the floor at gunpoint. Obviously you have first hand experience on being tough enough to bounce right up unaffected.

  • Gray Ghost||

    However, if being held at gunpoint is enough to give you PTSD, you're quite the fragile creature.

    This is one of the stupidest things you've ever written here.

  • Evil Otto||

    That's not saying much.

  • ||

    Gray Ghost: This is one of the stupidest things you've ever written here.

    Tulpa: That's not saying much.

    Sadly, very true.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    they acted to secure the occupants, NOT to search the apartment prior to obtaining a warrant,

    I can't remember what clause in the Constitution contains that exception.

    Also, gimme my alt-text!

  • tarran||

    It's right nest to the one that suspends the right to face your accusers when national security is at stake according to employees of the executive branch.

  • Evil Otto||

    Yeah, that is kind of a strange distinction. Particularly since the 4th is about seizure of persons as well as searching possessions.

  • Zingotooo||

    Stupid useless cops. When will the sheeple finally say enough? Its gonna take a LOT more than some useless, silly protest to get any results.

    www.Gotta-Be-Anon.tk

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