War on Drugs

Another Isolated Incident


The headline says, "Two Officers Are Saved by Bullet-Proof Vests." It could just as easily have read, "Police Screw-Up Terrorizes, Nearly Kills Couple and Their Six Children."

The Police Department's SWAT team was attempting to search a house in the 1300 block of Logan Avenue N., at 12:46 a.m. as part of an investigation by the Violent Offender Task Force. But police said that they learned later that the wrong information led them to that house.

"It was found out that this particular address was not part of that long-term investigation," police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia III told KSTP-TV on Sunday. He told KMSP-TV that it was a "bad situation. It could have been much worse."

Garcia said it was not so much a mistake by Minneapolis police but a mistake in the information that was given to them.

That last line translates to, "Admit nothing. Cover your ass in case of a lawsuit."

Come on. You nearly killed innocent people because you wrongly raided a home based on bad information. I don't care how or where that information went bad, it's pretty clearly a "mistake."

Here's another version of the same story:

Police believe they received some bad information and executed a search warrant on the wrong house early Sunday when two officers were shot at and hit, but were protected by bulletproof vests and helmets, a police spokesman said. ,p>"It was some bad information that was received on the front end and it's unfortunate because we have officers that were hit by gunfire and this truly, truly could have been a much worse situation," said Sgt. Jesse Garcia.


Family members living in the house said they were upstairs when they heard someone bust through their back door. They said Vang Khang grabbed his hunting gun to protect himself, his wife and his six children.

"He thought they were gang members and he was scared," Vang's brother, Dao Khang, told KARE-TV. Dao Khang said Vang fired a warning shot, and then two more shots through his closed bedroom door. The bullets hit two officers, but they weren't injured.

Several officers returned fire but no one in the house was injured, the department said. The man suspected of firing the shots was taken into custody, police said. He was later released.

Note where the police department spokesman's concern lies. No apology to the victims. No regret for nearly killing a man, or for spraying bullets all over the home where an innocent family lay sleeping. No, this incident is "unfortunate" because "we have officers that were hit by gunfire."

Note too that police claim they announced themselves, but no one in the house apparently heard them. Mr. Khang did nothing wrong, and isn't being charged. He isn't a criminal, and has no reason to lie.

So why is it that in so many of these cases, police claim they announced, but no one inside or outside seems to hear them? Retired cops have told me it's because the "announcement" often comes as the door is coming down, if it comes at all. Of course, even if there is an announcement, it doesn't do much good if it comes in the middle of the night, while the people inside are asleep in a backroom or on the second floor. Such scenarios effectively erase any real difference between a "knock-and-announce" and a "no-knock" raid.

When Mario Paz was killed in a SWAT raid in El Monte, California, the town's assistant police chief told the L.A. Times:

"We do bang on the door and make an announcement—'It's the police'—but it kind of runs together. If you're sitting on the couch, it would be difficult to get to the door before they knock it down."

Now imagine you're asleep when all of this is happening. The whole purpose of the middle-of-the-night raid is to catch the suspect off-guard. Why would police make a clear, full-throated announcement if the intent is surprise?

The catch-22 comes when the suspect, like Mr. Khang, or like Cory Maye, or like Cheryl Lynn Noel, justifiably feels threatened and acts in self-defense. Then "we need the element of surprise," dubiously morphs into, "They should have known we were the police."

It can't be both, as evidenced by the accumulating pile of bodies resulting from these unfortunate tactics.