New Haven has been having some problems with its nightlife. So they're sending out the SWAT team.
For a moment, employees at a St. John Street cabaret said, they thought they were being robbed when masked gunmen with assault rifles stormed in Monday night.
It quickly became clear, however — as bartenders, patrons and exotic dancers were ordered to the floor and handcuffed — that they were part of some type of raid.
Police had a warrant for a suspected marijuana operation, but it was in a different portion of a 15,000-square foot building that housed several businesses. They just went ahead and raided them all.
"I work hard to run a clean operation," said Johnny, the owner, who didn't want his last name used. "They came in here like gangbusters and put guns on people. They know we're clean."
One person was arrested on cocaine-related charges, but Hoffman said it was an on-site arrest, not because of the search warrant.
"These guys are no joke," said one eyewitness who was at the raid and like other patrons, staff and "handcuffed, naked strippers," was prone on the floor.
He saw agents charging in, some in masks.
"Battering rams, bulletproof shields, assault rifles. They had 30 to 35 people on the floor in cuffs and this whole building was locked down in a matter of three or four minutes," the man said, not wanting to provide his name.
This comes a few weeks after New Haven police sent the SWAT team to raid a bar where there was suspected underage drinking.
Police arrested five Yale students, including one who ended up in the hospital after officers Tased and subdued him. Police said the student was kicking and punching three officers. Eyewitnesses said a cop punched and kicked and Tased the student with no provocation beyond a request to make a phone call, while other students were threatened with arrest if they used cell phone cameras or sent text messages, according to this story and this story in the Yale Daily News.
"It was beyond overreaction. They were like storm troopers," claimed John Carta, attorney for the club's owner, Rommerro Farrah. Click here to read a letter he sent Monday to the police chief.
The incident occurred a week after similar complaints followed the arrest of a Quinnipiac University student who was video-recording an arrest outside Toad's Place. The video captured both a bouncer and a cop ordering him to put away his cell phone camera. Chief Limon said the student was arrested not for taking the video, but for disobeying police commands and interfering with an investigation and with his friend's arrest.