Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms didn't so much as knock when they mistakenly raided the house of an elderly woman in Charlotte, New York, last week. Nancy Dominicos' was sitting in her living room when three agents came in through her unlocked back door with guns drawn.
"I thought it was a family member pulling a joke on me," Dominicos told WHEC-TV. "And all of the sudden I looked up and they were in my dinning room pointing a loaded gun at me telling me they had a federal warrant to search my premises."
Not only did they threaten Dominicos, but they come close to using deadly force on her son, who was upstairs when the agents entered his mother's house:
"My son had heard me arguing with this man and it was not a voice he'd recognize. My son is a hunter, he put a bullet in the chamber of his gun. They heard that, they yelled down long gun, at that point there he told another ATF agent that was with me, handcuff her and take her out," Dominicos said.
Thankfully Dominicos' son recognized it was law enforcement and put the gun down right away. Dominicos says the handcuffs caused bruises and as she was going outside with an ATF agent she heard him say they had the wrong house. The ATF and Rochester police executed a number of search warrants Wednesday night. Police sent us a statement, saying they entered the home through an unlocked side door and quote:
"Upon encountering an elderly resident, the team realized that they were at the wrong location at that time and left the premises."
Charlotte is in the Finger Lakes area of New York, which means that this is the second time in the last four months an elderly person in that region has been a victim of a wrong-door raid. In March, police working under the Finger Lakes Drug Task Force raided the home of 76-year-old Fred Skinner.
Dominicos, like many survivors of police raids, says the raid has changed her. "I'm still terrified," she told WHEC. "It's almost like a P.T.S.D. experience, you keep hearing things. You think oh my God I hear a door slam, I hear someone pulling into my driveway. I see a light it's like oh my God are they back?"
Reason spoke to another victim of a wrong-house raid last year. "I feel safe in my home–but so far, I remember the guns pointing at my face when I look at my front door," Alex Clemens told us. "Every. Single. Time."
Stories like those two abound. Raids don't just destroy property, they destroy a person's sense of safety and well-being. "My son screamed for his mother for what seemed like an eternity," an Idaho head shop owner wrote after his home was raided by federal agents and his children were taken out of their beds. "I will never forget the hopeless feeling of not being able to comfort my son or daughter."