With a battering ram and sledgehammer in tow, Chicago Police carried out a raid on a South Side home last month. There was just one problem (okay, maybe more than one): The suspect they were looking for hadn't lived at that address in five years, claim the current occupants, who were celebrating a 4-year-old's birthday.
It all went down February 10 during young TJ Boswell's birthday party. His 7-year-old sister, Samari, told WBBM there was little to no warning before police officers entered the home and pointed their guns at party attendees. "They were saying F-words and stuff. It was horrible," she said.
"All I heard was steps of like shoes coming down the stairs hard," added their aunt, Kiqiana Jackson. "Get your fucking hands up," Jackson recalled police saying. Jackson told WBBM she unsuccessfully asked for a search warrant multiple times, and was rewarded by being placed in handcuffs. She eventually saw the warrant, but not before police had trashed the home. A TV was broken as a result of the raid, and TJ's cake ended up on the floor, the family says.
Police were searching for a suspect in possession of ecstasy, though TJ and Samari's mother, Stephanie Bures, told WBBM that person hadn't lived there in years.
"My law firm took 30 seconds to do a person search and came up with [the suspect's] most current address, which is on 83rd street nowhere near the property," the family's lawyer, Al Hofeld Jr., told the outlet.
"I thought they was going to shoot me, and my brother, and everybody else," added Samari.
The family plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Reason reached out to Chicago Police for comment, who responded with the following statement
While we do not comment on pending or proposed litigation, for all criminal investigations, CPD makes every effort to ensure the validity and accuracy of all information that is used to apply for and execute search warrants. Oftentimes this information comes from community sources and despite the vetting of material through a criminal court and the methodical process to authenticate addresses, errors can occur and we take them very seriously. The CPD and City of Chicago has a claims process for any property owner to reimburse for repairs as a result of an accidental search warrant.
This incident highlights a major policing issue, particularly in Chicago, but also around the country. If you type the phrase "Chicago police raid wrong home" into Google, you'll find numerous accounts of police barging into homes and terrorizing the families inside without finding the suspect they were looking for.
It's not even the first time they've been accused of crashing a child's birthday party. Last month, WFLD reported on Chicago Police raiding a South Deering home during a party. Police believed a child was in danger, but they refused to immediately show a search warrant.
These sorts of raids can have consequences. In September, Maryland police in search of a drug dealer raided the wrong home, leading the resident, who thought they were home invaders, to shoot and wound two officers, according to The Washington Post.
In November, a North Carolina SWAT team pointed their guns at a 6-year-old boy with autism and forced him to sit outside in the cold while they searched the home for a robbery suspect who was not there. The child was "terrorized," his mother later said.
It's hard to see how this sort of thing does any good. Police need to stop treating law-abiding citizens, especially children, like dangerous criminals.