Police Abuse

Cops Wrecked a Home, Terrorized a Family, Assaulted a Man. It Was the Wrong Place.

Hernan Palma is suing after he says he was punched in the face and his family restrained by cops during a botched no-knock drug raid.

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Officers with Maryland's Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) allegedly executed an illegal no-knock raid against the wrong residence, assaulting a man and terrorizing his family in their home, according to a new lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.

The intended target was an alleged drug dealer.

Police instead raided the home of Hernan Palma, a Montgomery County firefighter who says he was awoken by "what sounded like an explosion" at 4:30 a.m. on September 13, 2019, as cops beat down his front door. He assumed they were burglars, as he has no recollection of the group announcing themselves as police officers.

"Although it was dark, Hernan could see masked men with guns pouring into his living room and the hallway leading to his daughter's bedroom," the suit reads. "As [he] hurriedly turned the corner of the hallway, he felt a long-barreled rifle push into his chest. Afraid of being killed, Hernan grabbed the barrel of the rifle and pushed it away from him. He was then immediately tackled by three or four of the Police Officer Defendants."

As Palma tried to sit up, officers punched him in the face and flipped him over on his back, folding his legs up toward his buttocks in a hog-tie position as they tried to handcuff him. His face remained pressed into the wall. "The officers worked together to hold Hernan down with their body weight and applied so much pressure that Hernan's face made a crack in the wall," says the suit.

His wife Lilian and his 13-year-old daughter were handcuffed and restrained separately. The former struggles with chronic kidney disease; during her interaction with the cops, they applied such force she worried they would rip the catheter our of her shoulder, through which she receives hemodialysis treatments five times weekly.

Officers proceeded to "ransack" the home, including barricading through several doors, damaging walls, and breaking windows. The suit notes that one door in particular "was burst open with so much force that it blew off the hinges and hit Lilian's hemodialysis machine."

In May 2019, four months prior, MCPD zeroed in on David Zelaya—whose mother rented a basement apartment from the Palmas—for possession and distribution of drugs, and illegal possession of firearms. The Palmas maintained a landlord-tenant relationship with his mother and were not privy to David's illegal activity; they note that his mother specified that he had an on-campus apartment at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The Palmas lived in the main portion of the house and only rented out the basement, which had its own separate entrance. Officer Robert Farmer failed to disclose the fact that the Palmas lived in a separate upstairs residence, and that he had no probable cause to search that part of the residence, in his application for a no-knock warrant.* The Palmas and their attorneys allege that this omission renders the warrant illegal.

"Upon information and belief, and as evidenced by MCPD's investigation, Defendant Farmer knew that the Palmas lived upstairs in a separate residence with their teenage daughter and intentionally omitted this information from the warrant application while describing the residence as a 'single family' home," according to the suit. "Upon information and belief, as evidenced by MCPD's investigation, Defendant Farmer knew that there was no probable cause to believe Zelaya or any evidence of a crime would be found in the Palmas' portion of the house." Police also failed to use their body cameras appropriately, shuttering the recording after a brief period without explanation.

The MCPD investigation was extensive, as the suit entails, and included several opportunities for police to arrest Zelaya without using such overwhelming force, much less against the wrong person. Cops surveilled him covertly for at least 30 days and conducted an undercover marijuana drug sale in July or August. They did not arrest him then.

The Palmas are also suing the county for failing to "have adequate policies or training to ensure that no-knock warrants were limited to the situations when they were necessary." They are hardly alone: In Chicago, for example, there have been 10 similar suits in recent years as police botched no-knock warrants and used them against the wrong people.

In that vein, the Palmas' lawsuit gets at something deeper. Law enforcement agencies typically claim that no-knock warrants are necessary in situations where police may be met with deadly force; for his part, Zelaya was suspected of illegal possession of firearms. What is problematic is that police declined to arrest Zelaya at an easy, opportune moment. Even more fraught is that a drug sale was deemed high enough stakes to detain anyone in the first place, much less destroy someone's home.

*Correction: This article originally mischaracterized a portion of the defendant's warrant application.

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  1. Maryland has medical cannabis. Can’t have those untaxed sales.

    1. I grew up in Maryland. Thankfully I found a means to defect.

      1. Prople wonder why cops are being killed. This is a prime example. After everything was straightened out and they tried to release me, I would definmitely have tracked them all down and killed the entire squad.

      2. We need to build a wall to stop legal migration from blue states.

        Let the Mexicans come. Guatemalans, Hondurans, people from cold places that rhyme with ‘vagina’ (Saskatchewan) bring me your poor huddled masses. Just no more coastal liberal pricks, please.

  2. What is problematic is that police declined to arrest Zelaya at an easy, opportune moment.

    No overtime pay.

    1. Remember David Koresh? County Sheriff wanted to arrest him while he was grocery shopping but the feds wanted a splash moment.

      1. Yeah, but if you calmly, quietly and locally pick him up at a grocery store, there’s more of a chance of a regional reporter rolling into town and unwittingly asking a couple Davidians if they know where the compound where the big ATF raid is taking place and tipping them off.

        1. The feds wanted a Texas barbecue and served up close to a hundred KoreshKaBobs.

      2. Reno said she “took full responsibility”, but she didn’t lose a dime or spend a day in jail.

        -jcr

        1. Reno was responsible for the deadly end of the siege, but wasn’t even in office yet when it began, because Bill Clinton couldn’t do his job within a reasonable time. He insisted on a woman Democrat for AG and then had so much trouble finding one that hadn’t violated federal law to hire child care, the Justice Dept was run by holdovers from the Bush 41 administration for several months. The first raid on the Branch Davidians was botched during this period.

          And because Bush 41 hadn’t done _his_ job and fired the officials responsible for the botched and murderous raids on Randy Weaver and family, they got the chance to make a far bigger mistake. If you can call it a mistake…

      3. If I recall correctly the same Sheriff actually went to the compound a before (year before?) requested to inspect/checkout some firearms and had no problems.
        You have to understand the Montgomery County Maryland is a relatively boring county. The most action the average police officer sees is writing the after police report so you can submit it to your insurance. You want to see excitement? Give the cops an excuse to run sirens – like 10 cars will show up…. from the other side of the county even.
        They literally will not hire you if you score too high on the aptitude test because you will be bored too easily and quite (the county wasting all the money training you).

    2. “What is problematic is that police declined to arrest Zelaya at an easy, opportune moment.”

      Less opportunity to burn the house down and kill the children inside like they did with David Koresh who could have been picked up at his regular and weekly visit to the local ice cream shop but ATF budgets and power don’t grow as easily then.

    3. They could also have asked the landlord if he had an extra set of keys, no breaking down doors necessary.

      Nor to mention, since they were surveilling him for days arrested him at any time he stepped out of his apartment. You’d think on officer safety grounds alone that would be better than assaulting a house where a potentially dangerous criminal could be waiting anywhere. I mean, suppose he really was armed and violent and then heard cops stampeding through the house *above* him, slowed down and distracted by wrestling with innocent people. Or alternatively a plainsclothes officer could have come to the door, showed the Palmas the warrant, asked if they had any spare keys, and advised them that they might want to vacate the building while the warrant was being served…so that if there was any shooting when arresting this dangerous criminal an innocent family wasn’t caught in the crossfire.

      Though the description makes it sound like the cops didn’t have a clue that the person they were arresting lived in a basement apartment and were just going after anyone who lived at that address.

      1. The last time the local po’s took out a raid app on one of my neighbors, they got the keys in advance, and then broke the door(s) anyway.

    4. It’s not just that. Don’t you remember being a kid? When you were 8 years old, would you rather have played “army” or “lawyer” with your friends?

      These people mentally and intellectually still 8 years old. They are also the some of the same kids who were school yard bullies. They matured in that regard. Now they don’t threaten you to take your lunch money, they take your car or your bank account.

  3. How stupid are the police? Instead of barging in saying they are the police and smashing people personal property and beating the people, they should scream “black lives matter” as they do their regular police brutality tactics. At least then they would get favorable press coverage of the same incident

  4. “Officers proceeded to “ransack” the home, including barricading through several doors, damaging walls, and breaking windows. ” Might want to edit this to change “barricading”? Barging? Breaking? Bellowing “We’re from the government and we’re here to help!”?

    1. Noted that too:

      bar·ri·cade
      /ˈberəˌkād/
      verb
      gerund or present participle: barricading
      block or defend with an improvised barrier.
      “he barricaded the door with a bureau”
      Similar:, blockade, obstruct, close up, bar, block off, shut off/in, defend, protect, fortify, strengthen
      shut (oneself or someone) into a place by blocking all the entrances.
      “detainees who barricaded themselves into their dormitory”

      You’re right; “bellowing” is a much better fit

  5. >>for his part, Zelaya was suspected of illegal possession of firearms

    shame the dummies didn’t no-knock *his* place

  6. I’m curious about the aftermath of this botched raid. It shouldn’t, but the fact that the victim is a firefighter in the same county makes a big difference. Did this cause an intradepartmental blowup and rift? Anybody from Metro Baltimore-DC area have any more info? Police doing this to a firefighter from the same jurisdiction is a BFD.

    1. I wondered the same, especially as “he has no recollection of the group announcing themselves as police officers.” Seems they just wanted to beat his ass, which they did.

      1. Further: “Defendant Farmer knew that the Palmas lived upstairs in a separate residence with their teenage daughter and intentionally omitted this information from the warrant application while describing the residence as a ‘single family’ home,” according to the suit. “Upon information and belief, as evidenced by MCPD’s investigation, Defendant Farmer knew that there was no probable cause to believe Zelaya or any evidence of a crime would be found in the Palmas’ portion of the house.” Police also failed to use their body cameras appropriately, shuttering the recording after a brief period without explanation.”

        Yeah, sure sounds intentional; must have been a score to settle.

        1. From the lawsuit linked:
          Hernan holds the rank of Firefighter III in the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. In this role, Hernan is also an instructor at the Public Safety Training Academy, a shared training facility in which Hernan trains firefighters and sometimes trains alongside MCPD and its SWAT officers.

          There is a possibility that they knew Hernan and had a grudge – of course heard that line of thinking in the George Floyd case so I wouldn’t make much of it.

          I live in MD but haven’t heard anything on this to answer D-Pizzle (don’t really pay too much attention though to Montgomery County news)

    2. I haven’t heard about intra-departmental strife, but Montgomery County SWAT continues to do unnecessary no-knock raids with poorly researched warrants, a refusal to arrest or detain the subject away from their home, and hyper-aggressive tactics. They killed Duncan Lemp during one on March 12, 2020.

      1. Is this the same PD that once raided the Mayor’s house and killed their dog?

        1. No, that was the Prince George’s cops and the mayor of Berwyn Heights. PG is a much more “interesting” place to be a cop than MoCo.

  7. Leftie state, leftie towns, and you can expect more of this.

  8. Police also failed to use their body cameras appropriately, shuttering the recording after a brief period without explanation.

    With all due respect, of what use are body cameras? It seems they’re either “malfunctioning” at the critical time or the recordings cannot be legally viewed by anyone who counts.

    1. That depends. If I’m on a jury and learn the police turned off their body cameras or “had a malfunction”, I’ll take that as evidence that they intended to lie about whatever they did. If they had no cameras in the first place, I’ll still suspect them of lying, but not have as good a reason to think so.

  9. No-knock raids should always be presumptively illegal. There is no situation, not even hostage situations, in which the use of surprise policing is warranted. Every time one of these stories happens, every single time, I think “Gee, those cops sure are lucky that no one inside blew their brains out because doing something that stupid/dangerous that’s exactly what they deserve.” and any homeowner shooting a cop barging into their home unannounced should be free and clear of any responsibility for what happens. The very idea that the castle doctrine stops applying simply because the gun wielding man breaking into your house in the dead of night is wearing a badge (that you can’t even see in the dark) is absurd.

    1. Dead on. The bill of rights in your constitution is garbage as long as no-knock warrants are legal.

      I’m amazed at how politicians (left AND right) have continued to let the cops terrorize their own people. Don’t get me started about “civil asset forfeiture.”

    2. In order to make that claim we need something we are not likely to get, scientific evidence. Detailed statistics of different types of warrant service over the years and their outcomes.

      It is entirely possible that while increasing levels of violence in many situations, no knock raids prevent more violence and death on the other side of the ledger. But since nobody in law enforcement wants us to see that sort of information, I suppose we are left to speculate based on anecdotal data.

      1. That no one in law enforcement wants us to see the data gives us our answer.

  10. Police should be arrested on federal terrorism charges.

  11. Thought this might have been about that poor woman in Homer Alaska that was raided by the FBI because they though she has Peolsi’s laptop. Then I remembered Reason is ok with unchecked authoritarianism against the Jan 6 terrorists, so they won’t cover that. Or Ashley Babbit.

    1. They aren’t ok with unchecked authoritarianism, they just don’t want to upset chuckies nazi boyfriend.

  12. This is “law & order”? I see plenty of “law & chaos” along with lots of right’s violations, brutality, and gratuitous property destruction.
    Falsifying applications for no-knock warrants, picking middle of the night raids, turning off cameras to hide behavior? More like storm troopers than investigators of non-violent crimes.
    How do they get away with such military style tactics against innocent citizens? These “heroes” hide behind “qualified immunity”. And they threaten to quit if they lose it. They’re not stupid or brave. They’re sadistic, lying, incompetent thugs. This is modern policing.
    Keep voting and hoping for a different result until they come for you.

  13. Hemodialysis can lead to excited delerium and superhuman strength.

  14. If Hernan Palma was black, the streets of Silver Spring would be filled with protestors and the buildings would be burning.

  15. I wonder if a officer Farmer will leave out the part about the little girl on a medical device when he’s bragging to pretty girls in bars about what a hero he is, and how he ‘lays his life on the line’, every.day.

  16. At least the home invasion robber/ kidnappers didn’t have a puppy to defend themselves from!

  17. I heard George Floyd was posthumously pardoned for a drug charge, because the arresting officer was Gerald Goines from the botched Houston raid.
    What are the chances he runs into two extremely rare “bad apples”?

  18. Our attitude towards drugs is so complicated, full of moralizing and contradictions. During the recent furor over the Kentucky Derby winner having a banned substance in the blood, the trainer admitted using an ointment that is “legal as a therapeutic drug for horses, betamethasone is illegal when found in the blood on race day.”

    So, you can use it as an ointment, but if it shows up in the blood, then you can’t.

    1. You could have read the Wikipedia article on Betamethasone. It’s a steroid used in ointments for skin irritation, but don’t use too much. “Prolonged use of this medicine on extensive areas of skin, broken or raw skin, skin folds, or underneath airtight dressings may on rare occasions result in enough corticosteroid being absorbed to have side effects on other parts of the body.”

    2. I used to work at a racetrack. The trainers would have a bag of stuff they injected the horses with.

      It is really abuse. They run the horses so hard that they develop joint pain so they shoot them with drugs like that and run them harder.

  19. Florida has banned no knock raids for years.
    There is no reason for the police to get involved in gun fights with law abiding citizens ( or criminals).
    As they routinely attack the wrong house

  20. Montgomery County. Another Democratic stronghold. Why do Democrats condone, and often support, such outrageous violations of individual rights?

  21. Another example of “professional” police work

  22. Considering how many citizens sleep with a firearm on the nightstand, this sounds like a bunch of guys looking for a firefight.

  23. Fucking pigs.

    Anyone who’s spent a lot of time around the sort of young men attracted to a law enforcement career, will realize that there is a significant minority who get off on guns, power, and violence.

    1. I don’t know what you’re bitching about. No one threw a hand grenade into a baby crib, did they?

  24. The Drug War is wrong root and branch. It was begun to disfranchise minorities while allowing the US to invade other countries at will, under the pretext of fighting the politically created boogieman called “drugs.” We’re legalizing pot today only because it’s becoming overwhelmingly popular with Anglo-Americans. We keep cocaine criminalized because it is associated with Hispanics and Blacks (even tho’ Freud himself considered cocaine to be a godsend for his depression and it has been used for millennia by MesoAmericans, all without a lot of belly-aching about the supposed immorality of it all). What’s the result? We’re causing a Civil War in Mexico, empowering a self-described “Drug War Hitler” in the Philippines, and sending militarized police forces into hitherto sancrosanct American homes, all in an effort to keep the world from accessing the plant medicine that grows at their very feet (which is a violation of Natural Law, by the way, should America’s legal system ever choose to wake up from their self-satisfied slumber and face this outrage head-on).

    If we have to have a Drug War, let’s jail everyone who has so much as a trace of alcohol or tobacco in their system. Let’s remove them from the work force and force them to urinate for us upon demand. Let’s remove them from the voting rolls and throw them into overcrowded prisons. That’s a drug war that would give the Drug Warriors a taste of their own medicine. (Of course, let’s break down the doors of all these tobacco and alcohol “fiends,” kick their family members in the groin while shouting, “Get down! Get Down!” — and otherwise let them know that they live in a Christian Science country that is no longer going to allow them to adjust their mental states with religiously incorrect substances.)

    1. Alcohol and tobacco may not be quite as harmful as crack and meth or even opioids. A society free of drugs and addiction is actually a good thing.

  25. things would be very simple if accompanied by those “self-proclaimed policemen” was a warrant to search the house, and violence would be used only when there was resistance to it! the impossible game

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