Florida

Questionable SWAT Raid Leaves a Toddler Injured and His Father Facing Attempted Murder Charges

The Pensacola Police Department has launched an internal investigation into how a 1-year-old boy was injured in police custody following the pre-dawn raid.

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A Florida man faces attempted murder charges for shooting at a police officer during a pre-dawn SWAT raid in Pensacola earlier this month. The raid is now the subject of an internal police investigation after the man's 1-year-old child was injured in custody.

Corey Marioneaux, Jr., was arrested on February 3 on charges of attempted murder on a law enforcement officer for firing a gun at a Pensacola detective as police executed a search warrant on his house. His family and friends tell local news outlets that he's a licensed gun owner with no criminal record who thought he was shooting at intruders. 

The case is the latest in a string of volatile police raids—most notably the police killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020—that have led to scrutiny and reforms of search warrant tactics in several states over the past several years.

At approximately 5 a.m. on February 3, a Pensacola Police Department SWAT team executed a search warrant on Marioneaux's house. According to the department, police were searching for evidence related to a January shooting that injured two people. (The police would later tell local news outlet WEAR-TV Channel 3, which has reported extensively on the case, that Marioneaux was not a suspect in that shooting. His family said the search warrant was for electronics.)

The arrest report filed in the case says officers knocked and announced that they had a search warrant for approximately 10 seconds before breaking through Marioneaux's door with a battering ram. 

As the lead officer entered the doorway, Marioneaux fired a single shot at him with a handgun. The round ricocheted off a shield the detective was holding. If the detective "had not been equipped with the ballistic shield he would have been struck in the face/head," the report said.

The officer returned fire at Marioneaux, but didn't hit him. Marioneaux dropped his gun and surrendered.

"While being taken into custody, Marioneaux made spontaneous statements in the presence of Detective Skipper (#185) that he was sorry," the report said. "Marioneaux also made spontaneous statement in front of Sgt. Stockpile #63 that he was sorry for shooting at officers."

What happened after Marioneaux's arrest, though, has also outraged his family and friends. As he was taken into custody, his 1-year-old and 3-year-old children were put in the back of a police cruiser until their mother could arrive to pick them up.

Moiya Dixon, the mother, told local news outlets that she was woken up by a phone call that morning telling her what had happened. When she arrived at the scene, she found her 1-year-old son had scrapes, scratches, and bumps on his face and head. The child allegedly fell out of the backseat police car and onto the pavement when an investigator opened the door.

Police called EMS to check out the toddler's injuries, but he was not taken to the hospital. Dixon further alleges that Pensacola police tried to dissuade her from taking the child to the hospital.

"So many red flags went up when they said that," Dixon told the Pensacola News Journal. "Why would I not take him to the hospital when he clearly had an injury to his head?"

In the wake of the allegations, the Pensacola Police Department launched an internal investigation into the raid and the injuries to the child. A department spokesperson declined to comment, citing the pending investigation.

However, in a February 7 statement to Channel 3, the department said

After the search warrant was served, two children who were inside the residence were in the backseat of a car with a PPD investigator while they were waiting on family members to arrive to pick them up. A large vehicle approached that needed assistance navigating through the vehicles that were in the road. The investigator got out of the backseat to assist the driver. One of the children was leaning on the door of the car when the investigator opened it to get back in, and fell out of the car. The investigator wasn't aware that the child was leaning on the door. The child was checked by EMS for injuries. Both children were later released to family members.

Dixon also told local news outlets that the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is investigating the incident as well. DCF did not immediately respond to a request to confirm this.

Several states and major cities have tightened their rules for if and when police can use no-knock and late-night search warrants in the wake of the Breonna Taylor killing, but fatal raids have continued.

Earlier this month, a Minneapolis Police Department officer shot and killed 22-year-old Amir Locke during the execution of a no-knock raid. Locke, who was not named in the search warrant, appeared to be asleep under a blanket on a couch. As police entered the room, he put his hand on the barrel of a handgun, and an officer shot him three times.

The government insists that its citizens have a Second Amendment right to defend their homes, but it also insists that armed agents of the state may break down one's door in the middle of the night with little to no warning. So if a groggy, scared citizen, jolted out of bed by the sound of men shouting and the front door coming off its hinges, exercises that right against what he or she could reasonably assume to be violent intruders, the homeowner can be held criminally liable—and that includes capital punishment. In 2006, former Reason writer Radley Balko detailed the case of Cory Maye, a Mississippi man sentenced to death for fatally shooting a police officer during a no-knock drug raid. As Reason has argued continually over the years, these sorts of raids, especially when used for narcotics search warrants and non-violent offenses, put both officers and civilians at needless risk, occasionally with tragic results.

Marioneaux was released on a $50,000 bond. His attorney, James Bryant, says he will plead not guilty if the state attorney ultimately pursues charges against him. Marioneaux's arraignment was scheduled for Friday but has been continued, Bryant said.

Marioneaux and his family have yet to say if they will file a civil rights lawsuit, but Bryant said it is on the table. "I mean that is really kind of up to the city of Pensacola and the Pensacola Police Department," Bryant, told the Pensacola News Journal. "If they want to talk about how they're going to compensate these children for what happened to them, then we can avoid a civil action, but if they choose to dig in and refuse to accept liability, I will most certainly be bringing a civil action against them."