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Never thought that I would agree with NWA
March 10, 2009 8:10 AM   Subscribe

My Apartment was (wrongly) raided by the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and explosives....About 12 agents with bulletproofs vests came into my apartment and handcuffed me and my roomate, then promptly left the place when they found out they did wrong. I feel angered, offended and disillusioned by our system. Is there anyway I can put in a complain of any sort to stop this from happening again? This is their website: http://www.atf.gov/

I live in the Washington Heights part of New York City. At about 7:30 am a loud bang happened in my door and about 12 agents proceeded to shout POLICE, OPEN THE DOOR!!!!! I looked through the peephole and saw that they were ready to just BREAK into my apartment so I opened the door....they promptly proceeded to handcuff me (at this point I am almost naked and wearing nothing but boxers), and did the same with my roomate.

They sat both of us in our living room (handcuffed, half-naked, and asked us questions about our identity and whether we knew some kind of fugitive (they showed us a picture of someone neither of us had ever seen)....after supposedly looking us up in their database we came out as clean....so they just said "thank you for your patience we did a mistake" I tried to ask for more information but they just said "we are looking for a fugitive" and thats why we did this...and then left the place....

Washington heights has been notorious for drug activities in the past but I think that this is no reason for cops not to do their homework and barge into my place. This could have easily been avoided if they would have just looked up my name and found out more about me...for they did not bother searching my apartment after finding out who I was they left......both me and my roomate feel hurt and "targetted" we are the only single, colored males living in our building, he is gay and i am straight but both of us attended ivy league schools ( and decided to move uptown to save $$$), are fully and gainfully employed and just do not fit the mold of a criminal.

The cops did not harm us in any way nor they damaged any of my things but it was very humiliating to be naked AND handcuffed in your own living room full of strangers when I have done nothing. I cannot help but think that a simple search towards my background (or my roomates) or a simple stake out outside of my apartment would have accomplished whatever they were trying to do when they came into my spot. This was absolutely NOT necessary but I dont know if we should complain, who to complain to in the first place, or if we should just "suck it up" and keep on living our lifes.........
posted by The1andonly to Human Relations (65 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Obviously, call a lawyer. They should have had a search warrant to bust into your place; if not, you probably have a pretty substantial claim against them. At the very least, you'll want to get the warrant.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:15 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Did they show a warrant?
posted by helios410 at 8:18 AM on March 10, 2009


Unfortunately this is the kind of thing that civil lawsuits are for, and for that you have to see an attorney to figure out whether you even have a case. It's either that or go far up the hierarchy and crank out complaint letters to the ATF HQ, DOJ, and/or White House pointing out the poor due diligence of this team. This sucks, and if it makes you feel any better, reading about this on ask.mefi is another stone cast that undermines my respect for the system.

I will say the only run-in I had with the feds was when a bank had been robbed and the suspect was thought to be living in my apartment. Fortunately when the FBI showed up they were very polite and just exchanged some words at the door. Granted that was ten years ago.
posted by crapmatic at 8:19 AM on March 10, 2009


They did not show a warrant....but they were physically ready to break into the place (I saw the tool they were about to use to do this) so I know that whatever they did was PLANNED!!!!!!, they did not answer any of my questions and proceeded to leave just as fast as they came.
posted by The1andonly at 8:23 AM on March 10, 2009


For crying out loud, call a lawyer.
posted by box at 8:28 AM on March 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I strongly suggest that you consult an attorney in NYC.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:29 AM on March 10, 2009


What exactly are you seeking to gain here? Monetary compensation? A letter of apology?
Depending on what you want you need to speak to different people.
Money damages=Lawyer
Some form of apology=maybe a city council member or some such entity I would guess.
That being said, they made a mistake and by your own account apologized for it on scene. Your only issue that comes across in your post is that you feel humiliated. I don't see any interest in how they came to your apartment by mistake, or your building for that matter. You might want to take a bit more interest in who your neighbors are because the ATF was there for a reason.
posted by a3matrix at 8:34 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey - I live up the street from you (checked out your coordinates) - and I agree its absurd to just bust through the door without checking out the apt name first. While Washington Heights used to be a drug ridden area - the area has been wholly improved in the past 20 years. You should not have to worry about ATF agents crashing through your front door without reason.

Maybe call/write/email our rep or either of our senators if you're looking for a formal apology.

Or if you're feeling really mad a private attorney to file a lawsuit.
posted by jourman2 at 8:35 AM on March 10, 2009


Dude, we cannot help you here. You need a lawyer.

AskMe: What kind of lawyer does he need? Bonus points if you have a recommendation for him.
posted by barnone at 8:35 AM on March 10, 2009


You're very lucky you're not dead. Call a lawyer.
posted by tristeza at 8:36 AM on March 10, 2009


You could contact the ACLU. I am pretty sure they are obliged to show their search warrant if you ask for it.
posted by musofire at 8:38 AM on March 10, 2009


With your recent experience you should find these previous MeFi posts/threads regarding "no-knock warrants" of interest - 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

In many of the instances portrayed in those threads innocent people were improperly targeted by faulty police work with some being wrongfully killed in the process.
posted by ericb at 8:38 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Get in touch with (mefi's own) Radley Balko. He tracks these things.
posted by daksya at 8:38 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


That being said, they made a mistake and by your own account apologized for it on scene

They didnt apologize for it...they said they made a mistake and then LEFT, when I try to questioned them they told me "IF YOU ARE REALLY not up to anything then we are not coming back here"


I want an apology....I dont want monetary compensation, I understand that they have a job to do and I understand that they get tips from people...but does that mean that you follow every lead without checking up?.....My record has NO criminal activity, I do not associate with any criminals, once again the only thing that it is outside of the norm is that i am a single dude living with another dude and that we are both of color? THAT IS ALL!
posted by The1andonly at 8:38 AM on March 10, 2009


Seconding the requests to find out what kind of attorney he needs. There's thousands of them in an average phone book, and almost none of us know of an attorney from whom to get references, so it will help the OP to figure out where to start.

Also I'm not sure the ACLU is such a good idea... in my wife's past experience, the ACLU doesn't even respond to requests except those they're most interested.
posted by crapmatic at 8:46 AM on March 10, 2009


[A few comments removed. Folks, this is not a general no-knock discussion thread or a place to kibitz or zing. Please try to help or take it elsewhere.]
posted by cortex at 8:49 AM on March 10, 2009


IAAL, IANYL.

An attorney is unlikely to be able to get you an apology, and is unlikely to be interested in helping you get (just) one. If you are interested in pursuing money or just sending a message, you should probably look for a "civil rights" lawyer. Decide before you start the process if you want to be out of pocket to do so. You may be able to send more of a message by blogging about this, starting a website, etc.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 8:51 AM on March 10, 2009


You may be able to send more of a message by blogging about this, starting a website, etc.

As well, consider telling your story to your college/university newspaper with the hopes of parlaying it to other media sources.
posted by ericb at 8:52 AM on March 10, 2009


you're not going to get an apology just from writing a letter or talking to someone. and even if you did get an official apology, it wouldn't necessarily stop this situation from happening to you or someone like you again. honestly, the only two things that work are 1) really bad publicity and 2) lawsuits. therefore, even if you're not interested in suing, you should still talk to a lawyer, but the main thing is to get in touch with newspapers and tv stations—yours is a kind of story people should and do get upset about in this city.
posted by lia at 8:54 AM on March 10, 2009


If you're trying the ACLU, I'd call the local branch. The New York wing is pretty active, and you'd probably be able to get someone to at least respond to your call. Regarding lawyers -- maybe someone at your school could help with this? Obviously outside their main area -- but there might be resources at the legal office (or, if you're at Columbia, through the law school?)
posted by puckish at 8:57 AM on March 10, 2009


You way want to consider googling for other instances of this happening. I am pretty sure this happens all of the time (I read Fark). Not to downplay what happened to you. I had a similar thing happen to myself once. But anyway, you may find out what luck other people have had with having outfits like the ATF be more careful in making sure they've got the right residence.
posted by GleepGlop at 8:58 AM on March 10, 2009


The government isn't in the policy of issuing "apologies." If you want redress, you need to get a lawyer and sue. These kinds of violations of civil rights are generally settled for tidy sums, though frequently without the government admitting wrongdoing. If you want to force them to admit that what they did was wrong you have no other option but to sue.

Look, regardless of the outcome you want, you need to get a lawyer. That's the only way to move forward here. Fortunately, as you've got pretty good facts here, just about any civil litigation attorney in New York would love to take your case, as a five to six figure recovery is entirely possible.

IANAL, IANYL, this is not legal advice, etc.
posted by valkyryn at 8:58 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just because they had something to break your door down doesn't mean that this was "planned". Law enforcement agencies are trained to respond quickly to urgent situations. It doesn't take a week of planning to kick a door in.

If they had even vaguely reliable information that a fugitive was in your apartment at that very moment, you're probably SOL, warrant or not. Same if they had terrible information from a typically reliable source

If there was a warrant (and it was probably not a no-knock warrant considering the fact that they did, in fact, knock) they really aren't under any obligation to show it to you, especially since they didn't execute it fully.

This definitely sucks, but there are a lot of potential situations on the other side of this that very little can (or will) be done about and very few that will get you anywhere. File a complaint with the ATF and then call to check on it. Be reasonable, calm, and collected. Hysterics and hyperbole will not help you.

You should probably attempt to understand what precipitated the decision rather than trying to convince them that it was unreasonable. If they had some good reasons for what they did, you will probably feel better knowing that you weren't "targetted".
posted by toomuchpete at 9:01 AM on March 10, 2009


The1andonly, if you have access to some counselling through your university, you and your room-mate should avail of that, ASAP, even if you don't feel like you need it. You've been the though terrifying if brief ordeal, made to feel powerless and victimised, and for seconds or minutes may have feared for your lives.

That's a LOT to process and potentially a recipe for PTSD. It is probably in your best interests to talk it out with a professional. I'm saying this quietly but I mean it sincerely. Please think about it.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:07 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank you guys for your advice, we both have already graduated from school so this is not a resource available to us.....I am just surprised at just how upset I am over this and I just cant conceive how I can just shrug this off as a case of "shit happens"
posted by The1andonly at 9:09 AM on March 10, 2009


I'm going to suggest you go completely in the opposite direction and contact your local precinct to find out more about who they were looking for, what they were looking for, and why they made a mistake and headed for your door instead of the correct one. It sounds like you recognize that the cops aren't inherently evil and didn't do this maliciously -- they made a mistake, and that's bound to happen no matter how many civil rights we have. But you're pissed, and you want answers. You'll get them by engaging with the police, not starting an adversarial relationship. I'm not sure a lawyer will see much in this. You let them in. They didn't beat you up. They handcuffed you, but they're allowed to do that. They didn't ruin any of your stuff.

This sort of thing is exactly what your councilperson is for, and why it's a good idea to know where your local precinct is. Just go down there, drop in, say hi, shake hands. If you want some real results, talk to your councilperson, go to a neighborhood watch meeting and find the police outreach rep, get involved with your local government. Find out what's going on around you. Take control of your relationship with law enforcement, and become engaged with the cops around you. I think you'll find that they're entirely open and willing to talk with you, and when you bring up what happened, I'll bet they'll look in to it. Although it's a controversial opinion among our age group and social strata, cops are mostly really cool.
posted by incessant at 9:11 AM on March 10, 2009


I have no legal advice to offer, but... I think you should contact a lawyer and the ACLU. I can cite no axact figures, but I read about this kind of thing all the time. Sometimes with fatal results. I'm not a terribly litigious person, but I think this fight should be fought in order to send a message. Good luck!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:12 AM on March 10, 2009


Fortunately, as you've got pretty good facts here, just about any civil litigation attorney in New York would love to take your case, as a five to six figure recovery is entirely possible.

You're kidding, right? This very well may be a favorable scenario, but we have no way of knowing that. What we know is that the only damage was a little inconvenience and some hurt feelings. We can also guess that they didn't willfully break down a door where they knew a fugitive wasn't, based on how quickly they left after they realized he wasn't there.

So you have a likely inadvertent error on the part of law enforcement that caused incredibly minimal harm to the victims. We have no idea if there was a warrant involved, what information led the authorities to that apartment, or anything else like that. Pretty much anything that shows that this was a good-faith effort to apprehend a fugitive is going to tank the whole case.

Not that the OP shouldn't talk to a lawyer anyhow, but let's be realistic about the likelihood of this being a huge payday.

I agree with DarlingBri that an investment in counseling is probably a wiser one than an investment in a lawyer at this point, unless OP has a bunch of cash floating around and wants to pursue this on some principle.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:13 AM on March 10, 2009


contact your local precinct

He was raided by ATF, not local cops.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:28 AM on March 10, 2009


Even if you're not after monetary compensation, you should seek it. This is how the system learns -- punitive damages. The ATF will not change their procedure unless they have a compelling incentive to do so.

That said, you might not have a case. Humiliating as it was, it's possible that they followed the letter of the law. Talk to a lawyer.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:34 AM on March 10, 2009


You should call the ACLU... I volunteered for them in two different states. But be prepared that they may have nothing to offer you than advice. They are inundated with requests, and have very limited resources, so they do have to be choosy about the cases they pursue.

However, something similar (but far far worse) happened to a former coworker of mine in DE. She, her husband, teenage daughter and the daughter's friend were at a beach house/trailer on vacation. In the middle of the night, law enforcement ( I don't recall which branch) came crashing in drug them out of the trailer. The teenagers were wearing only t-shirts and panties. Officers shot and killed their dog who was barking and growling. They were thrown face down on the ground and handcuffed, all the while being screamed at "Where's So and So?" whom they of course had never heard of. The trailer was torn apart. The girls were crying, and I think the husband got hit in the head with a shotgun. Finally, after about 45 minutes, they were let go. Oops, wrong address, no apology, no nothing. They were terrorized, battered, bloodied from lying on gravel, with a dead dog. When they went back into the trailer, they found a bullet had missed their propane line by one inch, so they all could have been killed.

When they complained to the local authorities, they were discouraged from pursuing the case further. I encouraged her to call the ACLU, and they did take the case. It took over a year, but they did get a settlement of some sort.

I'm not suggesting that you go after those kind of damages (and you would never get them), but I do think that law enforcement has to be held accountable for these "mistakes" if only to ensure that they don't happen as frequently in the future.
posted by kimdog at 9:39 AM on March 10, 2009


Something similar happened to me here in Baltimore, 8 or 9 cops in the apartment at 7 in the morning, guns drawn. Our front door was unlocked so they entered and woke us all up outside our bedrooms. They were rude and forceful, peeking in on a female roommate who was getting dressed and after about 10 minutes of not knowing why they were there they finally told us they were looking for a murderer who used to live in my place. Apparently they do this home invasion every year. Eventually they left when it was clear that we had no idea who they were looking for, without apology, and with a threat to search the apartment for drug paraphernalia if we kept questioning their activities. They had a warrant, but it was for someone who obviously had not lived in the place in several years.

I filed a complaint with the city police department because the situation was fucked. The police department informed me a few weeks later that some cops were reprimanded for "swearing" and for "wearing plain clothes", but in reality, I don't think anything happened.

Next time I think I'll just punch a cop instead of wasting my time filing a complaint with the Police Department.

Get a lawyer and make some people lose jobs.
posted by cloeburner at 9:45 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


First of all, they very likely had a warrant. They did not show this to you because, a.) you didn't ask, and b.) you opened the door and let them in of your own volition.

I do not see how their actions were illegal.

Can you show "harm"? Probably not. Doesn't mean you shouldn't call a lawyer, but I wouldn't hold out hope for any sort of settlement.

What you should do is raise hell with your elected representatives and even get the media involved. This type of action should be investigated, if only to insure that it doesn't happen again.
posted by wfrgms at 9:49 AM on March 10, 2009


Haven't seen this mentioned yet, but this was on the news this morning. 41 suspected gang members were indicted for drug trafficking charges in Washington Heights and apprehended in early morning raids. IANAL and don't know what your rights really are in this situation, but I'd certainly want to know what information they had on me to cause them to think I was associated.

How long have you been in the apartment? Is it possible they were looking for someone who lived there in the past or maybe someone else in your building? Again, not a reason to have done what they did but it is a trail that may explain who they were looking for.
posted by tommccabe at 9:59 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing happens all the time, and ultimately I doubt they did anything illegal if they had a valid warrant. If it turns out there warrant was faulty then I suppose you might have some kind of case. I would contact the ACLU, they would probably have a pretty good idea of what to do.

They probably won't apologize unless you sue, and then the apology would be a part of the settlement.

IANAL.
posted by delmoi at 10:00 AM on March 10, 2009


Washington heights has been notorious for drug activities in the past but I think that this is no reason for cops not to do their homework and barge into my place.

You actually have no reason to think this. It might have been quite the opposite. Their homework might have led them to believe that their fugitive was currently living/staying at your residence. They handcuffed you because they assumed that an armed and dangerous fugitive currently was hiding there. They took precautions, protected themselves, did a thorough check of your place, then left. The fact that they said "we made a mistake" does not mean they came into your apartment on accident. What it means is that the assumptions behind the search they were conducting didn't turn out correctly. Does that mean the system failed? Not necessarily.

I used to live in Washington Heights and even though it's been cleaned out, that does not mean that it is a crime free place. The majority of the cocaine and other drugs that currently infect the North East still comes from Washington Heights. The difference now than even a few years ago is that if you call the cops, they actually come. They didn't before. However, it is perfectly normal for you to feel violated, to feel like you need an apology, and to feel as if the system went against you.

You weren't maltreated, you didn't ask to see a search warrant, none of your stuff was harmed. You weren't arrested, publicly labeled as a criminal, unlawfully interrogated, or any other thing.

Now, of course, the system could have screwed up. If you want your apology, want to find out more about why you were raided, or what to learn why this happened, either contact the ATF or lawyer up or use google to find out who the ATF was looking for. It's possible that the process messed up and possible that it didn't. Any home involuntary home invasion, be in a orbbery, cops, or whatnot is going to cause problems. If you have someone you can talk to, a pastor or a close friend or a mentor, talk to them, talk their ear off, etc. Do what you need to feel more secure in your own apartment and in your own space.
posted by Stynxno at 10:08 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


on preview: it seems that tommccabe has why the raid happened.
posted by Stynxno at 10:09 AM on March 10, 2009


contact your local precinct

He was raided by ATF, not local cops.


But his precinct probably knew about the raid or can find out for him (though certainly sounds like tommccabe found the answer). Besides, it's always a good idea to get friendly with your local precinct and get to know the cops who work your area. Community outreach goes both ways.
posted by incessant at 10:18 AM on March 10, 2009


Seconding contacting Radley Balko. He's got a popular blog and is a frequent columnist for mainstream media outlets, and this is one of his pet issues. He can get your story out there. I would also nth talking to a lawyer.
posted by ewiar at 10:22 AM on March 10, 2009


Don't bother waiting for an apology. As said before, contact the ACLU and a lawyer if you want anything to actually happen. I'm glad you're alive.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:24 AM on March 10, 2009


Most likely they had a warrant thus the right the invade your home. Thats what a warrant does. Police make mistakes too. Youre delusional if you think a scenario with no damage or physical harm is going to be actionable. Im an ACLU member and I will tell you right now thats what an ACLU lawyer is going to tell you. Regardless, do what you feel is right, but dont think you can get a big payout or morally equate yourself with people who are really violated and who need the legal resources youre going to waste.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:38 AM on March 10, 2009


I don't know about making a complaint about this, but I wanted to mention that you may be having a little PTSD from the event right now. I mean, it was frightening, degrading and damn recent. Acknowledging that being very upset is a natural and sensible reaction to a home invasion (even by the "good guys") may help you somewhat. I don't know if you will get an apology/closure about this, but addressing that you have a right to be scared and upset can help you to come to some sort of equanimity a little sooner, perhaps.
posted by thebrokedown at 10:51 AM on March 10, 2009


Damn dirty ape:

This was my response earlier:

I want an apology....I dont want monetary compensation, I understand that they have a job to do and I understand that they get tips from people...but does that mean that you follow every lead without checking up?.....My record has NO criminal activity, I do not associate with any criminals, once again the only thing that it is outside of the norm is that i am a single dude living with another dude and that we are both of color? THAT IS ALL!
posted by The1andonly at 8:38 AM on March 10 [mark as best answer] [+] [!]


Please make sure to read the whole thread state carefully, nowhere did I morally equated myself with people who are "truly" violated...and nowhere did I say I am going to contact the ACLU (and if i have to deal with someone like YOU i am much better off)

The more I think about this situation the worst I feel about it.......The more scared I feel when i realized that a whole bunch of guns/riffles were pointed directly at me, the worst I feel about having to sit in my living room naked while offices of both sexes were looking directly at me, and the worst I feel about the overall situation....If they apprehended Gang members I am glad they did...but if you tell me that it is ok for them to confuse them with me (I bet you that all of the other members were also in their 20s who probably dont look too much different from me)......


If this were to happen to your family (can you imagine, mother, daughter or wife half naked in front of bunch of police officers).....and you can shrug it off...good for you....I am not you however
posted by The1andonly at 10:54 AM on March 10, 2009


Call a fucking lawyer, or someone who can publicize this.

The ONLY reason for not doing this is so the ATF can do this to other innocent people. If you want that to happen, by all means sit on your ass and do nothing but be a front row spectator to the decimation of our civil rights.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:58 AM on March 10, 2009


An explanation and apology is the difference between feeling like a victim who has been randomly labeled a criminal or feeling like a citizen who made a sacrifice for the common good.

The admission of a mistake at the scene isn't really adequate ... send someone in later to apologize, explain how dangerous the people they were looking for are, why you thought this was the house to raid, etc. You know, like you would do if if you accidentally barged into the home of someone important.
posted by samsm at 11:05 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, youre obviously emotionally upset by all this and frankly, the last place you should be is on the internet having a bunch of strangers helping you get even more angry at the system with BS justificuation of civil rights violations. You should be taking to a loved one, doctor, therapist, etc so you can begin to calm down. Rousing up this rabble isnt doing you any good, its just giving you opinions you want to hear and making your emotional issues worse than they are. Do what you feel is right, but get off the internet and talk to a real pro about this not random people from a "halp my cat is sick" webboard with no understanding of legal issues.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:08 AM on March 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Rant, it's ok. It's kind of therapeutic. Don't be fazed by the nay sayers. Get centered, find your calm space within and with a clear mind, if you want to pursue this with legal action, it is your prerogative to do so.
posted by watercarrier at 11:21 AM on March 10, 2009


Another news report of what happened this morning. I do think you need to contact a lawyer to find out what your rights are (if any) and possibly a therapist to come to terms with how violated you feel.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:22 AM on March 10, 2009


You might want to take a bit more interest in who your neighbors are because the ATF was there for a reason.

Really? So now you deserve such treatment because you live near people who might be doing something wrong? This takes blaming the victim to a whole new level of crappiness.
posted by overhauser at 11:34 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Most likely they had a warrant thus the right the invade your home. Thats what a warrant does. Police make mistakes too. Youre delusional if you think a scenario with no damage or physical harm is going to be actionable.

Sorry, that is such fucking bullshit I can't believe I am reading it.

Damn Dirty Ape, what are your credentials again? Anyone can join the ACLU, so being an ACLU member doesn't equate to civil rights expertise anymore than being an NRA member means you're an expert on the 2nd Amendment.
posted by jayder at 11:54 AM on March 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


How long have you been in this apartment?

Did you let them in?

Did you ask for a warrant?

Please answers these extremely relevant questions.
posted by dios at 11:55 AM on March 10, 2009


How long have you been in your apartment? It's very possible that the person who lived there before you was the guy they were looking for. This has happened to me.

The only question you asked in your original post is "How do I put in a complaint?" Everything since then has been, for lack of a better word, venting about what happened. It doesn't seem like you're as interested in the original question you posted as you are in talking about what happened and how much it's freaked you out. Venting for awhile isn't asking a question.

Later on, you said that you wanted an apology. I don't think you're going to be successful on that front. By apologizing, they're admitting they did wrong and wouldn't that open them up to a lawsuit at that point (IANAL, so who knows)? I know you're not interested in that, but they can't just trust you when you say you won't sue.
posted by hootch at 11:57 AM on March 10, 2009


Sorry, that is such fucking bullshit I can't believe I am reading it.

You don't think they had a warrant to do a raid? Which is more likely, that they did an illegal raid, or that they got a judge to issue a warrant based on inaccurate facts?
posted by smackfu at 11:58 AM on March 10, 2009


but I think that this is no reason for cops not to do their homework and barge into my place. This could have easily been avoided if they would have just looked up my name and found out more about me...both me and my roomate feel hurt and "targetted" we are the only single, colored males living in our building, he is gay and i am straight but both of us attended ivy league schools ( and decided to move uptown to save $$$), are fully and gainfully employed and just do not fit the mold of a criminal.

Also, could you elaborate more on this. It may be relevant.

But as I read this, on one hand you are advocating that they use profiling ("do their homework... find out about me... I went to ivy league schools...do not fit the mold.") and then you on the other hand you claim to have been the victim of profiling ("feel hurt and targeted... only single colored males").

So I'm unclear whether you think you were a victim of profiling or not. Please explain. It is also relevant.
posted by dios at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2009


The only question you asked in your original post is "How do I put in a complaint?" Everything since then has been, for lack of a better word, venting about what happened

I realized I vented a little (especially at damn dirty ape using the word delusional was very insensitive in my opinion) but most of the time I was just answering questions from others (as I am doing now with you).....

Feel free to answer my original question however (I saw no way to just put in a complaint when I went to the ATF website). This thread has been most helpful and knowing that real criminals were caught....helps a little....I have been living in my apartment for over a year now....if the intelligence used by our police forces is a year old, then imagine how many more people they would have caught or catch in the future?


Every story has two sides and mine just happened to be a first hand account of what I saw, how i felt and my original reaction, and how I can cope with it......Askmefi has been very impressive in helping out with that last part.
posted by The1andonly at 12:11 PM on March 10, 2009


1. Stop talking to us.
2. Contact a lawyer through the National Lawyers Guild


Do it right now.

The Guild has a National Police Accountability Project and have worked on similar cases. Don't assume the officers were acting with intention to harm you in particular, when simple incompetence is more likely. Stop expecting an apology or any other indication of fallibility on their part, it will not be volunteered because you called them up upset.
posted by zenon at 12:23 PM on March 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


You're lucky you're not dead. The cops often kill people they mis-raid, so that they don't need to admit to wrong-doing. ("He resisted, we shot him.") Also, if you'd had a dog, the dog would definitely be dead; this is SWAT team policy now.

You'll never get an apology. However, they ARE obligated to show you the warrant if they have one.

Get off Metafilter, get a lawyer, and get in court. Sue them as hard as you possibly can, and talk to legal advocacy groups to get your bills paid if you need to.
posted by k.geis at 1:30 PM on March 10, 2009


The cops often kill people they mis-raid, so that they don't need to admit to wrong-doing.

Got a cite for this? If not, then don't spread mis-information and unsupported bullshit as an answer.
posted by dios at 2:07 PM on March 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


Mr. Micawber's law firm has handled these kinds of cases before. I will find out if they are interested in your particulars if you like.
posted by micawber at 2:31 PM on March 10, 2009


I realized I vented a little (especially at damn dirty ape using the word delusional was very insensitive in my opinion)

Yes, it was insensitive, not to mention the ignorance of his comment. I'm still waiting for him to come back and clarify what expertise he has.
posted by jayder at 2:46 PM on March 10, 2009


I am really sorry this happened to you. It's scary and you rightly feel violated. There are some facts in your situation that will potentially limit your success through legal channels (police receive certain presumptions under the law, you have limited damages because you were not arrested and they did not damage your property), so I would not necessarily recommend going that route, though it may produce an eventual apology (months or years from now) if not a monetary recovery.

I would wait until you have recovered from the initial shock before you go to the local precinct (which is a good place to start, as they may have participated in the ATF's raid or may be able to refer you to someone at ATF or DEA who deals with community relations) or call the ACLU or Lawyer's Guild. If you start telling someone you feel targeted because of your skin color or because you live with another guy, you need to explain why, and it sounds like you need more facts. It could be that, or it could be a really awful mistake. You seem too upset right now to deal with what will probably be a big hassle, and upsetting in its own right. It will likely not be as simple as filling a form out on the internet.

Here are some things I would ask if I were you, once you get in front of the right person at the ATF (assuming that is the right entity), with or without a lawyer:

1) Did they have a warrant?
2) What did the warrant say? (Was it a no-knock warrant, did it actually list your address, did it list you or your roommate, what was the basis for probable cause?)
3) Aside from what was in the warrant, why did they think they would find the person they were looking for in your apartment?
4) What further investigation did they do to confirm that suspicion?

Getting answers to these questions may ease your mind about the profiling aspect, or it may confirm that you want to pursue a complaint.
posted by *s at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


A nearly identical thing happened to me many many years ago in Vancouver, down to the cuffed-in-boxers thing, except the cops broke down the door in the middle of the night, dragged me out of bed, and put my head through the drywall in the hall while cuffing me.

Once it was clear they had made a mistake, they apologized. The cop who was standing with me while they scratched their heads and looked around lit a smoke for me and put it in my mouth while I stood there and was sincerely apologetic.

I let it go. I assume they compensated the landlord for the damage in some way. It was kinda scary, but life's too short, and I was happy that they dragged away the dirty dealing-to-kids fuckers next door once they figured it all out.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:19 PM on March 10, 2009


Perhaps they made a mistake, but the way they handled it is a major problem IMO.

I can see this as a "the quicker we are out of here the less likely the person is to take action against the department" thing - but in truth if it was me and I got some human consideration and an honest explanation - even later - would make the difference for me.

Doesnt sound like thats what happened, so to drive that point home - proper actions to correct a MAJOR mistake to an innocent person by negligence, incompetence, or even plain human error - hopefully you can have that corrected so no one else has to go through what you did - or at least lessens the frequency and certainly lessens the "oh well, sh*t happens" attitude they seemed to take with it (while threatening you with not coming back "as long as you're truly innocent") - hit them where they feel it worst - lawsuit for monetary and publicity as much as you can stand.

I'm a huge proponent of police, I'm probably in the minority who've never met a "jerk" cop that I read about online occasionally. I think they do a largely thankless job for way too little pay. But in this case, what was done was just plain wrong. Sadly, lawsuits seem to be the only way to even try to ensure crap like that doesnt get perpetuated. And i hate advocating lawsuit as an option, theres way too much of that - just not in this case.

Sorry this happened to you - and the aftermath - if it were me - it'd be a long time before I felt any real respect for anyone with a badge again, it'd have to be earned back tenfold.
posted by clanger at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2009


This is EXACTLY why there are lawyers in the world. Call one. Sue. Win money. Or settle for money.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:07 PM on March 10, 2009


After you contact a lawyer, you may also want to contact this group, Protect Our Liberties, set up by Mayor Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Md., after his home was wrongfully invaded by a SWAT team, his family was terrorized, and his two dogs were killed, in a situation that sounds very much like yours. The group is Maryland-based but they may be able to put you in contact with a similar group in your area.

And tell the media. (Calvo's group may be able to help you with this.) A recent Kojo Nnamdi radio show (via NPR) featured a discussion with Mayor Calvo and David Klinger, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri at St. Louis (scroll down to the link at 13.06). At the end of the segment, Kojo raised some questions about why the law enforcement/government officials in question could not or would not apologize.

The issue is getting a lot of publicity in DC (it has also been discussed recently on NPR's Tell Me More, and the Washington Post here and here. Additional links/background on the incident is at Wikipedia.

Do not let this go. Even the Cato Institute has weighed in on this (scroll down to pages 9-11).
posted by apartment dweller at 9:51 AM on March 11, 2009


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