Swat Team Raids Home With Armored Car, Kills Unarmed Occupant, and Costs Millions In Damages But Lead Officer Given Award For His Role In The Raid

220px-Members_of_the_60th_Security_Police_Squadron's_Base_Swat_Team628x471-1Five Connecticut towns will pay $3.5 million in a bizarre raid by heavily armed SWAT team members after a report of drugs in the house of a Norwalk man. The team hit the home with flash grenades while snipers and officers surrounded the property. The owner, Ronald Terebesi, was dragged from the home and another man, Gonzalo Guizan (right), shot and killed. Neither was armed and a small amount of recreational drugs were found. The towns however still fought the case for years until a court issued a key ruling against them. They still deny any negligence or fault and proceeded to give the officer leading the raid an award for his role in the disastrous raid. (Swat members shown here were not involved in this raid)

This is not the first time that police were given accommodations for negligent or mistaken raids.

This case however captures the problem of police departments that seem eager to use armored cars and SWAT teams funded after 9-11. Former Easton Police Chief John “Jack” Solomon insists that the raid was carried out according to a valid warrant. That warrant was based on a call from an exotic dancer who admitted that she had a dispute with Terebesi. Police (who have had complaints about Terebesi entertaining exotic dancers in the past) responded with a virtual invasion. The SWAT team covered in body armor drove into the neighborhood in SUVs and an large armored transport with SWAT team members standing on the running boards ready to assault the house. They also took a video of the assault as snipers deployed and the armored car charged the house.

Monroe Officer Michael Sweeney led the team into the house behind a large shield with Trumbull Officer Brian Weir behind him pointing a M4 assault rifle. The grenades exploded and and doors came off their hinges. Sweeney then screamed “I’m hit” and police let loose a torrent of bullets. Guizan was hit six times and died. Terresi was handcuffed and dragged out of the house. The plaintiffs say that the evidence showed both men were clearly cowering in a corner when the shooting occurred.

Sweeney was not shot and at most was hit by the debris from the flashbang grenades thrown by his own team. Weir later said that when he heard Sweeney say that he was hit, he fired at the men. Sweeney then says that he saw Terebesi and Guizan in the corner but that they charged him and Guizan tried to grab his gun. Sweeney said that he fired to keep control of his weapon. Weir however said that he saw no such struggle and the attorneys for the two men said that the evidence clearly shows that they were cowering in the corner. An autopsy showed that Sweeney was in a superior position consistent with his account on the shooting.

One would think that these towns would be outraged by the overkill shown in the assault and then the negligent actions taken in the house. If so, one would be wrong. The towns spent more money fighting the case despite clear evidence found by the courts to support a trial. Now, Easton First Selectman Thomas Herrmann insists that the settlement does not reflect any negligence by his officers or those of the other towns: “While the defendants, police departments and officers from Darien, Easton, Trumbull, Monroe and Wilton maintain they were not responsible for the unfortunate death of Mr. Guizan, the insurers for the defendants, who will bear the full cost of the settlement, believed that it was best to resolve the matter rather than incur further attorneys’ fees, which were anticipated to be significant. The defendants concurred, further believing it was important to facilitate the Guizan family being relieved of the combined burden of litigation.”

That seems a rather belated concern for the Guizan family since you first launched a virtual military assault on a drug allegation, then killed the unarmed Guizan, and then fought their claim for damages until you had little practical alternative but to settle.

Team members found only two crack pipes and a tin containing a small amount of cocaine, but no guns.

Sweeney was then honored for his role in the raid by the police department.

Source: CT Post

77 thoughts on “Swat Team Raids Home With Armored Car, Kills Unarmed Occupant, and Costs Millions In Damages But Lead Officer Given Award For His Role In The Raid

  1. That is an incredible story. The claims by the officers that the victims were trying to take away their guns is laughable and reminiscent of a scene in the movie, “Tommy Boy”. Scary and ridiculous at the same time. These officers should be charged with assault and homicide charges.

  2. It happened to Guizan, and without an remorse by the police or the city council, it can happen to anyone else in the community.

  3. Yet another example in what has become a pathetic series of “contretemps” invloving the use of military tactics to support what used to be the simple work of a few detectives. There seems to have been no evidence that this would be a dangerous mission, yet the overkill being tactically deployed would have been fit for terrorists. Would it have been too much to ask for the police to have possibly asked the occupants to come out with their hands up, via loudspeaker, rather than initially using flash grenades?

    The “War on Terror” is over and the “terrorists” have indeed won. Our country is now no different than the USSR and China in policing. The “Western Freedom” that radical Muslim Clerics denounced is fast fading away and the proponents of the “War on ……… (fill in the blanks) is a lost cause. I would say that this infuriates me, but then so much of this stupidity today, by those who think they know better, also infuriates me.

  4. This is a shining example of a local government refusing to admit that it did anything wrong and how dare anyone else question them. The award bestowed upon the officer is proof of that in my book. Hubris

    I wonder if there is more to why the swat team was called out. I would hope there was but just jumping into a swat call out is unnecessary if it is just a run of the mill case of a drug possession. A department can still serve a search warrant on a house by having three officers knock on the door and go inside after someone answers. If there is such a worry the defendants might flush the evidence you can try to get the homeowner while he is at work and the house empty. But that is a bit more work. Some choose to rush in here and now, and it’s not always the best course of action.

  5. I would be interested to read the warrant request to see what they authorities expected to find in the building and why a swat team and armored car were necessary.

  6. Swat team? Police departments have lost control of even moderately armed officers. Now that they have military weapons we are seeing more and more of these police executed home invasions. It sounds like the victim was executed by the police. This is tragic for the victim and for all citizens.

  7. There is a double standard – cops continue to collect their pay, get absolved of blame and then get an award when they kill a civilian in a very questionable shooting.

    Compare that to what civilian shooters experience. Zimmerman is going through hell (and will continue to pay for the rest of his life) for arguably an more justified (though still questionable) killing.

  8. It is obvious that the exotic dancer had a beef with the homeowner, and must have told the cops he was a major drug dealer and was armed to the teeth and would resist law enforcement. Thus the warrant and the tactics.

    My question is why the dancer is not in prison now for filing a false report with the cops, and she should also be liable for damages. She could work off her part of any suit by working for the homeowner for free for a time. Then it is more disturbing the the lead cop is not in prison or facing charges for also lying.

    In the South, it used to be normal for the police to murder politically acftive black Americans and then not be prosecuted for their crimes. This was brought to a halt or decreased by having the Federal government bring civil rights violations charges against such cops. I think it is time for the DoJ to get involved in this one, and bring charges against the cops.

    Then I also wonder if there is any means that a private citizen can hire an attorney to file criminal charges apart from the local DA? At the very least, I would be pounding on my Senators doors to get the DoJ involved and prosecute the police.

  9. “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

    By giving police departments armored vehicles and assault gear, you encourage SWAT raids – essentially military tactics.

    Restrict police departments to police gear and they will develop good police procedures (and appropriate tactics).

  10. Is Mr. Obama, or Mr. Holder, for that matter, too busy building up the surveillance state to venture at least a comment about the destruction of the civil liberty state? We come only to praise the police and the military, not to even notice the truth behind the curtain that they are a huge part of the problem. We affirm only that which bolsters the authoritarian—————>fascist state.

  11. Legalize all drugs and force the legal and LEO professionals to do something other than enrich the System by ruining millions of lives year in and year out — but don’t expect President Black “Worse than” Bush” to suddenly act like a leader who believes in the Constitution he supposedly taught as a part-time, adjunct instructor.

  12. This is an inevitable outgrowth of the War on Drugs (aka the War on Civil Liberties). Ending this monstrosity is long overdue.

  13. “This is not the first time that police were given accommodations for negligent or mistaken raids.”

    Negligence isn’t the only concern. There is a long history of organized murders of homeowners and “drug forfeiture laws” used to cover up their crimes. In some cases, the victims had nothing to do with illegal drugs, but the pi…uh, “cops” saw a wealthy person and wanted to rationalize stealing his assets. Dead people don’t file lawsuits.

    Was the intrusion and planned murder of the victims in this case motivated by greed? Or was this simply about a street gang looking for an excuse to commit excessive violence with impunity? Asset forfeiture isn’t mentioned in the story, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an issue.

    http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/What-led-to-deadly-Easton-raid-3587812.php

    Judging by the news item I found (from last May), it was an excuse to use wanton violence and not face charges.

  14. This is why the second amendment is so important as this is what our “police agencies” have become: an opportunity for childish bullies to play “military assault” with big new scary intimidating toys so they can watch things blow up. It’s playtime for them, death time for the taxpayers who pay for this obscenity. BTW displays of military and police crimes of violence spreads to the population by exposure.

  15. Variations on a theme. A twist on the old “weed and seed” program:

    http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/Community-Programs/Weed%20and%20Seed/index.html

    Signed, sealed and delivered. What’s a mere 3.5 million.

    Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield Concerning the Death of Gonzalo Guizan in Easton on May 18, 2008

    http://www.ct.gov/csao/cwp/view.asp?a=1802&q=437740

    CONCLUSION

    The use of force by police officers on May 18, 2008, at 91 Dogwood Drive, Easton, Ct was appropriate under C.G.S. 53a-22

    March 30, 2009

    Jonathan C. Benedict, State’s Attorney

    Judicial District of Fairfield

  16. Now exactly what training mission was the swat team on again…. I guess they can use real house and real people to make it more interesting….

  17. “By giving police departments armored vehicles and assault gear, you encourage SWAT raids – essentially military tactics. Restrict police departments to police gear and they will develop good police procedures (and appropriate tactics).”

    *DING*DING*DING* Thank you, Steve Fleischer.

    If only the PD’s in my neck of the woods (Tampa area) would take this view. But no–last year, pre-RNC Convention, our departments fell over themselves in joy as they took delivery of “surplus” armored personnel carriers (most of us would call them tanks, minus the pivoting gun turrets), the maintenance of which is paid for by sponsors such as defense contractors, who get to plaster their logos on the tanks’ body, much like NASCAR vehicles. I kid you not. Oh, and a few “surveillance” drones.

    Like many others, I refer to behavior like the SWAT/PD personnel above as “The War On Some People Who Use Some Drugs”. Because that’s exactly what it is.

  18. If Connecticut is serious about restricting access to guns to save lives, maybe they need to start with their police departments

  19. “10 Reasons The U.S. Is No Longer The Land Of The Free”

    http://jonathanturley.org/2012/01/15/10-reasons-the-u-s-is-no-longer-the-land-of-the-free/

    Perhaps “Militarization of Police” should be added to the list.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/bradlockwood/2011/11/30/the-militarizing-of-local-police/

    Excerpts:

    “And they are receiving a warm welcome. 50 states, 17,000+ federal, state and local agencies have accepted more than $2.6 billion in donated military equipment so far this year, as revealed by the Pentagon’s Paul Stockton at a House Homeland Security Committee panel. In response to the drawdown of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, much equipment is now available – And being “donated” for domestic law enforcement. Including $600 million in cash, this equipment and funding are intended for all-inclusive counter-narcotics and -terrorism enforcement activities.”

    “…now that our wars overseas are ending, all of that equipment is coming home to roost.”

  20. When Wars Come Home

    Tuesday, 19 February 2013 10:08

    By Charles Derber and Yale Magrass, Truthout

    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/14539-when-wars-come-home

    Excerpts:

    “In the flood of commentary about the Newtown massacre and broader US gun violence, liberals tend to blame failures of gun control while conservatives blame the mentally ill and Hollywood. But they are both missing one important and overlooked explanation: the domestic consequences of a militarized superpower engaged in chronic wars around the world.

    The US spends more money on the military than the next ten countries together. It also has the highest level of domestic gun violence in the developed world. Highly militarized societies cannot compartmentalize foreign from domestic violence. They cannot prevent wars – and guns – from coming home.”

    “Military societies cannot reproduce themselves without sustaining the commitment to guns and the morality of gun violence in the larger society. In his Farewell Address, President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the penetration of the values and economic interests of the military-industrial complex into the heart of civil society. The Newtown massacre and the ex-LA police officer’s rampage are powerful reminders of Eisenhower’s understanding of how the military inevitably shapes the morality and conduct of civilians and companies, always threatening to bring wars home. As Martin Luther King lamented at the height of the war in Vietnam, “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.”

    King went on to say: “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.””

  21. I have to agree with an earlier poster in that we need to end two wars. The war on Terrorism and the so-called War on Drugs. Instead of arresting people and throwing them in prisons run by for profit corporations, we would all be safer if we stopped our international war projects and our domestic war projects. The money saved could run Obamacare for quite some time and would save lives at home and countless civilians overseas.

  22. Just when I start getting a little sympathetic for gun control, this reminds me of the grander scheme the second amendment was designed to control.

  23. From the BORDC (Bill of Rights Defense Committee blog):

    “Police consultants spread zero-tolerance policing over local objections…but who’s listening?”

    by Nadia Kayyali

    http://www.constitutioncampaign.org/blog/?p=11933#.USaTS2e3F8F

    Excerpts:

    “Police consultants such as William Bratton and Robert Wasserman are warping policing nationwide, and even globally, to a disturbing uniformity. Cash-strapped cities are paying their consulting firms thousands, even millions, of dollars for advice on how to implement “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” style policing. These policies are springing up across the country, as advocates and communities scramble to respond. The most recent place is Oakland.”

    “Oakland’s other, less reviled police consultant also has a troubled record. Robert Wasserman and his consulting firm were awarded a $99,900 contract from Oakland in September. He is the architect of the community outreach effort around suspicious activity reporting, a troubling program that encourages citizens and line officers to submit data that ends up in local-federal fusion centers. He was also a consultant for Transport for London, at the price of 1,000 pounds a day, an appointment that embroiled him in controversy . This was only one of his international consulting gigs, and he’s not alone in having worked in the U.K.. Bratton also worked as an unpaid advisor for British Prime Minister David Cameron.”

  24. The Obama team end the “war on drugs”

    Bwahahahahahaha. Oh my, another fantasy that there is a rational government in place.

  25. Blouise – Part of the gun culture? Which side you talkin’ about, Willis?

    These monkeys were just jealous b/c they missed out on Waco, Ruby Ridge, Philly helo-bombing and San Berdoo…

    They outta have their nuts examined and heads extracted, or maybe the other way around.

  26. We must always Look Forward; not Backward when assigning any responsibility in matters of potential law-breaking by any member of the ruling class. This is especially true when it comes to the brave police who risk their lives defending us against crack pipes and other dangerous weapons of terror

  27. Real drug dealers need to install large trap doors in the floor just inside the front door and a second one out on the porch. When the LEOs come and burst in, hit the switch and put them in the cellar. We had such a set up at a gas station in East Saint Louis when I was a kid. When they got robbed the robbers got dunked into the flooded cellar. It took two events that made the news before the hoods caught on and hit em up at the back door. The owner spied through the peep hole and just shot em through the door. Then the owner closed the place and moved to a suburb. It sounds like this particular SWAT team was a product of Hitler Youth.

  28. It is easy to see if you look at the long course of history. Everyone is arming up. Outsiders are talking about the fact that people in this country are getting ready for war.Funny is the fact I am watching Katyn tonight. Watch the crimes of the statists.

  29. Nothing here to see. Move along. (GeneH).

    Meaning what”s new. Nothing. only the armament gets more militarized. And military vets need jobs, and Obama is fixing the jobs. Soon he will have internet “nests of dissidents” to raid with SWAT teams.

  30. One thing is sure, it is NOT going to end well. Definitely asymetrical war. The population not enclosed by fortresses, and with an impotent bill of rights, we wait for the attack.

  31. Some points from the longer version of the story in
    http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/What-led-to-deadly-Easton-raid-3587812.php

    Sweeney was not really “leading the raid”. He was just the one that was put at the front end of the stack of guys who went in with instructions not to wait while the flashbang detonated. They basically flashbanged themselves and chaos was predictable – particular for people with indifferent levels of training and experience.

    The sole cause of the excessive and stupid force appears to have been Chief Solomon, who had a monkey on his back.
    One of the group of neighbors who were complaining to him about Terebesi’s lifestyle had apparently given the Chief his job.
    It was Solomon who insisted on the Keystone Cops With Tanks action. THis despite any misgiving expressed by the people who were going to do his bidding.

    As for Sweeney, his remark sums it up.
    “Why didn’t we just knock on the door?”

  32. These Law Enforcement Offenders (LEOs by some accounts) provide a very good lesson to all of the Adams of Connecticutt. The Adams dont need to go on line to view fast and furious weaponry or watch the latest film from Hollywood showing guns and blood. No, they can watch the local news and hear about the local Leos of the world with the armoured car, automatic weapons and trigger happy Leos shooting unarmed residents of their own homes. Wake up Newtown, it is coming from a town near you. This dog cannot spull Connecticut, only passed through once with half blind guy on some legal Beagle mission. Climb out of the gutter folks. You are close enough to turdy turd and a turd to know better.

  33. “We, as criminal defense lawyers, are forced to deal with some of the lowest people on earth, people who have no sense of right and wrong, people who will lie in court to get what they want, people who do not care who gets hurt in the process. It is our job – our sworn duty – to protect our clients from these people.” – Cythia Rosenberry, Federal Public Defender, Washington, D.C.

  34. randyjet, you’re joking, aren’t you? The Holder DoJ investigate this as a civil rights violation? This is the same DoJ that did nothing about voter intimidation in Philadelphia, and the same DoJ that deliberately trafficked guns to the Mexican drug cartels. And, the same DoJ involved in distributing SWAT goodies to your local police…

  35. junctionshamus 1, February 22, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    “We, as criminal defense lawyers, are forced to deal with some of the lowest people on earth, people who have no sense of right and wrong, people who will lie in court to get what they want, people who do not care who gets hurt in the process. It is our job – our sworn duty – to protect our clients from these people.” – Cythia Rosenberry, Federal Public Defender, Washington, D.C.

    Sounds like he is talking about the criminals that refer to themselves as the police..

  36. Inalienable – Right in the ten-ring, my friend.

    And for all his faults, Dorner wasn’t too far off when he said, “How do you know when a cop is lying? When they start a sentence with, “Based on my training and experience…”

  37. QUOTE “There is a long history of organized murders of homeowners and “drug forfeiture laws” used to cover up their crimes. ”

    Yeah Donald Scott is a good example. Police paid out $5million to his widow.

    As for ending the War On Drugs, first we have to get our Government out of the drug trade.
    Been long know that the CIA helps countries, who may have this as one of their main exports, get them into our country. Customs officials have testified again & again on this.

    I mean when you have the Feds going after a guy that has a state license to grow it, then there must be a LOT of influence being pushed at the fed level, and that can only mean SOMEONE is getting a LOT of money!!

  38. The other issue with American policing is the overuse of the taser as a means to gain compliance through torture and the resultant deaths. The cumulative death toll is now over 500 in North America. The following two sites cover the issue in depth. They are no longer updated frequently, but the archives are worth browsing.

    Excited-Delerium.

    TNT Truth … Not Tasers.

  39. The reason governments and police chiefs defend these tactics is because of the results, not despite them. As they see the occasional unarmed citizen gunned down by the SWAT team serves as an example and keeps the citizens suitably afraid of the law. This is ARMY OF OCCUPATION POLICING. The racial underclassed has always enjoyed such policing, but now it is extending to the middle classes.

    “To protect and serve” is the motto of many American police forces but one may ask “to protect and serve whom?”. Only a minority of US citizens have both the protection of and protection from these police gangs, possibly as few as 0.1%.

  40. “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. ” James Madison, June 29th. 1787, Debates in Federal Convention

  41. “This case however captures the problem of police departments that seem eager to use armored cars and SWAT teams funded after 9-11. ”

    Madison predicted this. Our govt is using the excuse of 9-11 to destroy the Bill of Rights. The question is, what are we going to do about it.

  42. “How do you know when a cop is lying? When they start a sentence with, “Based on my training and experience…” -Dorner via junctionshamus

    See 10, page 5. (…the end of the sentence, in this case)

    http://media.nbclosangeles.com/documents/Christopher+Dorner+criminal+complaint.pdf

    junctionshamus, You posted Dorner’s remark to another thread. When I later read the affidavit (prior link), I wondered, and now we know. Either the cop is lying or hasn’t a clue, perhaps.

    —-

    Don S. and Carlyle Moulton, Thanks for the Balko links.

  43. What AP said about new posters, but add GMason, Junction Shamus, John, etc. to the list.

    Gmason said: What are we going to do about it, Also a point i have harped on for a year now.

    With these guys (and AP) around, I can now retire.
    Don’t get your hopes up.

  44. Sworn before me and subscribed = means to an end; no more, no less.

    To paraphrase Mark Twain: “There are lies, damned lies, and sworn affidavits…”

  45. Baca named Sheriff of the Year despite criticism, U.S. probe

    February 25, 2013 | 7:14 pm

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef017d3e7e72fe970c-640wi

    For Sheriff Lee Baca, the last couple of years have been rough.

    His department is being investigated by the U.S. A county commission examining abuse in Baca’s jails found him to be disengaged and uninformed saying he probably would have been fired in the private sector. Secret deputy cliques with gang-like hand signs and matching tattoos have surfaced. And Baca has been accused of using his office for the benefit of friends, relatives and donors.

    Despite those challenges, Baca has been awarded Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs’ Assn.

    His spokesman said the honor was appropriate given Baca is “the most progressive sheriff in the nation” and “a guy that works seven days a week.”

    “This is his best year because people do their best when they face their biggest challenges and he is excelling.” added sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

    Baca’s critics disagreed.

    “You gotta be kidding,” said Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California. “The years of malfeasance in the jails and the blatant failure of the sheriff to address the problems make him winning this award mind-boggling.”

    The association that picked Baca represents most of the sheriffs across the nation, with about 2,700 sheriffs as members, a spokesman said. About 10 sheriffs were nominated for the award. A panel of former winners, current sheriffs and corporate sponsors chose Baca after reviewing the applications submitted for him and other nominees.

    “It looks at what the sheriff has done in their own community but also what the sheriff has done to advance the office of sheriff nationally,” said Fred Wilson, director of operations for the association. “Sheriff Baca certainly embodies that. He is an exemplary sheriff.”

    Wilson said that although members of the panel focused on the application materials for each candidate, they were free to do their own research.

    The recent headlines they would have found about Baca have not been flattering.

    Current and former sheriff’s supervisors went public with accounts of mismanagement. Aside from the FBI investigation of his jails, federal authorities launched a probe into allegations that Baca’s deputies harassed minorities in the Antelope Valley and another investigation into one of Baca’s captains who was accused of helping an alleged drug trafficker.

    Baca’s department attracted more scrutiny after disclosures of a secret clique of elite gang deputies who sported matching tattoos and allegedly celebrated shootings. The sheriff has also been under fire for giving special treatment to friends and supporters, including launching “special” criminal investigations on behalf of two contributors. Although the homicide rate is at a historic low, recently released sheriff’s statistics show serious crime increased 4.2% last year and all types of crime were up 3%.

    Most recently, The Times reported that Baca’s nephew was hired to be a deputy despite a checkered past, and is now being investigated on allegations of abusing an inmate.

    Last year, the sheriff announced a sweeping jail reform plan aimed at curbing abuses and improving accountability. An attorney monitoring Baca’s progress for the county has given him high marks so far.

    “Sheriff Baca doesn’t step down, he steps up,” Whitmore added.

  46. All it takes is for one little piggy to squeel “I’m hit” for them to murder without remorse or accountability and guess who gets to pay for their murderous overreach failure and lack of accountability… the tax payers!

    I always thought police were supposed to Protect and Serve, not intimidate and murder!

  47. […] has gone a certain unhinged quality, both for those SWAT teams that seem to have a nasty habit of breaking into homes armed to the teeth and wounding or killing people accused of nonviolent crimes, and for […]

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