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. 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…”

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. […] 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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