With this SWAT blog, we're answering a question proposed in the July 26 blog, "Gathering Intel for Dynamic Entries (1 of 2)" A few of you told us how you would handle the scenario proposed.
Now, we'll give you the actual outcome from the incident. If you haven't read the first blog, go do that now. Here's the answer:
The contain-and-callout option didn't seem to be working. No answer on the phone. There was reluctance to use a bullhorn/haler. This noise would wake the neighborhood, bringing out on-lookers and forcing patrol to deal with an additional problem.
Also rejected was the idea of using the key to open the front door and turning a police dog loose inside the residence. The looks of disbelief on the faces of the other command personnel in the CP caused the sergeant who made the suggestion to quickly retract it. Yep, great thought. Let the K-9 tear up anybody they encounter, then the operators can stay safe and pick up the pieces. Even a dog on a long lead was extreme when considering the intell the commander had at the time.
The detectives and patrol cops had re-interviewed the daughter, son-in-law and other neighbors who were at the CP. The only negative comment was from the daughter who said, "Well, dad sometimes raises his voice to mom."
The commander decided that an entry team of 10 operators would make a controlled entry through the front door using the key obtained from the daughter.
At approximately 4 a.m., the entry team made its approach to the front from a neighboring backyard. Some of the perimeter personnel were assigned to over-watch with the snipers. They were instructed to also watch for any threats in the houses and yards that the entry had passed enroute to the target. Ambush, however unlikely, was a consideration. The team stacked off the small porch as best they could, and all involved personnel were advised entry was in progress. The door opened into a split-level home. From the foyer, a team sergeant shouted, "Police, anyone in here, show yourself with your hands up."
After a few seconds, here they came. Two elderly people, male and female, in their sleepwear came into view. Their demeanor was so calm it was somewhat disconcerting to the team operators. This was around 4:30 a.m. on Easter morning. No Easter Bunny at the door. Ten men in black, helmets, subguns, and carbines in the house and no startled reaction?
It didn't take long to clear the house. No crime scene. No one really pointed their weapon at the old folks. We sat down with them in the kitchen. They stated they had been asleep, and they get up very early in the morning. (A side note here: the elderly can be very sound sleepers and awaken at some unusually early hours.) They stated they had a phone extension by the bed and neither had heard it ringing when 911 had attempted to call back.
This is usually the point in a callout where SWAT makes an exit and leaves the follow-up investigation to the detectives and patrol. They would handle any evidence, arrests, and the crime scene. There was some thought that the husband might be taken for mental evaluation. The patrol commanders and detectives were still working with the theory that the husband had to be the one who made the initial threatening call.
Just as SWAT was about to leave, a young patrol officer asked the SWAT and patrol commanders if he could show them something outside. They followed him the rear of the home. He showed them the telephone junction box where the outside line connects with the phones in the house. The bolt securing the cover was hanging out by at least an inch. He carefully removed the cover and pointed out to the connecting wires. Both leads had been unscrewed and disconnected.
The phone would still seem like it's ringing and working from the caller's end, but would not ring inside the house. That explained the mystery. Who had called from the address? The answer: anybody with a lineman's phone. It's a handset that is used by phone companies to check on connections. Simply attach it by alligator clips to the two lines and a call will appear to emanate from inside the residence.
Back in the house the detectives were alerted to this new information. The routine question was posed to the couple, "Do you have any enemies who would do something like this to you?" After a short pause, the couple stated that there was an ongoing problem with a young male neighbor (in his 20s) over parking on the street between the houses. He also had a loud car and would sometimes awaken the couple because their bedroom was close to his house. He had awakened them shortly before midnight the night before. The call was placed at around midnight. The 911 operator had stated the caller seemed to be whispering. The junction box was below the old folks bedroom window.
The follow-up investigation never did result in an arrest. But thanks to some good intelligence gathering, primarily by patrol officers and detectives, the wrong arrest wasn't made. No innocents were subjected to the trauma and resulting damage of a dynamic entry. No one was hurt; no bangs deployed; no shots fired; and without those elements no media showed up.
I was the SWAT commander. For several years now, in the classes I teach, I have used this incident as an example of the importance of patrol and detectives in a SWAT operation.