The Evansville (Ind.) Police Department's SWAT team raided a home in late June. Instead of finding the suspect who threatened officers online, team members came face to face with an 18-year-old and her grandmother.
Prior to the entry, officers performed a cursory knock and announce and deployed two noise flash diversion devices. A storm door was smashed. A television news crew was even invited along to record the warrant service.
Evansville commanders ordered the entry after discovering the anonymous threats on a Web forum. The suspect had allegedly threatened officers and their family members, writing that they would feel his pain. His threat included the use of explosives.
Investigators traced an Internet Protocol (IP) address to the address of the target residence, which had an unsecured Wi-Fi network. Anyone with a smart phone or computer within a reasonable distance could connect to the network. Apparently, not much more investigation was done to bolster the probable cause for the warrant.
Later, a more thorough investigation was conducted, and a suspect was arrested and charged with several offenses. The suspect, who has a lengthy criminal record and a known anti-police mindset, was quietly arrested at his home located 174 feet from the home where the erroneous warrant service had taken place. The cowardly suspect appears to be no more than a garden variety curb creature.
The raid raised many questions. Were there exigent circumstances? Was the threat against the officers of an imminent nature? Had there been no surveillance or background investigation on the residents of the original target house?
OK, here's a similar scenario for you to resolve. Read it and respond with a comment about what you would do.
The SWAT commander received a call just after midnight on an Easter Sunday. The field lieutenant advised him that 911 had received a call from a male, stating he was going to "kill the bitch" (his wife), and would kill any cop who showed up at his house. The system allowed the operator to lock onto the landline phone that was used for the call.
The lieutenant explained that patrol officers had not approached the home, but had spoken with some neighbors. Patrol had called the detective bureau and had then run a check on the owner and residence. The picture emerged of an elderly couple in their late 70s. The husband was a retired schoolteacher. Neither husband nor wife had any criminal record or any mental health history that had come to the attention of law enforcement. The neighbors that were interviewed painted picture of a nice retired couple. No domestic problems were ever noted.
However, the field lieutenant reported they were still locked on to the phone and were calling repeatedly with no answer. No lights were visible, and the patrol cops could see that the couple's vehicle was parked in the garage. At 1:15 a.m., the SWAT commander activated the team.
Upon the team's arrival, a react team was positioned as close to the target address as possible. A perimeter was established. A command post was set up at a neighbor's home out of line of sight. The SWAT commander re-interviewed neighbors and relatives who had shown up and obtained a key to the house. He spoke with the 911 operator who had taken to original call. She said the caller didn't sound elderly and seemed to have been whispering. Repeated attempts to call the locked phone line hadn't been successful.
At this point, the commander and his sergeants considered their options. Should they surround, call out, and wait? Or hit the door with a dynamic entry? What would you have done?