FBI to probe police actions in drug bust gone wrong
The FBI has begun an investigation into the actions of police officers who raided the home of a Maryland mayor, killing his dogs and tying up his family, The Washington Post reported Friday.
The police cleared the mayor and his wife of all charges Friday, but it is unclear whether that development will end the FBI's probe of possible violations of the couple's civil rights.
The agency's investigation was a request from Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife Trinity Tomsic, who said that the unwarranted attack by law enforcement officials illustrates the deeper problems with county police.
"We have witnessed a frightening law enforcement culture in which the law is disregarded, the rights of innocent occupants are ignored and the rights of innocent animals mean nothing," Calvo said. "A shadow was cast over our good names. We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us."
County police said they would cooperate with the investigation.
"We've tried to establish a pattern of transparency and clarity about the way in which we do our work, and I'm sure the chief will be cooperative and forthcoming in any investigation," Prince George's police spokeswoman Sharon Taylor said yesterday.
The FBI has already begun "reviewing the events that occurred at Mr. Calvo's residence," said Richard J. Wolf, spokesman for the FBI in Baltimore.
Those events occurred on July 29, when a SWAT team stormed Calvo's home after he took a package inside his home that undercover police had left on his doorstep.
The box contained 32lbs. of marijuana, which a drug dog had sniffed out at a regional shipping center. Though addressed to Mrs. Calvo, the family said they had no prior knowledge of the delivery.
While changing his clothes, a SWAT team raided the house and shot his two Labradors, then dragged the disrobed mayor downstairs, bound and at gunpoint, to be interrogated along with his mother-in-law.
In spite of his repeated claims that he's the town's mayor, and not a drug dealer, police persisted with the interrogation.
"They told a detective that I was crazy, until he told the local police," said Calvo during an August 8 interview on CNN.
"The chief did call me at my home and cleared us [of any wrongdoing]," said the mayor during the interview.
His wife sobbed about the death of the couple's dogs during a press conference that was widely televised Friday, recounting the moment when a neighborhood girl came over to express her condolences over the death of the dogs.
"A little girl came to our house after this happened, the next day. I didn't know who she was. She didn't know us. But she saw us walking the dogs every day, and waving at her," the mayor's wife told a news conference.
"And she came in, she gave me a big hug and she said to me, she said, 'If the police shot your dogs dead and did this to you, how can I trust them?'"
Police have since arrested two people allegedly involved with the drug operation, in which a delivery service would leave packages containing marijuana outside unsuspecting people's houses, then another member of the ring would come by and pick them up.
Around 121 pounds (50 kilograms) of marijuana have been collected by police, who have not apologized to the mayor for their actions.
Calvo said he hopes that others who have experienced similar abuses by police will benefit by his speaking out.
Anchorwoman Kiran Chetry talks with Cheye Calvo, mayor of Berwyn Heights, Md., in a video from CNN's American Morning, broadcast August 8, 2008.
(with wire reports)