Police in Caldwell, Idaho, managed an epic act of incompetence when they shot up and teargassed a woman’s home — even though she had given them the key — worse, the only one home at the time was her dog.
“Basically, they had a standoff with a dog,” the woman’s attorney said, Courthouse News Service reports.
Shaniz West told her ex-boyfriend, Fabian Salinas — a wanted felon — to finish clearing out his belongings from her home while she was away registering one of her daughters for first grade on the morning of August 11, 2014.
When West, who was six months pregnant, returned with her children, an eight-year-old and six-month-old, a slew of Caldwell police SWAT officers surrounded her home.
West gave officers the key to the front door since she wasn’t sure whether Salinas was still inside — but they never bothered to use it.
Instead, SWAT brought in an armored vehicle and, for the next ten hours, waged war on the house.
“During the course of the standoff Caldwell police officers broke numerous windows to gain entry, crashed through ceilings while they were maneuvering through the home, and punctured holes in the house by shooting canisters of tear gas that released noxious chemicals into the home,” West explained.
While the prolonged assault on the house continued for hours, the irate homeowner says, her “pet dog Blue was the only occupant of the home.”
Unsurprisingly, officers nearly decimated the house and everything inside — even though they had possession of the key the entire time.
According to her complaint:
“When Ms. West was allowed to re-enter the home, she found the house destroyed. Her and her children’s personal possessions were saturated with tear gas and littered with debris from the walls and ceiling, and broken glass from the windows.
“Ms. West, who was 6 months pregnant at the time, was left to clean up the wreckage by herself and it was two months before Ms. West and her children could occupy their home.”
West also noted she only gave consent for police to enter the home, nothing more.
Vaughn Fisher, the woman’s attorney, told Courthouse News that although police did have a warrant for Salinas — who was wanted for assaulting a police officer and other crimes — they did not obtain a search warrant for West’s home.
Fisher says no explanation has been provided by authorities about why it took the SWAT team ten hours to figure out Salinas wasn’t even inside.
“I have no idea,” Fisher said. “I’ve read the police reports and debriefing, and it’s my recollection that someone heard a deadbolt activate, which was impossible, and saw the curtains move, which is possible because there was a pitbull in the house at the time. Basically, they had a standoff with a dog.”
Although the city offered to reimburse West for her belongings, Fisher said the amount was woefully insufficient given the extent of damage caused by the feckless cops.
“Practically the entire contents of the house were destroyed, and they didn’t treat her very well,” he said. “They made a very paltry offer to replace some of it. It was grossly inadequate.”
West is now suing for damages from the City of Caldwell, the Caldwell Police Department, the SWAT team leader, and several individual law enforcement officers.
Though West’s ordeal would seem a rare occurrence, in Police State, U.S.A., destruction of civilians’ homes — and authorities’ failure to compensate appropriately, if at all — has become sadly routine.
Thanks in large part to the failed war on drugs, SWAT teams routinely trash the homes of suspects and their unwitting families — worse, a growing number of reports of officers raiding and trashing the wrong house indicate police can’t operate GPS, navigate a map, or even read an address correctly. Sometimes, their gross incompetence is lethal — for people or their pets.
As in West’s case, hours-long standoffs with empty homes also frequent headlines.
Incidents caused by hapless Keystone cops — in which civilians are left no choice by the pay the price for law enforcement reckless incompetence — clearly illustrate why a growing segment of the public not only mistrust, but despise American police.
Though police apologists largely worship the badge and the laws enforced regardless of whether or not either are moral or ethical, what they fail to grasp is that in order to earn respect, it must also be given.
It would be difficult at best for someone in West’s shoes to respect the authorities who obliterated her home and failed to provide adequate compensation in the aftermath — especially considering they didn’t ever try the key she willingly provided.