A recently released video appears to show a SWAT team breaking a window and glass storm door immediately after one team member pounds on the door and yells that police have a search warrant.
The video comes from a SWAT team member's helmet cam and documents actions by the unit from the Evansville, Indiana, police department, which included tossing flash grenades into the residence and arresting two adult females.
The officers were looking for evidence of anonymous Internet posts threatening the police department and its chief, according to the Courier & Press in Evansville, adding that the two women they cuffed turned out to be innocent.
As you may have guessed, the city is being sued over the 2012 incident by one of the residents who claimed her constitutional rights were violated; lawyers for Evansville argue in a summary judgment motion that police used reasonable force — in fact city attorneys released the video to bolster their case, the paper noted.
In the clip one of the residents, then-18-year-old Stephanie Milan, reportedly is heard yelling, “Don’t hurt me!” as officers enter the house with their weapons drawn. She and her adoptive mother, then-68-year-old Louise Milan — who filed the suit last year — are seen being led around the house's exterior in handcuffs. Police also took their computers and Internet router, the paper reported.
More from the Courier & Post:
The FBI later arrested Derrick Murray, a suspected local gang leader who lived nearby in his mother’s house. He admitted in federal court he used his smartphone to connect to the wireless Internet router in Milan’s house and post the threats. Access to the router connection was not protected by a password.
Turns out Murray actually was watching the raid from a porch down the street, the paper reported, citing the city attorneys' motion.
Murray eventually pleaded guilty to charges relating to the threats, the paper noted.
Later in the video SWAT team members joke with each other about the raid, specifically breaking the glass to gain entry — all while still standing in Milan's residence.
“That f***in' ram hit a lot harder than I thought it was going to hit!” one SWAT member jested as colleagues are heard laughing.
An officer added, "That 50-pound ram ain't no match for that 10-pound pane of glass."
The Courier & Post reported that the city paid for damage to the house.
“There are a lot of different things that they could have done,” Milan's attorney, Kyle Biesecker, told the paper. “Ms. Milan, all she wants is some acknowledgment that police were wrong.”
But police took such action because of an "unprecedented threat assessment,” the Courier & Post reported, citing city attorneys. “Further investigation led EPD to associate known criminals to the residence who had violent histories, gang association, weapons related charges or possessed weapons,” according to the city’s motion, which noted Anthony Milan Sr., Anthony Milan Jr. and Marc Milan as having criminal records.
“With the level of threat that existed and the potential danger to the officers, there was no way the EPD would send an officer to walk up and just knock on the door of the residence," the city's motion added, according the Courier & Post.
Biesecker questioned why police invited a television news crew to cover the raid given the high level of danger.
“Bringing civilians with you to film it when there is such a threat?” he asked, the Courier & Post added.
Check out the SWAT helmet cam video. The relevant portion begins around the 3:13 mark:
This story has been updated.