Washington DC Police, SWAT Teams, And Bomb Squad Rampage Destroys Iraq Veteran’s Home – Illegally Searched Locked Home, Seized Property Without A Warrant, And Arrested Man Without Cause

June 5, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – While Army Sgt. Matthew Corrigan was sound asleep inside his Northwest D.C. home, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was preparing to launch a full-scale invasion of his home. SWAT and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams spent four hours readying the assault on the English basement apartment in the middle of the snowstorm of the century.

The police arrested the veteran of the Iraq war and searched his house without a warrant, not to protect the public from a terrorist or stop a crime in progress, but to rouse a sleeping man the police thought might have an unregistered gun in his home.

It all started a few hours earlier on Feb. 2, 2010, when Sgt. Corrigan called the National Veterans Crisis Hotline for advice on sleeping because of nightmares from his year training Iraqi soldiers to look for IEDs in Fallujah. Without his permission, the operator, Beth, called 911 and reported Sgt. Corrigan “has a gun and wants to kill himself.”

According to a transcript of the 911 recording, Beth told the cops that, “The gun’s actually on his lap.” The drill sergeant told me he said nothing of the kind, and his two pistols and rifle were hidden under clothes and in closets, to avoid theft.

So around midnight, the police arrived at the row house at 2408 N. Capitol Street. Over the next two hours, several emergency response team units were called to the scene, calling in many cops from home.

Police memos from that night describe the situation as involving a man who is, “threatening to shoot himself,” but “doesn’t want to hurt anybody.”

None of the cops’ documents indicate a threat that warranted a “barricade” and the closure of several streets to create “an outer perimeter that prohibited both traffic and pedestrian access.” With dozens of cops on the scene, they created a “staging area” two blocks away.

Around 1 a.m., the police knocked on the door of Tammie Sommons, the upstairs neighbor in the row house. Ms. Sommons had lived there since 2008 with her three roommates and, in that time, had become a close friend of Sgt. Corrigan. She had a key to his apartment and often walked his dog Matrix.

“I opened the door to this scene with three cops with guns pointed at Matt’s door,” she recalled in an interview this week. “One officer told me that Matt called a suicide hotline and was about to kill himself. I said that was impossible, he wasn’t that kind of guy. I told the police I see him every day and would know if he was suicidal.”

Over the next hour, Ms. Sommons repeatedly told the police she was sure that Sgt. Corrigan was merely sleeping. She knew he took prescription sleeping pills because of repeated nightmares from his year in Iraq. The cops wouldn’t listen to her.

“I said to the police, ‘You guys are making a big mistake. He’s not what you think,’” recalled Ms. Sommons. She offered to go downstairs and clear up the situation, but the police would not let her.

The officers asked her whether Sgt. Corrigan owned any guns. “I said, of course he has guns, he’s in the military,” she replied. Ms. Sommons had never seen the sergeant’s guns, but she is from a military family, in which gun ownership was the norm. She was truthful with the police because she was not aware the District requires registration of every gun.

This month, the U.S. House passed a nonbinding amendment, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey, that said active military living in or stationed in D.C. should not be bound by the stringent firearm laws. Were such a law in place two years ago, Sgt. Corrigan would not have been targeted by the police.

MPD told Ms. Sommons that someone had reported that there was the smell of gas coming from Sgt. Corrigan’s apartment. “I told them that there was no gas in his apartment — it was all electric,” she recalled. “I said if they smelled something, it’s just my roommate who was cooking chicken parmesan.”

Still, the police refused to accept the simpler explanation. “The cops said we needed to leave our house because Matt was going to shoot through the ceiling,” Ms. Sommons said. “They painted this picture like Rambo was downstairs and ready to blow up the place.”

At 3 a.m., the police called in an EOD unit — the bomb squad. They brought in negotiators. They had the gas company turn off the gas line to the house. A few minutes before 4 a.m., they started calling Sgt. Corrigan’s cell phone, but they got no answer because he turned it off before going to bed. They woke him up by calling his name on a bullhorn. He then turned on the phone and was told to surrender outside.

Arrested Without Cause

When the police wouldn’t accept Sgt. Corrigan’s word that he was fine, he was forced to leave his home and surrender. When he stepped outside, he faced assault teams with rifles pointed at his chest. He immediately dropped to his knees, with his hands over his head.

Officers in full protective gear zip-tied Sgt. Corrigan’s hands behind his back and pulled him up from his knees, forcing him into a large tactical command center called the “BEAR” which was parked at the staging area.

Although police did not read Sgt. Corrigan his Miranda rights, they questioned him inside the tactical truck. They asked the Iraq veteran basic questions about his life from various angles to get him to admit to owning guns. He remained silent about his two handguns and one rifle, which he had not registered after moving into the city.

Suddenly a police commander jumped in the truck and demanded to know where Sgt. Corrigan put his house key. He refused.

“I’m not giving you the key. I’m not giving consent to enter my house,” Sgt. Corrigan recalled saying in an interview with me last week at D.C. Superior Court after the city dropped all 10 charges against him.

“Then the cop said to me, ‘I don’t have time to play this constitutional bullshit with you. We’re going to break your door in, and you’re going to have to pay for a new door.’”

“‘Looks like I’m buying a new door,’” Sgt. Corrigan responded. “He was riffed”

Realizing quickly that his house would get raided without his permission, he asked for one thing from the police. “I said, ‘Please don’t hurt my dog. He’s friendly. He’s a good dog. Please don’t hurt him.’ They said they wouldn’t.”

The police then took Sgt. Corrigan to the VA hospital, still with his hands restrained. He didn’t want to be put in the hospital against his will, so he was okay with being left there temporarily. He signed himself in for help.

“After having all those guns at me, I was broken,” he said, pointing again at his chest, where he’d seen the rifle red laser dots. “I hadn’t slept in days, I just wanted to sleep.”

The reservist spent three nights in the hospital. When he got out, the police were waiting to arrest him for the unregistered guns found when they raided his home, without a warrant.

Search, Seizure, but no Warrant

Since Since Sgt. Corrigan refused to permit a search of his house, the police had to break down his door. The cops, however, didn’t bother to wait for a search warrant before doing so. “They were all keyed up because they had been there and ready to go all night,” surmised Sgt. Corrgian’s attorney Richard Gardiner.

The first to enter the apartment with the supposedly dangerous apartment was the Emergency Response Team, which secured the dog Matrix and gave him over to animal control, according to police reports. Only then did the EOD personnel enter to search using portable x-ray equipment.

During the “explosive threat clearing efforts,” police reported finding the sergeant’s “hazardous materials,” which included two pistols and a rifle, binoculars and ammunition. The report also details how it took the combined efforts of the police, EOD and the D.C. Fire Department to seize the “military ammunition can that contained numerous fireworks type devices.” These were fireworks left over from the Fourth of July.

Also taken into evidence was what the police described as a “military smoke grenade” and “military whistler device.” This smoke-screen canister and trip wire were put in Sgt. Corrigan’s rucksack in 1996 by his squad leader and had long been forgotten over the years. EOD took custody of the smoke grenade and whistle. The rest of the the materials were handed over to the crime scene search department at 7:30 a.m.

RAID

Police Lt. R.T. Glover was pleased with the seven hour operation that resulted in finding three unregistered guns in D.C. In his report to Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, he concluded that, “as a result of this barricade incident, there are no recommendations for improvement with respect to overall tactical operations.”

Police Destruction

The dry after-action notes from the police following the operation give no clue to the property damage done to Sgt. Corrigan’s home. They tore apart the 900 square foot place.

Instead of unzipping luggage, the police used knives to cut through and destroy the bags. They dumped over the bookshelves, emptied closets, threw the clothes on the floor.

In the process, they knocked over the feeding mechanism for the tropical fish in the sergeant’s six-foot long aquarium. When he was finally released from jail two weeks later, all of his expensive pet fish were dead in the tank.

The guns were seized, along with the locked cases, leaving only broken latches behind. The ammunition, hidden under a sleeping bag in the utility closet, was taken. They broke Sgt. Corrigan’s eyeglasses and left them on the floor. The police turned on the electric stove and never turned it off and left without securing the broken door.

When Ms. Sommons came back to her home the next day, she looked into Sgt. Corrigan’s apartment. “I was really upset because it was ransacked. It made me lose respect for the police officers involved,” she said, the stepdaughter of a correctional officer.

“Here was Matt, who spent a year fighting for our country in Iraq — where these police would never set foot in — and they treat him like trash off the street.”

In February, Sgt. Corrigan filed a civil suit against the District asking for a minimum of $500,000 in damages for violating his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. His attorney, Mr. Gardiner, intends to add some of the individual officers to the suit when they are identified in discovery.

Appeared Here

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Federal Civil Rights Suit – FBI Targeted Innocent College Student With Warrantless GPS Tracking Device On His Car

March 3, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – A community college student who says he’s never done anything that should attract the interest of federal law enforcement officials filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the FBI for secretly putting a GPS tracking device on his car.

Yasir Afifi, 20, says a mechanic doing an oil change on his car in October discovered the device stuck with magnets between his right rear wheel and exhaust. They weren’t sure what it was, but Afifi had the mechanic remove it and a friend posted photos of it online to see whether anyone could identify it. Two days later, Afifi says, agents wearing bullet-proof vests pulled him over as he drove away from his apartment in San Jose, Calif., and demanded their property back.

Afifi’s lawsuit, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, claims the FBI violated his civil rights by putting the device on his car without a warrant. His lawyers say Afifi, who was born in the United States, was targeted because of his extensive ties to the Middle East – he travels there frequently, helps support two brothers who live in Egypt, and his father was a well-known Islamic-American community leader who died last year in Egypt.

FBI Spokesman Michael Kortan declined to discuss the lawsuit or the agency’s investigation into Afifi, but said, “The FBI conducts investigations under well-established Department of Justice and FBI guidelines that determine what investigative steps or techniques are appropriate. Those guidelines also ensure the protection of civil and constitutional rights.”

(AP) In this Jan. 5, 2011 photo shows Yasir Afifi with his car at his home in San Jose, Calif. Afifi…
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Afifi, who is a business marketing major at Mission College and works as a computer salesman, said at a news conference to announce the suit that the agents never gave him a clear answer as to why he was being monitored.

“I’m sure I have done nothing wrong to provoke anyone’s interest,” Afifi said, although he noted that his family is from Egypt, he’s a young man and he makes a lot of calls overseas. “So I’m sure I fit their profile.”

Judges have disagreed over whether search warrants should be required for GPS tracking. Afifi’s lawyers say they are filing this lawsuit in hopes of a decision saying that any use of tracking devices without a warrant in the United States is unconstitutional.

The federal appeals court in the Washington circuit where Afifi’s case was filed ruled in August that the collection of GPS data amounts to a government “search” that required a warrant. The Obama administration asked the court to change its ruling, calling the decision “vague and unworkable” and arguing that investigators will lose access to a tool they now use “with great frequency.”

The lawsuit says the agents who showed up to collect the device were “hostile,” threatening to charge Afifi if he didn’t immediately cooperate and refusing his request to have a lawyer present. The suit also says agents showed they knew private details about his life, such as which restaurants he dined at, the new job he’d just obtained and his plans to travel abroad.

“At first I was really confused,” Afifi said at the news conference, adding that he finally decided to turn over the GPS. “I did give it back to them after a lot of pressure.”

Appeared Here


Crazed Iowa DOT Officer Harasses And Searches Law-Abiding Elderly Couple In Motorhome Without Cause

April 1, 2009

IOWA – Carl and Jane Schneider of Fort Madison insist they were treated like criminals by an Iowa Department of Transportation officer during a traffic stop, although nothing improper was found.

The couple were minutes from home Friday night after a 3,600-mile trip in their motor home when a DOT trucking enforcement officer pulled up behind them.

They said the DOT officer interrogated them. Then he ordered them to stand in front of their recreational vehicle’s headlights while he checked inside, searching for marijuana or wads of cash. The officer never asked for their driver’s licenses or proof of registration, they said.
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“It was so strange. I literally felt afraid for my life,” Jane Schneider, 59, said Monday. “I felt I could have bodily harm. … He was very menacing and threatening to us.”

Dena Gray-Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Iowa DOT, said in a statement Monday that “the Iowa DOT’s Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement takes complaints such as these seriously. That office is in the process of reviewing the matter and will proceed accordingly from the information obtained. The department does not believe it would be appropriate to comment further until that has been done.”

The DOT has a team of officers who enforce compliance statewide with commercial trucking laws.

The Schneiders posted a description of their experience Sunday night on an Internet blog – iowa defense.wordpress.com/2009/03/29/2894 – where it has been generating comments.

Carl Schneider, 66, a well-known Fort Madison resident who formerly operated the Blue Grass Dairy, said Monday that he and his wife remained puzzled. Both said they have had trouble sleeping since the traffic stop.

One of their complaints is that the officer who stopped them repeatedly demonstrated a lack of knowledge about firearms laws, even though they were legally transporting a .40-caliber handgun with a concealed-weapon permit from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.

Carl Schneider said he was particularly upset that the officer implied he could simply call the sheriff and have the permit revoked, “which is absolutely not the case.”

At one point during the traffic stop, the DOT officer was joined by a second, unidentified officer who was more professional, the couple added.

The traffic stop happened about 8 p.m. Friday on U.S. Highway 61 in Lee County. The Schneiders said they were returning from a two-week vacation to Texas and New Mexico.

The Schneiders said the officer at first asked questions about the unusual shape of their trailer, which was designed to transport a gyrocopter. A gyrocopter looks like a small helicopter, but the rotors self-propel because of the way the air flows through.

One officer also suggested he thought they were carnival workers, they said.

The Schneiders said what was particularly unusual was that the officer who stopped them never asked the couple for their driver’s licenses, vehicle registration or proof of insurance, which are routinely requested.

Carl Schneider said the first officer found nothing improper inside the motor home.

But Schneider said the officer then berated him, saying the handgun wasn’t where Schneider had said he thought it would be. He said the officer was also upset that Schneider had not immediately informed him about the weapon when the traffic stop began.

“My wife was afraid that if I continued to disagree with this officer, the situation would again turn ugly, so she interrupted and we made our goodbyes and headed our way,” Carl Schneider said.

But the officers didn’t leave, he added, until the first officer “had made us feel as if he was somehow doing me a favor by letting us go.”

Appeared Here


Crazed Iowa DOT Officer Harasses And Searches Law-Abiding Elderly Couple In Motorhome Without Cause

April 1, 2009

IOWA – Carl and Jane Schneider of Fort Madison insist they were treated like criminals by an Iowa Department of Transportation officer during a traffic stop, although nothing improper was found.

The couple were minutes from home Friday night after a 3,600-mile trip in their motor home when a DOT trucking enforcement officer pulled up behind them.

They said the DOT officer interrogated them. Then he ordered them to stand in front of their recreational vehicle’s headlights while he checked inside, searching for marijuana or wads of cash. The officer never asked for their driver’s licenses or proof of registration, they said.
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“It was so strange. I literally felt afraid for my life,” Jane Schneider, 59, said Monday. “I felt I could have bodily harm. … He was very menacing and threatening to us.”

Dena Gray-Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Iowa DOT, said in a statement Monday that “the Iowa DOT’s Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement takes complaints such as these seriously. That office is in the process of reviewing the matter and will proceed accordingly from the information obtained. The department does not believe it would be appropriate to comment further until that has been done.”

The DOT has a team of officers who enforce compliance statewide with commercial trucking laws.

The Schneiders posted a description of their experience Sunday night on an Internet blog – iowa defense.wordpress.com/2009/03/29/2894 – where it has been generating comments.

Carl Schneider, 66, a well-known Fort Madison resident who formerly operated the Blue Grass Dairy, said Monday that he and his wife remained puzzled. Both said they have had trouble sleeping since the traffic stop.

One of their complaints is that the officer who stopped them repeatedly demonstrated a lack of knowledge about firearms laws, even though they were legally transporting a .40-caliber handgun with a concealed-weapon permit from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.

Carl Schneider said he was particularly upset that the officer implied he could simply call the sheriff and have the permit revoked, “which is absolutely not the case.”

At one point during the traffic stop, the DOT officer was joined by a second, unidentified officer who was more professional, the couple added.

The traffic stop happened about 8 p.m. Friday on U.S. Highway 61 in Lee County. The Schneiders said they were returning from a two-week vacation to Texas and New Mexico.

The Schneiders said the officer at first asked questions about the unusual shape of their trailer, which was designed to transport a gyrocopter. A gyrocopter looks like a small helicopter, but the rotors self-propel because of the way the air flows through.

One officer also suggested he thought they were carnival workers, they said.

The Schneiders said what was particularly unusual was that the officer who stopped them never asked the couple for their driver’s licenses, vehicle registration or proof of insurance, which are routinely requested.

Carl Schneider said the first officer found nothing improper inside the motor home.

But Schneider said the officer then berated him, saying the handgun wasn’t where Schneider had said he thought it would be. He said the officer was also upset that Schneider had not immediately informed him about the weapon when the traffic stop began.

“My wife was afraid that if I continued to disagree with this officer, the situation would again turn ugly, so she interrupted and we made our goodbyes and headed our way,” Carl Schneider said.

But the officers didn’t leave, he added, until the first officer “had made us feel as if he was somehow doing me a favor by letting us go.”

Appeared Here