Another botched SWAT raid takes innocent life

Botched SWAT raid

Yet another botched SWAT raid killed an innocent person, this time a teenager in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) converged on a home in southeast Albuquerque on July 7 to arrest 27-year-old Qiaunt Kelley on a warrant for parole violations. Kelley was inside someone else’s house with Brett Rosenau, 15, and refused to surrender. A standoff ensued, during which the SWAT team set off chemical irritants and flash-bang grenades in an attempt to drive Kelley from the home.

The house caught fire, likely as a result of the flash-bangs and/or chemical irritants launched by the police. Kelley eventually exited the house, but the structure burned for 40 minutes before police finally entered and found Rosenau’s body and the remains of the family dog. A preliminary autopsy determined that Rosenau died of smoke inhalation.

While an investigation is underway, the police chief has acknowledged that his officers may have caused the fire that killed the boy. The police “treated and trapped them like animals,” Elizabeth Fields, whose sister owned the house, told the New York Times.

[Fields] said that the police threw smoke grenades and flash bangs into the house every 30 minutes for five and a half hours and then let the house burn for 40 minutes after it caught fire at around 2:30 a.m. on Thursday…

“I know many people in our community are hurting right now, and appreciate everyone’s patience while the incident is thoroughly investigated,” Chief Harold Medina said in the statement. “If any of our actions inadvertently contributed to his death, we will take steps to ensure this never happens again.”

Kelley was later charged in relation to a murder, but the arrest warrant only detailed a parole violation at the time of the raid. Community members took to the streets to protest the militarization of the police and call for justice.

The APD responded callously to people upset by the needless death of a teenager, sending a tweet implying that there were only two choices: (1) let Kelley go free or (2) engage in a deadly SWAT raid.

Las Cruces

A New Mexico judge dropped murder charges against a former Las Cruces police officer for choking a man to death in 2020.

Then-police officer Christopher Smelser, 29, pulled over a car with Antonio Valenzuela, 40, as a passenger in 2020. Valenzuela had a warrant out for his arrest for a parole violation and ran when officers realized he had a warrant. Smelser gave chase and, after attempting to tase Valenzuela, put him in a vascular neck restraint (the same hold used on Eric Garner).

“I’m going to f***ing choke you out, bro,” Officer Christoper Smelser is heard saying to Antonio Valenzuela before utilizing a vascular neck restraint, now banned by the police department, that the state medical investigator says resulted in a homicide…

According to the autopsy report, Valenzuela had hemorrhaging in his eyes and eyelids, which is indicative of asphyxiation and may occur when the neck or chest is compressed. His neck had a deep muscle hemorrhage, his Adam’s apple was crushed and his ribs were fractured. There also was swelling in his brain.

Smelser was charged with manslaughter, until Attorney General Hector Balderas took over the case and upgraded the charge to second-degree murder. 3rd Judicial Judge Douglas Driggers ruled last week that there was “insufficient evidence” to hold a trial and dismissed all charges against Smelser, despite expert testimony that the officer acted unreasonably:

“Do you believe the defendant acted reasonably or unreasonably, the prosecution asked [Shane Brisco, a former police academy instructor].

Brisco responded, “I don’t believe it was reasonable. The evidence demonstrates he held it longer than he should.”…

Retired police sergeant and homicide detective Damon Fay took the stand…He added the use of a VNR was needed at first to get Valenzuela under control, but said it was unnecessary later in the arrest as Smelser had him in the hold for close to a minute. During Fay’s testimony, Fay said a vascular neck restraint should only be used 3 to 5 seconds at a time.

Bad cops

Anthony Watson reached a $390,000 settlement from Iowa City and Coralville (Iowa) after two police officers illegally arrested him for driving under the influence—despite possessing evidence that would have cleared him, causing him to be jailed for three months. During that time, Watson lost his job, his apartment, and suffered a seizure due to medical negligence.

Shane Lee Brown, an African American man, won a $90,000 settlement from Las Vegas police agencies after he was arrested in a case of misidentification. The Henderson Police Department and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police arrested Brown in 2020 when who they were really looking for was a white man named Shane Neal Brown.

The Los Angeles Police Department claimed they shot and killed a man, Marvin Cua, in Koreatown after he pointed a gun at them. However, the bodycam footage, released days after the police got their version of events out to the public, does not show Cua pointing a weapon in the officer’s direction.

Baltimore Police Sergeant Keith Gladstone was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for conspiracy to deprive civil rights, in connection with planting evidence at a crime scene. Gladstone was part of the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force, a group of plain-clothes officers who ran a robbery and extortion ring in the city. You may know the name from HBO’s “We Own This City.”

Hazelwood, Missouri, police Chief Gregg Hall was pulled over for driving “hammered drunk” and failed multiple sobriety tests at a traffic stop, with a blood alcohol content more than two and half times the legal limit. Hall wasn’t arrested, however; then-O’Fallon city police chief John Neske drove Hall home without filing any charges.