SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank has issued an apology after narcotics detectives raided the wrong home and pointed a gun at its 76-year-old female resident.
Burbank said the woman was not injured when the search warrant was executed late Wednesday night, but one officer was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
“She’s certainly had the event of a lifetime, and one that I am very sorry that she had to experience at all,” Burbank said.
“This was a mistake. It should not have happened,” he added.
A police task force used a battering ram to knock down the door and execute a “no-knock” search warrant.
Burbank said his department has protocols in place to prevent such mistakes, but officers did not follow them. He declined to elaborate.
The chief said he met with family members, apologized and assured them the department would repair all damage to the home.
The woman’s adult son, Raymond Zaelit, told The Salt Lake Tribune that a police officer pointed a gun at her, then asked if she had a gun or drugs. His mother, who was home alone, answered no to both.
“She was petrified. She didn’t know what to think,” Zaelit said. “This was traumatizing for her.”
Stephen Cook, an attorney representing the woman and her family, told the Deseret News that they remain focused “on helping her deal with the consequences of the traumatic incident.”
The family is reviewing the official account of the events provided Friday by police and will make a statement when appropriate, Cook added.
Paul Fracasso, a next-door neighbor of the woman, watched as police raided the wrong home.
“I saw them going through the door, crashing through the door,” he recalled. “There were guns and flashlights going everywhere, (and police) telling them: ‘Get down. Get down. Get down.’”
Fracasso said he knew immediately that police had made a mistake.
“I knew they were there for no reason,” he said. “She’s a sweet old lady, just like my grandma. I think they should have done their homework. I can’t believe it actually happened.”
Burbank declined to comment on the actual target of the warrant other than to say it was “very close” to the woman’s home. Detectives did not go there after the erroneous search, feeling they had lost the element of surprise, the chief said.
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