When Ramsey Tossa opened up his Detroit, Michigan door at 2 a.m. last Tuesday, the first thing to go through his mind was he was being kidnapped by terrorists.
“As soon as I opened the door, somebody grabbed me and took me outside and put me on the grass,” Ramsey Tossa told a local Fox affiliate. “The first thing I thought was they were terrorists who want to kill me because I served in Iraq.” Tossa had formerly worked overseas as a military translator but has since retired to Detroit where he resides with his family.
It seemed the most logical reason why men with guns had dragged him and his family outside their home in the early morning hours with lasers pointed at them.
“I kept asking, what’s going on?” said Tossa. “And they held my neck to the ground so I can’t talk.”
When the assailants finally identified themselves, Tossa learned that they were not Iraqi terrorists, but American ones. They were agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and they were serving a search warrant without putting all too much thought into it.
The DEA says that the house has been listed as a mailing address for the landlord’s son, whom the government has suspected of drug charges. Though the alleged criminal doesn’t actually reside in the home, DEA officials neglected to investigate and instead stormed into the house, ripping the Tossa family from their beds. The Tossas say they want answers, but the DEA argues they had likely cause to search the house.
“Before they raid any house, they should have more information,” Tossa tells My Fox Detroit. “Not rumors.”
The Detroit incident that has left the Tossas traumatized isn’t the only like it as of late. A SWAT team raid carried out in Tuscon, Arizona in May resulted in a former Marine being gunned down in front of his family. Jose Guerena reached for a gun when he heard men outside his house at 9:30 in the morning on a spring morning. He had no reason to believe that they were members of a SWAT team, but before they could investigate or identify themselves, they blasted 60 bullets into Guerena’s body.
The Reason Foundation’s Radley Balko has long investigated improper raids by government agencies and has revealed that these incidents are all too commonplace. The SWAT team in Maryland was deployed an average of 4.5 times per day in 2009, and in Prince George’s County, an area of 850,000 residents, 94 percent of those deployments were used to serve search warrants, not the high-profile, violent stand-offs often associated with the SWAT.
The DEA, writes Balko, is guilty of overzealous breaking and entering, too. Following an incident earlier this year in which a wrong door raid resulted in DEA agents pointing a machine gun at a 13-year-old girl and her pet poodle, the officers later issued an apology, but only barely.
“We sincerely regret that while attempting to execute an arrest warrant for a member of this drug trafficking organization, the innocent McKay family was inadvertently affected by this enforcement operation,” responded John P. Gilbride, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in a statement after that incident that took place in Hudson Valley.
After that incident earlier this year, Balko blogged that reporters are finally “seeking out critics, and they’re starting to view the cops’ after-the-fact excuses and explanations with more skepticism.”
“That’s a start,” says Balko. But for the Tassos and Guerenas, this beginning to an eventual end cannot come soon enough.