Sunday, October 27, 2013


Dennis Gaydos, a homeless man from Palm Springs, was making his home outside of a church in the sunny Florida community without incident until a police intervention changed his life.

Gaydos says he was keeping to himself in his temporary home on the church grounds when the Palm Springs Police department SWAT team, dressed in full military garb, shot him multiple times with rubber bullets.

The close-range blast slashed off a portion of his right ear lobe and rendered his left eye a pulpy mess.

In the four years since the event, Gaydos has filed a federal lawsuit against Palm Beach County, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and the Village of Palm Springs Police Department. The lawsuit, which was filed in late July, is in response to the SWAT team to removing him from his encampment and severely butchering him.

Other damages include “physical suffering, permanent disfigurement including the loss of use of a bodily function, injury and mental anguish.”

“What happened to Mr. Gaydos was outrageous,” says Kevin Anderson to Jose Lambiet of Anderson, Gaydos’ police liability lawyer, adds that “the behavior of the police officers and deputies at the scene was simply unexplainable.”

The lawsuit states, with a deployed helicopter over head, “the plaintiff was overtaken by multiple deputies and police officers. The Plaintiff was not threatening harm to the officers or other individuals upon the defendants’ arrival.”

Authorities claim Gaydos refused to come out and, on the contrary, officers allegedly took action when they spotted Gaydos wielding a cell phone in one hand and a “knife” in the other.

Gaydos admits to having a cell phone in his hands at the night of the incident, but said he had just finished calling a food assistance agency.

It is believed that the food agency’s operator reported to law enforcement that Gaydos was living in underbrush by the church’s parking lot.

Gaydos claims the incident which left him blind and deaf should have never occurred since he had permission from the pastor to reside there.

Gaydos’ attorney added the artificial light in the area was more than sufficient to prevent an “accidental” shooting.

Palm Beach County records indicate the night of the incident, Gaydos didn’t have any criminal charges filed against him and was never arrested.

According to official records no knife was recovered from the scene either.

Five years after a California SWAT team raided the home of a man already imprisoned and pointed weapons at his loved ones, a Ninth Circuit panel will allow the family of Javier Bravo Jr. to sue the detective working the case.

The SWAT team in Santa Maria, California burst opened the door of Hope and Javier Bravo’s home in 2006 looking for their son over alleged connections with a drive-by shooting. Authorities were looking for the younger Bravo and believed he had hidden weapons involved in a 2006 drive-by shooting, but were unable to locate him after they stormed the house shortly after 5 a.m.

As luck would have it, Bravo was already behind bars. His incarceration was clearly listed on the search warrant obtained by Detective Louis Tanore, though authorities neglected to notice it before drawing weapons on the criminal’s family.

After pointing assault weapons at the 8-year-old grandson of the Bravos, the child ran off to the bathroom screaming. Hope Bravo then produced a letter penned by her son that was mailed from prison as to proof of his incarceration. As noted on the rap sheet attached to the warrant, Javier Jr. had been behind bars for six months already at the time of the raid.

At the time of the incident, a District Court judge ruled in favor of the authorities and argued that the fact that Javier Jr. was imprisoned at the time was irrelevant to the raid. Last Friday, however, a federal appeals court reversed the decision, allowing the family to go after the detective and others involved.

According to Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, the police “had no evidence that Mr. and Mrs. Bravo or E.B. were involved in the April 21 shooting or that during a period in which Javier Junior was not residing in their home they would have assisted Tangas gang members in concealing evidence, and specifically in concealing evidence from the shooting.” Further, the judge went after the detective and charged that his “generalized statements in the affidavit that it is 'common' for families of gang members to assist other members of the gang are insufficient to support probable cause to search the Bravos' home.”

A Seattle, Washington apartment rented by members of the local Occupy Wall Street chapter was raided and ransacked by the local SWAT team early Tuesday as part of an investigation into alleged anarchist actions.

In a press release published after the event by a spokesperson with Occupy Seattle, the group says that all four residents of the Judkins Park area apartment were sleeping during the 6 a.m. raid. Authorities still used a battering-ram like device to break down a door and deploy stun grenades, however, a non-lethal weapon used to disorient its victims.

“Suddenly we heard the bang of their grenade, and the crashing as police entered the apartment,” neighbor Natalio Perez tells the Kasama Project website. “The crashing and stomping continued for a long time as they tore the place apart.”

The Seattle Police Department has since explained to the public that the raid was in conjunction with an ongoing investigation into protests that occurred during the May Day actions earlier this year. The police add that by executing the search warrant, they were able to collective “evidence that will be useful” in their ongoing probe.

Last month, reporters at the Puget Sound Anarchists website wrote that the FBI was behind repeated attempts into investigating Occupy Seattle and organizers that authorities believe were involved in the May 1, 2012 protests.

“Over the past few weeks the FBI has contacted and spoken with at least two individuals who have been involved in Occupy Seattle. In both instances, the agents have threatened to take these individuals away from their loved ones. From what is known, these individuals were contacted because of the events surrounding the May 1st General Strike,” the website reported.

One resident of the Seattle apartment adds to the Kasama Project site that a warrant made available by officers on Tuesday suggested “they were looking for specific pieces of clothing supposedly connected with a May First incident.”

“This warrant says that they were specifically looking for ‘anarchist materials’ — which lays out the political police state nature of this right there,” the source adds.

Phillip Neel was one of the Occupiers residing in the apartment during the raid, and was actually presented with the search warrant used by the SWAT team. Describing it to the Fire Dog Lake website, Neel says cops were concerned with locating “black hoodies, face masks, goggles,” and other items that could have been tied to the May First protests.

Blogger Kevin Gosztola adds in his report that police are reported to have confiscated clothing and sunglasses, and that “Fliers and a pamphlet that anyone could’ve picked up at any Occupy action were seized.”

Following the raid, around 50 people gathered for a protest that took demonstrators around the Seattle Police Department’s East Prestinct, the Seattle Times reports. No arrests were made during the early morning raid or during that evening’s protest.

There isn’t a lot to do in Paragould, Arkansas, but residents of the town of barely 25,000 seem to have no problem finding trouble. Now in order to curb the rising crime rate, the city is proposing heavily armed police patrol the streets on foot.

At a town hall meeting on Thursday, Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall endorsed a plan to send cops dressed in full-fledged SWAT gear and equipped with AR-15s into downtown Paragould starting in 2013.

The militarized police force will be tasked with trying to control a crime rate that has made Paragould an increasingly dangerous place to live in recent years. According to statistics collected by, Paragould has had a property crime index rating more than double the national average since 2007. Rapes, burglaries, thefts and assaults per capita are also well above the mean there, statistically suggesting Paragould is perhaps the least-safe among area cities.

"This fear is what's given us the reason to do this. Once I have stats and people saying they're scared, we can do this," Stovall said, according to the Paragould Daily Press. "It allows us to do what we're fixing to do."

In order to bring crime down, residents of Paragould may soon have to endure police officers brandishing semi-automatic assault riddles on the regular. What’s more, Stovall says, is he intends to have the cops collecting identification from everyone and anyone in an attempt to discourage criminal activity.

“If you're out walking, we're going to stop you, ask why you're out walking, check for your ID,” the Daily Press reports him saying during last week’s meeting.

"To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason," he said. "Well, I've got statistical reasons that say I've got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you're doing out. Then when I add that people are scared…then that gives us even more [reason] to ask why are you here and what are you doing in this area."

"They may not be doing anything but walking their dog," added Mayor Gaskill, "but they're going to have to prove it."

Soon after the Paragould Daily Press picked up the story, news of the small town’s efforts to enforce martial law began making headlines outside of Arkansas. On Sunday, Stovall authored an explanation on the Paragould Police Department website to clarify how exactly the proposed Street Crimes Unit will interact with citizens.

“Most often, this identification process will be nothing more than making contact with a subject, handing them a business card, and asking if they live in the area and if there's anything we can do for them,” he says. During hours in which crime seems to be more prevalent, however, Chief Stovall says their process “will become more stringent.”

“We will be asking for picture identification. We will be ascertaining where the subject lives and what they are doing in the area. We will be keeping a record of those we contact.”

Stovall adds that they program would not violate the constitutional rights of Paragould citizens, claiming, “Once we have an area that shows a high crime rate or a high call volume, it is our duty and obligation to find out why this is occurring and what we can do to prevent the trend from continuing. Therefore, identifying subjects in those problem areas help us to solve crimes, and hopefully to prevent future crimes.”

Paragould has scheduled two more town hall meetings to discuss the Street Crimes Unit.

The parents of a 12-year-old girl are asking for answers from the Billings, Montana SWAT team after a flash-bang grenade was tossed into their daughter’s bedroom, sending the preteen to a local emergency room with second-degree burns.

Armed police officers busted down the door of the Fasching family’s West End Billings home on Tuesday to execute a search warrant filed by the City-County Special Investigations Unit as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation. Before they could do as much, though, an agent with the SWAT team on the scene prematurely detonated a stun grenade that is reported to have caused not just substantial damage to the home but its occupants as well, including a 12-year-old girl only inches away from where the device was deployed.

"She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms," mother Jackie Fasching tells The Missoulian newspaper. "She's got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes."

The girl, whose name is being withheld, was in her sister’s room when the SWAT team stormed the house early Tuesday. And while she has since been treated and released twice from a local hospital, pictures from the aftermath provided to the Missoulian by her parents show that the family didn’t suffer from just a minor mishap.

"I'm going to have to take them to counseling," Mrs. Fasching says. "They're never going to get over that."

The early-morning raid occurred at around 6 a.m. when the entire family was home, and while the Billings Police Department says they took all precautions to minimize injury, they’re now apologizing for the injury their misconduct has caused.

"It was totally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable," Police Chief Rich St. John tells the paper. "We certainly did not want a juvenile, or anyone else for that matter, to get injured."

According to the story the department has provided to the paper, a member of the SWAT team accidently dropped a standard “flash-bang” grenade from a metal pole placed up to a bedroom window of the house without realizing that the device operated off a slight delay. The weapons are regularly used to disorient people in the immediate vicinity with a bright flash, loud bang and concussive blast, the paper writes. When it detonated inside the Fasching home, though, it was on the floor next the child.

Jackie Fasching says all of this could have been avoided if the police would have just used their manners.

"A simple knock on the door and I would've let them in," she tells the paper. "They said their intel told them there was a meth lab at our house. If they would've checked, they would've known there's not."

Chief St. John says that the amount and significance of intelligence made available to the department was enough to warrant a raid either way, and said that the department weighed their investigation carefully before determining that a surprise visit was the best way to search the house.

"Every bit of information and intelligence that we have comes together and we determine what kind of risk is there," he tells the Missoulian. "The warrant was based on some hard evidence and everything we knew at the time."

"If we're wrong or made a mistake, then we're going to take care of it," he adds. "But if it determines we're not, then we'll go with that. When we do this, we want to ensure the safety of not only the officers, but the residents inside."

Three days after the raid, the department has yet to file any charges against members of the Fasching household and no one in the family has been taken into custody.

An Evansville, Indiana SWAT team recently attempted to execute a search warrant that was issued to make an example out of an anonymous Internet user who made malicious remarks on the Web. Instead, they destroyed the home of an innocent grandmother.

When members of the Midwest town’s SWAT team plotted their raid on the alleged home of the person behind some unpleasant remarks published on an Internet forum, they invited a local television crew to accompany them so that they could catch the whole thing on camera. Instead of arresting the author of the ill-tempered posts, however, the Evansville SWAT ravaged the home of an elderly woman and confiscated her 18-year-old granddaughter’s laptop.

The SWAT team did not have the name of who they were going after. They barely even had an identity. What they did have to work with, though, was the IP address of a person who logged onto the Web forums and made discouraging remarks about local law enforcement.

An archived copy of the thread in question reveals that the police department might have had a reason to be worried. “Cops be aware,” a person using the handle usarmy wrote on Topix. The thread began when another user claimed that the home addresses of Evansville Police Department officers had been leaked and was spreading online, and usarmy was hardly the first person to reply. When the person behind that username did write a response, however, they had some things to say that didn’t sit well with the EPD. In between a slew of self-censored expletives, the author implied that they were considering an attack on an unspecified member of the police department.

“4th of July a cops house gonna get hit. dont care about your kids or btchs lives. I dnt even care bout my own life. I got my reasons..times ticking,” reads one post from usarmy.

“I am proud of my county, but I hate police of any kind,” reads another. “I have explosives.:) made in America.Evansville will feel my pain.guess who's in the river.”

Acting on the assumed planned act of aggression, officials were able to figure out the author’s IP address. As several courts have ruled recently, though, that isn’t enough to exactly single out a certain home, let alone a person. While an Internet Protocol address can be linked to a computer, any person who accesses that network’s WiFi — with or without authorization — can be linked to that IP. Only last month, in fact, New York Eastern District federal court magistrate Judge Gary Brown ruled that IP address logs can’t be used on its own to link a suspect to a crime, writing “a single IP address usually supports multiple computer devices – which unlike traditional telephones can be operated simultaneously by different individuals.” District Court Judge Howard R. Lloyd made essentially the same ruling one month earlier in a Northern District of California courtroom.

Ira Milan, whose house ended up targeted by the authorities, tells the Evansville Courier & Press that she thinks the author of the posts used her granddaughter’s Internet connection from an outside location. Police Chief Billy Bolin says it is much more cut and dry, though.

“We have no way of being able to tell that,” Bolin tells the Courier, adding that the messages “definitely come back to that address.”

Police reps tell the Courier that they obtained a search warrant for computer equipment at Milan’s house so that they could collect whatever devices may have been used to make the anonymous posts. Responding to an inquiry from the paper, though, the Vanderburgh County Clerk’s Office was initially unable to locate a copy of the document; Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann also refused to comply with the request. When Bolin was asked by the media to materialize the warrant, he deferred their plea and insisted that producing the paper could compromise the investigation. What Bolin did have to say, however, was that the document did not contain the names of any suspects.

“We have an idea in our mind who it is, but we don’t have evidence yet,” Bolin explains to the Courier.

Even still, the department says that the hunch was enough to throw two flash-bang stun grenades into the front window of Ira Milan’s home. The Courier Press reports that the front door was open at the time of the incident.

“To bring a whole SWAT team seems a little excessive,” says Milan.

Authorities say it should prove their point, though.

“This is a big deal to us,” Sgt. Jason Cullum, a police department spokesman, tells the Courier Press. “This may be just somebody who was online just talking stupid. What I would suggest to anybody who visits websites like that is that their comments can be taken literally.”

A day after the raid, 18-year-old Stephanie Milan’s cellphone and laptops were still being held by police.

This is just the beginning of the case, but really this lawsuit will hold the officers accountable for Mr. Serrato's death, finally, and hopefully prevent this kind of tragedy from happening in the future,” says Haddad.

"You've got two young boys who've lost their father," he adds. "Nothing can ever replace their father."

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