Armed with a battering ram and shotguns, Buffalo police looking for heroin broke down the door and stormed the lower apartment of a West Side family of eight.
The problem is that the Wednesday evening raid should have occurred at an apartment upstairs.
And, that’s only the tip of the iceberg, according to Schavon Pennyamon, who lives at the mistakenly raided apartment on Sherwood Street with her husband, Terrell, and six children.
Pennyamon alleges that after wrongly breaking into her apartment, police proceeded to strike her epileptic husband in the head with the butt end of a shotgun and point shotguns at her young children before admitting their mistake and then raiding the right apartment.
She says she’s left with a broken door, an injured husband, jittery children and — what bothers her most — still no apology from police.
“They know they did something wrong and they were still ignorant,” said the 29-year-old Pennyamon. “At first, I just wanted an apology. Now, because they want[ed] to be ignorant and rude, I have to take it to the next level.”
She filed a report with the department’s Professional Standards Division and also contacted Mayor Byron W.
Brown about the incident. Pennyamon said Friday evening she also has retained a lawyer and intends to pursue legal action.
Police brass acknowledge that officers with the Mobile Response and Narcotics units entered the wrong apartment.
“As the officers were in the lower apartment, one of the detectives reviewed the search warrant application and realized it was for the upper [apartment],” said Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives.
“It appears to be an honest mistake and we certainly apologize to all involved,” added Michael J. DeGeorge, Buffalo police spokesman.
Police declined to comment, however, on Pennyamon’s allegations of assault and other police impropriety. The internal investigation with the Professional Standards Division is now under way to determine exactly what happened.
“We wouldn’t be comfortable discussing the internal investigation,” Richards said. “We can say comfortably that over 1,100 search warrants were executed last year and 580 to date this year and that, with such a high volume and such a fast-paced environment, it is understandable that mistakes could happen.”
Pennyamon remains unconvinced it was a mistake. She says officers told her they had “raided the house before” and she believes they felt entitled to do it again — warrant or not.
“The way they make it seem is ‘we can do whatever we want,’ ” she said.
Pennyamon’s troubled by what she says is an arrogance by police officers and an unwillingness to “serve and protect” those who need it.
“It’s a sad situation. I’ve always looked up to the police. I’ve always expected them to be on my side.”
Pennyamon was called home from her job as a certified nursing assistant at a local health care facility at about 6:30 p. m. Wednesday to find police at her house, her children partially dressed on the porch and her husband — a U.S. Air Force veteran — injured. She said police were rude and unapologetic.
It was a harsh welcome to the neighborhood for the family. They’ve only lived at the apartment on Sherwood Street, on the far West Side just south of West Ferry Street, for two weeks after she says they moved from the East Side to escape crime. Now, Pennyamon said, the family already is looking to relocate again.
“I don’t know what was going on upstairs, but it gives police no right to bust in my doors,” she said. “That’s just ridiculous.”
Richards said police protocol dictates that search warrants are executed by police first announcing their presence and then quickly and forcefully entering a property with guns drawn for their own protection.
“Police have been faced with fortified doors and windows. In numerous locations, they’ve been met with individuals armed with weapons or attacking animals,” he said.
Pennyamon said the event left her husband with physical injuries and left a lasting impression on the children.
She said her husband, Terrell, suffered a dislocated arm after he was yanked up by police during the raid and is expected to return to his doctor Monday to possibly have glass — left behind by the door window police broke to get into the apartment — surgically removed from his foot.
Pennyamon’s 5-year-old daughter now sleeps with her.
“My 12-year-old and 6-year-old don’t want to be home at all,” she said, adding that her younger children cower or run to the back of the house when they hear anyone approaching.
“ ‘That’s the police,’ they say,” Pennyamon said.
Police said no arrests were made in the subsequent raid at the upstairs apartment.