More than 4,970,000 pageviews from 160 countries

Friday, July 26, 2019

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Botched SWAT Raid

     Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona from 1993 to 2017, became a TV and news celebrity. The controversial, combative, and flamboyant law enforcement officer, billed as America's toughest cop, was the subject of a Department of Justice civil rights investigation. He was accused of practicing systematic discrimination against Hispanics. Arpaio called this investigation a political witch hunt. On the local level, he feuded with other sheriffs, police chiefs, and state law enforcement administrators. The highly political sheriff was also accused of public corruption, selective law enforcement, and poor job performance. Over the years, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and Arpaio were involved in numerous controversial cases and law enforcement scandals.

     In March 2012, Sheriff Arpaio announced that his posse of volunteer cold-case investigators uncovered evidence that President Obama's birth certificate, the one made public in 2011, was a computer-generated fake. Several of Arpaio's former supporters asked him not to seek re-election. Although America's toughest cop lost a lot of political support, he shrugged off demands that he resign from office, and insisted that he was ready to battle the federal government in court.

     In August 2017, a federal jury found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt in connection with his tactics in going after illegal aliens. The judge sentenced the 85-year-old former sheriff to a year in jail. Shortly after the conviction, President Donald Trump issued Arpaio a pardon.

The Bungled SWAT Raid

     In July 2004, Sheriff Arpaio's detectives suspected that Gabrial Gordon, a 28-year-old ex-felon on probation for armed robbery, had stolen a cache of automatic weapons and armor-piercing bullets from a gun dealer in Las Vegas. Gordon lived with 26-year-old Eric Kush, and 22-year-old Andrea Barber in a house in Ahwatukee, an upscale bedroom community that had been annexed by the city of Phoenix. Barber's daughter and Kush's 10-month-old puppy also lived in the $250,000 home nestled in the quiet, gated neighborhood called Fairway Hills. Neither Barber nor Kush had criminal records.

     Maricopa County detectives arranged to have Gordon's probation officer lure him to his office, where, on July 23, 2004, they took him into custody. According to Gordon, Kush was the one who possessed the weapons cache. According the a version of the story told by the police, Kush warned them that Mr. Gordon had been acting in an erratic way, and always carried a gun.

     Just before noon on the day of Gordon's arrest, a SWAT tank and an unmarked white GMC Suburban van full of county SWAT officers rolled into the neighborhood and parked on the street in front of the house rented by Gordon and the others. Outfitted in full battle gear, five officers approached the front of the house while another contingent took positions in the back yard. Andrea Barber, at the sound of loud banging coming from the main entrance, started down the stairway to answer the door. But before she got there, officers kicked it open. As they rushed inside, other SWAT officers launched canisters of white tear gas through second-story windows in the front and rear of the house. A few minutes later, a fire broke out in the master bedroom which quickly enveloped the place.

     Eric Kush, who had fled to the attic at the inception of the raid, ran out of the house to escape the fire. A police officer threw him to the ground, and another officer sprayed a fire extinguisher into the face of his dog, driving the pet back into the house. The puppy perished in the fire, which completely destroyed the dwelling. An officer, in pulling the SWAT tank away from the house fire, lost control when the electric brakes disengaged. The massive vehicle rolled down an incline and smashed into a parked car.

      Investigators with the Phoenix Fire Department concluded that a lit candle knocked over in the confusion of the raid had caused the fire. Andrea Barber, however, insisted that a tear gas canister had set the bed ablaze. Either way, had there not been a SWAT raid, there would have not been a fire, and Kush's dog would not have suffered an agonizing death.

     The Maricopa County SWAT team raid that destroyed an expensive home, killed a pet, and traumatized a quiet neighborhood, resulted in the seizure of an antique shotgun and a 9-mm pistol. The police arrested Kush on a misdemeanor warrant for failure to appear in a Tempe municipal court on two traffic tickets. He paid the $1,000 bond and was released from custody. In the week following the botched raid, the neighborhood stank of the fire debris, and the rotting puppy.         

No comments:

Post a Comment