Baker says early reports on Worcester raid are ‘troubling’
WORCESTER — Governor Charlie Baker on Sunday called last week’s raid of a Hillside Street apartment in Worcester “troubling” after a young mother of two said a SWAT team mistakenly broke into her home, cursed at her, and was rough with others in the house.
Baker said State Police will investigate and he will wait for the results of their inquiry.
Marianne Diaz, 23, and her two daughters, ages 7 and 18 months, were asleep in a bedroom at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday when police broke down the door to their third-floor apartment, said the woman’s fiancé, Bryant Alequin, in an interview at their home Sunday afternoon.
Alequin, who was in the bathroom getting ready for work, said 10 to 15 officers barged in with their shields up and guns drawn. Officers broke down the bathroom door and cuffed Alequin, who said he then saw his fiancée naked, kneeling on the floor, in tears with their daughters at her side, crying.
Police soon learned the man they were seeking was not in the home and they left.
“You hope something like this never happens,” Baker said while attending a Mayor’s Cup event at Roberts Playground in Dorchester Sunday. “I am going to let the investigation play out before I say anything.”
The family and their attorney say that is part of the problem — no officials have said anything to them or offered an apology.
“Nobody said sorry to us,” Alequin, 23, said. “That’s what hurts the most. They said they were doing their jobs.”
He said he has no intentions to file a lawsuit; he just wants an apology.
Police were searching for Shane B. Jackson Jr., 36, who was the subject of a raid in that apartment last September, according to an affidavit in support of the search warrant obtained by the Telegram and Gazette.
The warrant was filed by Trooper Nicholas E. Nason, who stated in an affidavit that a confidential informant told him Jackson had been staying in the Hillside Street apartment with an “unknown girl and a black male” and that there were firearms in the home. Police had found drugs in last year’s raid.
In a statement, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said, “The search warrant was executed based on the best intelligence at the time” and in a way to ensure “the safety of all involved.”
Early said Jackson was in the house in the days leading up to the execution of the warrant and that he was considered armed and dangerous.
But Alequin said no one in his family had ever heard of Jackson prior to the raid.
In the affidavit, Nason said he had researched the apartment and determined that two people listed it as their address, one of whom was Diaz, the Telegram and Gazette reported. The electricity account was in her name, according to Nason.
The other person has a lengthy criminal record and Diaz did not have a record, Nason wrote.
The Telegram and Gazette reported that Jackson was arrested by Worcester police on a theft warrant Aug. 6 at another address in Worcester.
Worcester police referred all questions to the State Police.
The family’s attorney and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said police failed to determine whether they had the right home.
“At the very least, the police should have verified that the [person] they were looking for was living in the home and was present at the time of the raid,” said Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “For this kind of thing to happen, a lot of people can share the blame and a lot of people should step up and try to fix this.”
Segal said officers can usually verify that the target of a raid lives at a certain location by conducting surveillance of the home, checking arrest reports, and speaking with the landlord.
Hector E. Pineiro , the family’s attorney, said the owner of the house is related to two Worcester police officers.
“They did no investigation at all,” said Pineiro. “You have hard-working people waking up to go to work when they were simply terrorized and scared out of their minds. [The officers] shouldn’t be looking at a naked woman, a mother of two, and pointing guns at her and their two children.”
Pineiro said there have been similar cases over the years in which the SWAT team has raided the wrong home and that no-knock search warrants are too easily obtained.
Diaz, who was later reached by phone, said she was too emotional to discuss the incident but said it has given her “a lot of anxiety.”
“We’ve all been traumatized,” said Alequin, who said that his family moved into the home in May.
“My kids jump every time there’s a knock at the door. My fiancée is hysterical. At night I can’t sleep next to her . . . she jumps out of her sleep.”
Officers stood over Diaz as she and her children cried, Alequin said, and cursed at her to stop. She was frisked by a female officer even though she was naked, Alequin said. Ten minutes passed before she was allowed to cover herself.
Alequin suffered a minor back injury during the raid and his brother-in-law, Joshua Matos, 27, who was sleeping in the living room and recovering from a fractured wrist, said his wrist was refractured. On Sunday his wrist was bandaged.
Neighbors said they were disturbed by what they heard about how the young family was treated.
“I support the police. They put their lives on the line, but you don’t just go off of an informant hunch,” said a 34-year-old woman who lives across the street and would only give her initials, M.K. “You guys screwed up. You should have looked into it a little more. Now you got two little ones over there traumatized.”
Correction: Because of a reporting error, in an earlier version of this story the ownership of the house where the raid took place was stated incorrectly.