CHICAGO (CBS) — For the first time, Chicago Police officers are being heard on video talking about why they raided the home of an innocent family.
The officers were caught on body camera busting through door sand continuing their search – even when they knew they were in the wrong place.
CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini has spent more than a year exposing a pattern of wrong raids that have left parents and children traumatized.
Chicago Police Officer Joe Cappello had a search warrant to raid a drug offender’s home, but he didn’t make sure he was hitting the right place.
Cappello and a team of officers with handguns and an assault rifle raided the home of an innocent family – the Mendez family.
Speaking in a deposition for a lawsuit provided by the Law Offices of Al Hofeld Jr., Cappello said the assault rifle was a Spikes Tactical AR-15.
It is a weapon the Mendez family will never forget.
While being questioned for the lawsuit filed by the family, Cappello and other officers gave a deeply disturbing look into how little police work they actually did before raiding this home.
Attorney: “Mr. and Mrs. Mendez and their children, Peter and Jack, were not the intended targets of your search warrant – correct?”
Cappello: “No, they were not.”
This is how Cappello got the warrant approved – he made a drug arrest the day before and flipped that suspect into becoming a confidential informant called a John Doe.
The John Doe then gave Cappello the name and an address on Damen Avenue of a so-called major drug dealer.
But Cappello never investigated to see if John Doe’s tip was even true or if the address was correct.
“I was not able to do surveillance of that due to the nature of our hours,” Cappello said in the deposition.
Cappello admits to just driving by the multi-unit apartment building.
Attorney: “Did you request a covert car?”
Cappello: “We don’t have one available to us on the patrol. Sometimes we don’t have all the assets we need in terms to do extra surveillance, and there’s an overtime issue – things of that nature.”
Cappello was also asked why he didn’t use other investigative tools to verify the address.
Attorney: “Was there something preventing you from contacting a utility company to find out who the account holder of record for that apartment was?”
Cappello: “I didn’t know I was aware I was able to do that.”
Attorney: “That wasn’t something that you were trained on in the Police Academy?”
Cappello: “No, I was not.”
Despite the lack of verification that the address was correct, Cappello’s superior signed off on this warrant. So did prosecutors and a judge.
Attorney: “Did Judge Burns ask you any questions about your complaint for search warrant, or any of the information in your complaint?”
That failure to do even a minimal investigation is one of the reasons the Mendez family is suing the Chicago Police Department. There are many more reasons – starting with Peter Mendez, who said he was terrified by police pointing a gun at him and officers handcuffing his father.
“It’s just the saddest moment,” Peter, 11, said tearfully.
The Mendez boys are two of at least 23 children the CBS 2 Investigators have found traumatized by bad raids.
Our year-long investigation found officers repeatedly failing to investigate informant tips, busting into homes of innocent families, and treating them badly.
In bodycam video from the Mendez raid, an officer is heard repeatedly yelling, “Get on the ground!” and adding an expletive to the order at one point.
Cappello and other officers say they treated the Mendez family well.
“Everyone on the team was more than polite to the whole family,” Cappello said in the deposition. “They were treated with the utmost respect through the whole time of the search warrant.”
The family strongly disagrees and says police showed zero respect – from the very beginning.
First, even though the warrant required officers to knock, they just busted in.
Attorney: “Officers forced the door open and the entered, correct?”
Cappello: “That’s correct.”
The Mendez family is really angry with what officers were caught saying on body camera video – whispering that they got it wrong.
One officer named Guzman is heard saying on the bodycam during the raid, “He gave us the wrong apartment.”
He is talking to another officer named Hernandez, who even gave the thumbs down indicating it was a bad raid. That should be the point where officers apologize and leave, but instead, they kept searching.
They are seen going through the medicine cabinet, searching kitchen drawers, and even looking in the microwave. Hernandez even went through Peter’s backpack.
Officer Jose Hernandez: “I wasn’t really doing a search-search of this residence. I did continue to do a search, but it wasn’t like a systematic search where I was lifting things up and throwing things around. I was just kind of doing a surface search.”
Cappello is also seen on video talking to another officer, who actually chuckles when they find out they’re in the wrong home. They kept searching too.
Cappello is heard saying, “Just throw a party for me.” Under oath, he testified that he meant just throw a pity party for him, because he was going to get in trouble for getting the address wrong.
But someone is heard laughing.
Attorney: “Did you hear him chuckle?”
Cappello: “Someone chuckled. I’m not sure who it was.”
The Mendez family said most traumatizing were the guns.
Cappello denies pointing his rifle at anyone.
“My rifle was at my navel line and I’m walking like this at all times,” Cappello said, gesturing his hands in front of his chest. “If I was, my elbow would’ve been tucked in, and it would’ve been up here.”
Exactly where he pointed his rifle should have been caught on body camera video. But Cappello failed to wear one, even though he was issued a working one hours before the raid.
Attorney: “You were never disciplined for not wearing your body camera on that day, correct?”
Cappello: “That’s correct.”
There’s been no discipline for any officer involved in the Mendez raid.
Cappello: “I wasn’t punished in any way, I wasn’t… no reprimand or anything like that.”
Attorney: “Did anybody talk to you about the investigation you did?”
And what about the drug-dealing suspect police were so eager to catch?
Cappello said: “He was providing narcotics to that area and still is to this very day –these very dangerous drugs of heroin and crack cocaine.”
You would think police got a new warrant, made an arrest, and confiscated the stash of drugs – right? Well, they didn’t. No new warrant and no arrest.
Attorney: “To your knowledge, did the Chicago Police ever go back and hit the correct apartment – the apartment where the targets actually lived?”
So that means no drug arrest of that real target, and it has now been two years since that wrong raid.
The Chicago Police Department refuses to turn over its wrong raid data. Police Supt. Eddie Johnson continues to refuse a sit down interview on the subject.
Meanwhile, two more families just contacted us about more wrong raids.