By Michele Youngerman and Samah Assad
CHICAGO (CBS) — In the midst of Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s announcement that he will retire, the city’s top cop continues to face criticism for how he’s responded to CBS 2 Investigators’ reporting about police officers raiding the wrong homes.
For more than a year, CBS 2 exposed a pattern of Chicago police officers failing to verify tips from confidential informants, raiding the wrong homes and traumatizing innocent children and adults. As a result, two city probes were launched into CPD’s methods of obtaining and executing search warrants.
CBS 2 has uncovered a pattern of police officers raiding wrong homes. Read about it here:
In one of those homes was 9-year-old Peter Mendez and his family. The innocent family was terrified when a team of heavily-armed officers burst into their apartment
“It was like my life just flashed before my eyes,” Mendez said.
CBS 2 found nearly two dozen children traumatized by similar bad Chicago Police raids, including some who said officers pointed guns at them. This includes 11 incidents while Johnson was in charge.
“They had their finger on the trigger,” said 7-year-old JJ Jackson.
“It made feel like the police weren’t even what I thought they were,” said a tearful Mendez.
Police body camera videos obtained by our CBS 2 show innocent families trying to tell officers that they are in the wrong homes.
In the Mendez case, Peter’s mother was able to grab a copy of the warrant and can be seen on the video telling officers the suspects live in a different apartment, “They live upstairs. They live upstairs”.
CBS 2 also uncovered a case where officers raided the home of two adult siblings. Demetrius Labon tried telling officers they were in the wrong home. “Wrong door, wrong door,” he said, as officers pointed guns at him, forced him to the ground and into handcuffs.
Video from another bad raid shows an eight year old held in handcuffs, “I was just scared. My legs were shaking,” said Royal Smart.
Johnson has refused repeated requests to sit down and interview about these bad raids. At a news conference last month, he did acknowledge the problem of wrong raids.
“We take it seriously and we are trying to fix the issues,” he said.
Despite that statement, police have failed to change how officers obtain and execute search warrants, and CBS 2 continues to learn about new cases.
Chicago’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson stepped in as a result of CBS 2’s ongoing investigation.
“You’ve absolutely uncovered a sufficient number of situations that have resulted in really bad outcomes,” Ferguson said.
His office has launched an audit into the police department’s search warrant methods, policies and procedures.
“Every single one of these raid situations is a form of imposition of trauma by the government on citizens of the city,” Ferguson said. “We should make sure there is tracking and accountability.”
Our investigation also led Mayor Lori Lightfoot to take action.
“We’ve talked to the superintendent, his team about it,” Lightfoot said. “This is now one of the issues that our Chief Risk Officer is going to be focusing on with the police department to make sure that they get it right.”
“When we do these search warrants, there is nothing more important than the trust the community has trust in us,” said Johnson, adding accidental or erroneous search warrants are unacceptable.
Michele Youngerman and Samah Assad are producers for the CBS 2 Investigators.