By Dave Savini, Michele Youngerman, Samah Assad
CHICAGO (CBS) — Police body-worn camera video from another wrong raid reveals Chicago Police officers not only entering an innocent family’s home, but also pointing assault rifles at and interrogating children without an adult present.
As part of its 18-month-long investigation, CBS 2 Investigators interviewed more than a dozen families and children whose homes were wrongly raided by officers. Many accused police of pointing guns at them and filed federal lawsuits.
While CBS 2 obtained body camera video of wrong raids in the past, this is the first time footage shows guns being pointed directly at children.
As a result of our investigation, CBS 2 learned the police department changed its search warrant policy in January. It now contains new language that aims to protect children, adds new training for officers and will track some bad raids. But we found some significant gaps in that new policy.
(If you believe police wrongly entered your home, tell us about it here.)
‘Please Do Not Shoot Me’
CBS 2 first reported on the Archie family in July after uncovering police officers wrongly raided her home three times by failing to independently verify tips from confidential informants – once in February, the second in April and a third time in May. Officers were searching for a man who we found has no record of ever living at that home and who the family does not know.
The body worn camera video clips CBS 2 obtained are connected to the first two raids. One clip from the April raid shows officers driving and pulling up to the home at about 8:30 p.m. A total of 14 heavily armed officers are at the scene and break through the door to the wrong home using a battering ram.
On the other end of the door, they found innocent children – 14-year-old Savannah who was watching her two other siblings, Telia, 11, and JJ, 7, while their mom, Krystal, was at work.
“They had guns to our faces,” Savannah said in an interview.
She was right. The harrowing video from the second raid shows officers pointing their assault rifles at the children. The kids can be seen hitting the ground when they see officers. Savannah is heard sobbing as she is face down on the floor, hands behind her head. “Please do not shoot me, please, please.”
“You’re not going to do this again!” she screamed, referencing the first raid in February.
An officer is heard responding, “Shut up.”
WATCH: Police Body Cam Video From The Raid
***WARNING: The video might be disturbing to some viewers***
“They had their finger on the trigger,” said JJ in an interview. He is also seen laying by Savannah in the body camera video.
In another room, Telia is seen in the video face down.
Their mother, Krystal, was emotional while watching the video for the first time.
“They’re handling heavy artillery,” she said of the officers. “It would’ve taken one slip of your finger and my children,” she cried, “would not be here.”
CBS 2 then showed Krystal what happened later in the video. Alarmingly, officers can be heard interrogating the children without a guardian present about drugs. The questioning could be illegal.
“Hey, just tell us, do you know where the stuff’s at?” one officer asks. “Because if you can tell us that, then we’re out of here.”
“What stuff? I don’t…” Savannah said.
The officer continued: “So did you stop selling it? Did you stop keeping it here?”
“Who?” Savannah said.
“Whoever keeps it here,” the officer said.
Telia can be heard telling officers she doesn’t know what the officers are talking about.
“We never…we never had any,” Telia said.
Savannah also asked to call her uncle, to which the officer replied she could not.
The children said the interrogation continued, but there’s no video of that or the search that followed because officers shut off their cameras early.
“OK, if everyone’s clear, kill cameras,” one officer said.
After police shut off their body cameras, the family said they believe the search went on for about another 45 minutes, with no other adults present.
Krystal and her children said they feared police would come back again – and they did, in May, and wrongly raided the home again. Attorney Al Hofeld, Jr. has since filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family.
What Does The New Policy Say?
For the first time, and after more than a year of CBS 2’s requests, two Chicago Police Department officials sat down for an interview about wrong raids: Lt. Matthew Cline and risk manager Michele Morris.
“We don’t want to see that happen,” said Cline, who helped create the new search warrant policy. “We don’t want to erode the trust within the community.”
WATCH: Police Officials Talk About New Search Warrant Policy
“[un]warranted”, a CBS 2 documentary that aired in October, followed the lives of Chicago families as they struggle to cope with the trauma left in the wake of these wrong raids. The documentary also examined how these incidents contribute to distrust between police and the community.
“Let’s be clear,” Morris added, “no child should have a gun pointed in his face.”
These incidents and subsequent lawsuits resulted in the police department changing its search warrant policy. Key changes include:
• Police will undergo training for how to best handle raids where children will be present as part of a pre-raid plain. They would not give specifics on what the training will entail. However, this is the first time children have been mentioned in the police department’s search warrant policy. “We’re making sure that if we know children to be present, that in our operational planning, that’s discussed that there’s going to be children there,” Cline said.
• There will be more oversight of the search warrant approval process. Officers will be instructed to run the proper address checks on targets of raids through the Crime Prevention and Information Center at police headquarters to ensure they have the best available data on where a target lives. This comes after officers said in depositions they didn’t have access to some search tools. “Some of them fell through the cracks, and they didn’t realize that was the proper way to obtain this information,” Cline said.
• It is now required that at least two body cameras are activated during the execution of a search warrant, from start to finish. In May of last year, we found some of the police department’s specialized units – often those who conduct raids – are not required to wear body cameras. Therefore, we found police and civilian interaction during these incidents were not captured or documented on video. Now, those units must be accompanied by two uniformed officers equipped with working cameras.
• Officers with body cameras must roll the entire time or they face the possibility of internal discipline. Police said discipline is under negotiation with the police union for past incidents where officers failed to activate or did not wear their body cameras during wrong raids.
You can read the old policy here:
During the course of our 18-month-long investigation, CBS 2 uncovered the police department was aware of incidents where officers raided the wrong home, but still failed to discipline officers or put a system in place to document when it happened. Therefore, the department is unable to say how often officers raid the wrong home.
The new policy says the police department will create a log if an officer enters an address that is different than what is listed on the search warrant. However, it does not address when officers fail to verify information and enter the incorrect address on the search warrant, and enter that home. This means the more than dozen cases of wrong raids we found would not be documented or tracked under the new policy.
The police department would not commit to tracking those at this time, raising questions about how officers would be held accountable if they are involved in a wrong raid.
In a year-long battle for data, CBS 2 forced police to release data they do maintain on search warrants. It is impossible to determine from the data if any raids were wrong. However, it does tell us how often police execute search warrants overall.
Since 2016, police executed 6,869 search warrants, according to the data. They did not make arrests in 42% of those warrants. Other items could’ve been seized, however, such as guns or drugs. This analysis was conducted after removing cases where CBS 2 was able to determine a search warrant was executed at a police or government building, rather than a home.
‘How Broken Our System Is’
Police said if an officer is found to have violated the search warrant policy, they will be subject to discipline.
“If that investigation reveals that the officers didn’t do their job, there will be a form of discipline,” Cline said.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) said it opened an investigation into the Archie family’s complaint in May of 2019.
“Complaints filed regarding improper search and seizure, including search warrants such as this, are thoroughly investigated as a part of our jurisdiction,” COPA said. “We are actively investigating this complaint and are committed to a full and thorough investigative process.”
Krystal said what happened to her family – and what she watched in the body camera video – continue to haunt them.
“[It] shows the depth of how broken our system is,” Krystal said. “I literally walk into our apartment..and I just cry. That’s no way to feel about going home. And that’s my life now.”