Imagine you’re sitting quietly in your home, just you, your family, and your trusted dog. All of a sudden a SWAT team busts through the door, aims semiautomatic rifles at you, shoots your dog dead, and then threatens to kill one of your children. Sounds like something out of a nightmare, doesn’t it? Well, it happened just last year in St. Louis, Missouri.
According to a lawsuit filed by Angela Zorich, St. Louis County officers showed up at her home on April 25, 2014 to shame the family for failure to pay a utility bill. Before leaving, the officers placed a “Problem Properties” sticker on the front window of the house.
Three days later, Ms. Zorich called the police department to find out why officers had been to her home and why they had placed the sticker on the window. She was told that she was under investigation for violations of the city code which requires homes to have gas or electric service. Zorich admitted that she did not have natural gas service at her house, but did have electricity. A second inspection to confirm this was set, but no one ever showed up to perform that inspection.
The very next day, officers from the St Louis County Police Tactical Response Unit raided the Zorich home. The horror of that raid is told in great detail in the lawsuit Ms. Zorich filed:
“Zorich was at home with several family members and her pit bull, Kiya, when a St. Louis County Police Tactical Response Unit burst through the door without knocking. The unit had at least five officers with M-4 rifles, supported by at least eight uniformed officers. The officers entered so quickly that Kiya didn’t even have time to bark. A tactical officer fired three shots into the dog, and the dog’s ‘bladder and bowels released and she fell to the floor.’ The dog ‘was laying on the floor in her own waste and blood struggling to breathe. She had a gaping hole in her chest.’ At one point in the raid, Zorich alleges, an officer pointed his firearm at her son’s head and said, ‘One word, motherfucker, and I’ll put three in you.’”
Angela Zorich was then handcuffed, arrested, and taken to the police station for booking. And here is what the citation against her alleges was in disrepair at her home: Substandard siding, guard rail, screens, window glass, and deck at the family home.
Zorich’s attorney, Kenneth Chackes, said there is only one reason the police acted in such a manner:
“This is an example of police overreaching and using excessive force to get a family out of their house.”
The lawsuit seeks damages for unlawful seizure, unlawful infliction of emotional distress (for the killing of the family’s dog), and unlawful retaliation by the officers who raided the home.
This kind of action reeks of a police state. Do we need police to use military tactics against a family just because they haven’t paid a utility bill? Police in this country must be reined in and taught to respect the rights of all citizens. Otherwise, they are setting themselves up for a world in which anarchy is the norm.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org.