SCHENECTADY -- A police strike team raided a woman's Prospect Street apartment and handcuffed her children and killed her dog early Tuesday in a $60 pot bust. The woman called it excessive force and a case of mistaken identity, but officers said they stormed the home for a good reason: One of her sons was selling marijuana there.
The Police Department's tactical squad knocked down the front door of the upstairs apartment at 110 Prospect St. and flooded into the apartment shortly after 6 a.m.
"I heard a big boom. My first reaction was to jump out of bed. We were trying to find where our kids were at and all of a sudden we had guns in our faces," said 40-year-old Anita Woodyear, who rents the second-floor flat.
During the ensuing chaos, police handcuffed two of the woman's children, Elijah Bradley, 11, and 12-year-old Victoria Perez, and shot at her dog in the kitchen before killing it in the bathroom, Woodyear said.
"That seems like an awful lot of firepower for marijuana," said Fred Clark of the Schenectady chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "That's like spending $125,000 for $5."
Woodyear said she suspected police had intended to search a neighboring home, but had the wrong address on the search warrant. Neighbors said they suspect illicit drugs are dealt at other homes on the block.
"No apology, no 'sorry about your dog,' " she said.
But police said they have no reason to apologize. They said they raided the house because Woodyear's 18-year-old son, Israel M. Bradley, sold three plastic bags of marijuana there for $40 on Sept. 15. They allege he sold two other bags of marijuana in the house for $20 on Aug. 28, they said.
In addition, police said Bradley was carrying marijuana in the home on Sept. 1. "We had the absolute right house. We had the absolute right target," said Assistant Chief Michael Seber.
Police said Bradley was one of several drug dealers they have under investigation on Prospect Street.
"The whole street is a mess right now. We'll be back," Seber said.
Bradley was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal sale of marijuana, an offense punishable by up to one year in jail. He was also charged with unlawfully possessing marijuana, a violation.
Police Lt. Peter Frisoni said Bradley admitted he sold from the apartment in a statement to investigators after the raid.
"The moral of the story is: If you don't want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, don't let drug dealers stay with you and deal drugs out of your apartment," Frisoni said.
Woodyear said she is appalled about the way her children were treated -- and said her 12-year-old daughter was hit with pepper spray.
The dog, a pit bull terrier named Precious, urinated on the floor in fear and tried to run from the police before it was killed, Woodyear said.
Police said the animal was aggressive and left them no choice but to shoot.
Elijah Bradley said he awoke to find armed men in his home. "They had the shotgun in my face," the 11-year-old said. "I punched at him. I didn't know who he was."
Police said they had reason to have weapons drawn. Their search warrant noted that among the things they planned to search for were firearms, although no handguns were found.
The NAACP has previously criticized how police conduct raids, most notably during an incident earlier this decade when a Hamilton Hill girl was held at gunpoint and handcuffed after her mother agreed to allow police to search their home for an armed man. The family later sued the city, but the jury awarded no damages.
But Paul DerOhannesian, a defense attorney and former Albany County prosecutor, said such a response may have been warranted if police believed there were guns in the house.
"This type of search warrant execution can be very dangerous from a law enforcement point of view," he said.
"You're going to have a heightened sense or need for security for officer safety. You literally have no idea what you're walking into."
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