It's been over three weeks since "the incident" happened with the Roanoke County Police coming to my home shortly before midnight and holding my husband and I at gunpoint. As my friends, family, and readers know they came to the wrong address, never identified themselves as police banging on my door, frisked us, and held us at gunpoint until I informed them where they were (the wrong address) and who we were (the wrong people). I blogged about it detail in this post - My Life Matters. Many of you have been asking me what has transpired since then, so that's what this post is about.
The next morning when we went outside we found a large branch of one of our cherry trees which lines the front of our home, bent down and broken.
Since it was one of the healthy branches which was not broken the previous day, we figure the police maimed it. I wondered if it happened when they rushed the house, or if they tried sitting in the tree to aim a gun at us. My husband said they probably pulled it down to use as cover to hide behind. That really upset me, and I wouldn't let my husband take it down all the way. I told him to leave it like that as a statement. When he cut it down the following weekend I was really pissed as I would have kept my wounded and broken branch dangling forever as a symbol that it could have been us who were wounded and maimed by the police. A relative who is an officer of the court in another state had left a comment on my fb page remarking that it was an awful lot of police power for just a "report of an assault" and he thought there was more to it than what the female officer had said to us. That comment, and the many others I received urging me to report "the incident" made me realize that I needed to find out more. This event was not something that I could in good conscious ignore.
On Monday morning I called the Chief of Police and left a message briefly outlining what we had experienced on his answering machine and asked for a call back. Late Monday afternoon I received a phone call from one of the Assistant Chiefs of Police. I reiterated the event and asked what had happened. He did not sound familiar with "our part" of the story, but did reveal an interesting tidbit. That Saturday evening RCP had received a call about an assault that had happened and if any officers responded they would be shot. Holy cow! Although I could certainly understand now why there had been a multitude of cops wearing bulletproof vests, weapons drawn, it also made me sick to my stomach. When the responders came to my door they thought they were there to confront a suspect who had assaulted someone with a weapon and was going to shoot cops! They thought we were the suspect! They were all hopped up, and had we not immediately complied with their commands to put our hands on top of our heads and allow them to frisk us, we could have been shot.
When my questions of what address had the dispatcher received and passed on, why didn't the police officers identify themselves immediately when they pounded on our door, and why they didn't ask our names immediately could not be answered during my phone conversation, I decided I needed to file an official complaint. The Assistant Chief did apologize. A late apology is better than none, however I still needed more than that. He said he would drop a form in the mail which I should fill out if I still wanted to after I received it and then mail back.
Another friend of mine thought I should let the County Administrator and my Board of Supervisor representative know what had occurred. I agreed. Knowing how long the mail now takes to get across town I decided to drop them an email that day instead of waiting for the complaint form to arrive. I pretty much copied my blog post, without the "colorful" words and commentary, included pics of the broken tree and sent it to both of them. Have you received a response from either of them? Yeah, me neither. Although it's not something that they can "handle" I do believe even a brief response to the effect of, "I received your email, thank you for letting me know what happened, I hope you will pursue this further so that no other resident will be subjected to this happening, yada, yada, yada..." would have been appropriate.
Five days later I received the Citizen Complaint Report form. The space to provide details was way too small so so I gave a brief description and attached a three page detailed report, along with pictures of the broken branch to it. I did not want to drop it in the mail so I hand delivered it to Cove Road. The officer at the front desk asked me what it was, and although I didn't feel comfortable telling him it was a complaint report, I did. He asked if they were expecting it. I replied yes they were. I hoped it wasn't going to be tossed in the trash bin! It wasn't. A week later, I received a letter from another Assistant Chief of Police informing me my complaint was assigned to a Commander as an internal affairs investigation.
On Friday, August 12th I met in person with the investigator who recorded our meeting in which I reiterated again the event and answered his questions. The only question he was able to answer (and I had many!) was that dispatch did indeed give the correct address, not mine. He informed me that there was a good chance I would not get all, or even many, of my questions answered. Although the investigation could take up to 90 days he thought it would be over before that. I was the first person he spoke with. He had not spoken to any officers involved. He asked me if I knew the names of the officers, or could describe them. I told him since the bright light had practically blinded me, and the large cop had all SWAT like gear on while holding his rifle, or whatever type of long weapon it was on me, and with all the confusion going on it was hard to give an accurate description of him. I couldn't really see his face. The only one I could give some sort of description was the female who frisked me. It was dark, there were so many of them, and I was more focused on the guns pointed at me than anything else to be able to give accurate personal descriptions. When the investigator mentioned there were so many police present most likely because it was "a shift change" I responded with, "Really? It had nothing to do with them getting a report that police would be shot when they responded?" He seemed surprised I knew that and asked who told me that. I told him, but I have to tell you, that one statement he made me uncomfortable.
During our interview, I did remark that it was a good thing that knowing what I know now, that we went outside when we did rather than wait inside for the police to break through the door to confront us. Had they seen us standing there with weapons meant to protect ourselves from a home invasion, they probably would have shot us like the New Jersey State Troopers had recently shot a 76 year old man after they went to the wrong address and found him standing in his living room with a shotgun. Read about it here. At least those cops identified themselves! Anyway, the investigator said he wasn't familiar with the story, nor the NJ State Troopers policy, but it wasn't RCPD policy to break through doors, so I asked if it was RCPD policy to go to the wrong address and not identify themselves as police. Never say never, with the hostile environment aimed at police these days, what was once "not policy" could easily become "policy." What is a "mistake" could easily become a "tragic mistake."
All in all, I felt the interview went well. He was very respectful, as was I. I don't think this was his first rodeo so I hope he does a thorough job. He said he needed to interview my husband separately from me so I suggested he go that day as we didn't want this to linger on. I couldn't answer some of the questions he had as my husband was the first person the police confronted and held at gunpoint. He did meet with him that afternoon and my husband was also recorded, did not have his questions answered either, but he did answer all the investigator's.
When my kids heard about "the incident" they were very upset. My daughter was appalled and wanted me to immediately contact the media. My son was angry with us that we went outside to begin with. I think it's the first time I ever had him yell at us. When I told him about the event that had happened to the NJ man being shot staying inside his living room, he insisted we invest in a video surveillance and recording set-up. He said he would hook it all up for us. A couple of years ago we did have two crappy cameras set up after someone had knocked on our door at four in the morning, which we did not answer. The following morning we found our flower box on one of our windows ripped off and saw footprints in the mud by all the windows. We had called the police but a report was never filed as there wasn't enough to investigate a potential break-in. So we bought cameras, but they didn't record unless they were hooked up to a VHS machine, and after a year of no "problems" we got lazy and stopped using them.
I researched different systems and forwarded all the possibilities to my son and we agreed on a set-up that would record and that we would be able to monitor from anywhere. He came up last weekend and helped us set it up. We could never have done it without him. It involved much more than just plugging it in. Luckily he's a computer whiz so he didn't have any problems and now he can even monitor it from Raleigh! Funny how the child-adult roles switch as we all get older.
While he was setting everything up something dawned on me. If the police thought they were responding to a suspect who had assaulted someone, and who threatened to shoot officers if they arrived, wouldn't they have taped their operation??? One would think they would want to document everything that went down in case they were shot at, or if they had to shoot at someone. I didn't notice if they were wearing body cams. I don't know if RCP even have them, but I do know they have dashboard cameras, and I would think there would have been at least one of the many holding some sort of camera to document. All the questions the investigator had could be answered upon viewing the recording. Since the investigator said I could contact him if I had any more questions, I knew this would be one of them.
I also had another question for him. Upon researching public records I noticed, under the Uniform Crime Report which is reported to the VA State Police, there were 0 reported offenses for the date of "the incident" and address block. While I thought that was odd, I found it even stranger that on the Roanoke County Calls for Service report there were also 0 incidents reported for the date and address block. On 7/24 at 16:38 there was a entry for "Civil Advice" for that address block but "No Report Taken." That was a full 17 hours since "the incident." On 7/25 at 11:49 there was an entry for "Break-In Residence" but again "No Report Taken." Now, I didn't expect to find that they had reported "the incident" at my address, but I certainly expected to find reports at the other address. How is it possible that neither a Crime Report nor a Calls for Service report doesn't exist??? This newfound information really disturbs me. Something is rotten in Roanoke County.
I decided not to just place a phone call but to write an email to the investigator asking about the above. I also thought it would be good to cc the Assistant Chief who advised me of the internal affairs investigation since he also said if I had any concerns I should contact him. When I called to find out his email address he let me know basically what happens during an internal investigation. The bottom line is that after all parties are spoken to the info is sent to the Assistant Chiefs. If they have any additional questions they will ask the investigator, and if any are for us he will contact us. Once they are satisfied they have all they need they then pass it onto the Police Chief. He will then decide if my complaint is true or not. If they deem it is, they decide what actions, if any, will be taken. I will probably not know if any actions are taken. That's it???
Every word I've written is true. As soon as the police left I texted my kids to let them know what had happened to us. I posted on Facebook not long after that. I blogged the following day. I took pictures of my tree damage. I emailed representatives. There is no way they can say what I've reported is not true. Just because RCPD did not file a report does not mean "the incident" never happened. If this incident was never reported, how many others have not been? It's a scary thought. Since the RCPD is interested in the actions of its employees and expects every employee to uphold the department's values of Integrity, Courage, Accountability and Respect, I sincerely hope with all my heart the investigation will not be corrupted, and that proper actions are taken to those responsible to ensure that an event like this never happens again.
I cannot stress enough to all citizens reading this. Please, please, please, comply with the police when they ask you to. Even if they're wrong, just do it. Better to take actions later than have your friends and family mourn you because your non-compliance was seen as "threatening." Also, something I took from this experience...if you do not have a phone on you to record, make sure to look for and remember that badge number. I wish I had at least one of them...
Here is a follow-up post to the follow-up entitled, "Who Polices the Police?"