” The New Haven SWAT team must have been pretty amped up: It was midnight, and they were getting ready to bust down the door of a man wanted on charges involving weapons violations, robbery — and murder. They were not sure how many people were in the house, or how they’d react. After a volley of flash grenades that set fire to the carpet and a sofa, they moved in, guns drawn. A minute later, they had their man zip-tied on the floor.
If only they’d double-checked the address first.
Bobby Griffin Jr. was wanted on murder charges. His next-door neighbor on Peck Street, Joseph Adams, wasn’t. But that didn’t stop the SWAT team from knocking down his door, setting his home on fire, roughing him up, keeping him tied up in his underwear for nearly three hours, and treating the New Haven man, who is gay, to a nance show as officers taunted him with flamboyantly effeminate mannerisms. If the events detailed in Mr. Adams’s recently filed lawsuit are even remotely accurate, the episode was a moral violation and, arguably, a crime.
And when Mr. Adams showed up at the New Haven police department the next day to fill out paperwork requesting that the authorities reimburse him for the wanton destruction of his property — never mind the gross violation of his rights — the story turned Kafkaesque, as interactions with American government agencies at all levels tend to do. The police — who that same night had managed to take in the murder suspect next door without the use of flash grenades or other theatrics after his mother suggested that they were probably there for her son — denied having any record of the incident at Mr. Adams’s home ever having happened.
This sort of thing happens with disturbing regularity. The New York Police Department killed an older woman in Harlem when they mistakenly raided her home in 2003. In that case, too, “flash-bang” grenades were deployed, and the concussions sent 57-year-old Alberta Spruiell into cardiac arrest, killing her. The NYPD was acting on information given to them by a local lowlife drug dealer they were leaning on. It was the first information he’d given them as an informant, and based on nothing more than that they went in hard — no-knock raid, grenades, the whole circus. As it turns out, New York dope-slingers turned rat are not entirely trustworthy. “