Ankeny police are defending their use of force to enter a Des Moines home on a warrant looking for items related to a stolen credit card.
Surveillance video shows about a dozen police officers in full tactical gear breaking down the door of a home seconds after pounding on the side of the house and going in.
When we first saw this surveillance tape we had a few questions.
1) Why was this much force needed for a white collar crime?
2) Why did police rip a surveillance camera off the front of the house?
3) And did officers knock first, as they are required to..before entering the home?
During a press conference, Ankeny’s police chief says officers did follow protocol when it comes to knocking.
“We understand the media has to some time boil that down due to time restraints,” said Chief Gary Mikulec. “But sometimes in boiling it down you miss what really happened and the fact that we were out there knocking on this house for 10-12 seconds.”
But the video tells a different story. From the time officers begin banging on the house, to the time they use the battering ram to get in, is about five seconds.
Police argue that because people can be seen hiding in the video, that proves they had time to respond. “It clearly shows that we knocked, it clearly shows that they heard us and instead of ascending the stairs coming up the stairs to meet us, they fled and they all his in that house,” Chief Mikulek said.
But Peter Berger, an attorney representing the family who owns the house says “If that happened in my house I would probably want to run and hide too. And that’s the other problem I have with the Ankeny police chief saying what he said – that the end justifies the means. That people are hiding we’re OK to batter down the door. That’s wrong,” Berger said.
We also questioned why a police officer ripped a security camera off the front of the house even after police were already inside.
“We disarm that or take it apart or take it down so that was it’s not going to give our position or compromise us as we’re following up or going up to this,” said Sgt. Royal Kerchee, the SERT Team leader.
Finally, was this kind of force necessary? Ankeny police say yes. One of the people named in the warrant, Richard Adair, was wanted on a drug warrant. Another person named, Justin Ross, is a disabled veteran with no criminal history, but he does have a permit to carry a weapon. Because Adair knows someone with a gun and has a drug history, and because there are security cameras in the home, police argue, he’s dangerous.
“(He’s) associated with people who were known to have and carry weapons and by that association they had access to those weapons,” Chief Mikulec said.
Adair does not have a recent violent criminal history, he has two assault charges and a domestic assault charge from more than ten years ago.
“I’m worried less about violent history as I do about the fact that people on methamphetamine are not real predictable,” Chief Mikulec said. “So it’s the unpredictable nature of people who do drugs that have access to weapons that don’t want to be apprehended that tells me that we have to take some pretty serious precautions.”
The family has spoken with a lawyer and may go forward with a suit against the department. They say they allowed two of the suspects to stay with them for a while because those two were homeless. Family members insist they didn’t know there were drugs in the house and insist, based on the warrant, the search was excessive.
So far, the investigation has led to charges against three people.
Randy Williams, 25, is charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and misdemeanor theft. Police say he admitted to stealing a wallet with the credit cards inside.
Richard Adair, 35, faces multiple felony drug offenses and false use of credit cards.
Miranda Scigliano, 27, is also charged with false use of a credit card along with felony drug possession.
Police say they are searching for three more people as part of the credit card theft investigation.