Top cop blasted for ‘wrong door raids’ in S. Jamaica

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City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly took a good deal of abuse from about 300 angry Jamaica area residents at Monday’s 113th Precinct Community Council meeting.

While many residents who live in the precinct, which covers South Jamaica, St. Albans, Rochdale Village, and parts of Springfield Gardens, asked about specific quality-of-life issues, the topic of the night was two “wrong-door” raids last week, where 113th officers executed search warrants on the wrong homes.

The 113th Precinct carried out incorrect warrants on two different addresses, one on Ilion Avenue in St. Albans on Oct. 14 and the other on 161st Street in South Jamaica on Oct. 15, said Deputy Inspector John Essig, commanding officer.

In the first case in St. Albans, officers broke through the front door, knocked resident Michael Thompson to the ground and handcuffed the private duty nurse as they searched the house. When the officers saw Thompson’s academic degrees and a picture of him with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on the walls, they realized their mistake.

The next night in South Jamaica, officers knocked down another wrong door, said Robert Rogers.

“I was at home and I hear the door busted in,” said Rogers, a retired police officer who lives at the 161st Street home where police barged in searching for evidence of drugs. “I ran to get my gun and I hid behind a wall yelling, ‘Who is it? Who is it?’”

Police were looking for a man who had been selling drugs along Guy R. Brewer Boulevard and were given the addresses by two separate informants, Essig said.

“We did not find the person we were looking for and we apologize,” Essig said. “No one feels worse about this than we do.”

Essig explained to the increasingly agitated crowd that procedure had been followed in getting the information, and that one of the informants had described Rogers’ wife as a resident of the house.

But the explanations fell on deaf ears, and shouts of “you know you’re lying” came from the audience.

A department investigation is being undertaken to find out what happened in both incidents, Kelly said. He also supported Essig’s statements and praised the precinct’s Special Narcotics Unit, which headed up the searches.

“This is the most effective Special Narcotic Unit in the city,” he said. “They’ve done excellent work here. A lot of crime in this area comes from narcotics and every major category of crime is down over 50 percent in the last 10 years here.”

The audience pressed for more details on how information is confirmed and how warrants are generated, but Kelly refused to comment further.

“I think this issue has been discussed,” he said. “I already said we’re going to investigate it.”

Residents also took the opportunity to ask Kelly about racial profiling, citing incidents where young black men are stopped by police officers while waiting for a bus or driving home from work.

“Just because you stand or walk on Guy Brewer Boulevard doesn’t mean you’re selling drugs,” one man said.

Kelly agreed that it is a problem, but did not talk about ways to stop it.

“This is not a new concern,” he said. “There is an issue with young black men being stopped and feeling they’re being stopped unfairly.”

Residents also complained about the homeless shelter at the former Best Western Carlton House hotel near Kennedy Airport, saying the shelter’s tenants and their visitors are harassing homeowners in the area and committing lewd acts on the street.

Borough President Helen Marshall, who attended the meeting, said she has been meeting with the shelter’s operators and police to address the problem.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said of trying to balance the concerns of the shelter and area residents. “This hotel is really too much for this community. We’re trying not to make it a police matter, we’re just trying to get information.”

Essig said he and his officers are still learning how to deal with problems at the shelter.

“The homeless shelter is a learning curve for all of us,” he said. “This community was nice and quiet and now there’s an additional 1,200 people there. We have to learn what we should be looking for.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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