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Whatcha gonna do if they come for you?

Harry Singleton remembers how quiet, unusually quiet, the house was that June 16 summer afternoon.

The 49-year-old construction worker had just gotten home from work. He showered, put on a pair of shorts and sat down on the couch in an upstairs room to watch the Lakers game on TV.

In the next-door bedroom, Camile Sackey had lain down for a nap with his two young daughters, Brittney, 4 and Shanice, 2.

Downstairs, Morgan McClinton, 16, his brother Adrian McClinton, 19, and their friend, Deon Gooden, 18, were in Morgan's bedroom, watching COPS on TV.

They were about to get a dose of reality.

***

At 5:51 p.m., decked out in bulletproof riot gear and toting assault rifles equipped with red laser sensors, 17 adrenaline-pumped cops burst into the house at 22 N. Claremont St., in a working-class neighborhood of east-central Colorado Springs.

The men inside insist they did not hear police announce their presence -- which is required in such knock-and-announce searches -- before they busted in the screen door with explosives and maneuvered their way inside the crowded house.

Metal shrapnel sprayed and pierced the walls, trailing down the hall.

"I heard a boom, and then they were inside," Singleton said. "I started to get up to see what was going on, but they kicked in the door and they grabbed me and got me down, with their foot on my back. They cuffed me and asked if I was Camile. I said no, and asked 'What's going on?' and [the cop] just said, 'You'll find out.'

"They had some serious equipment."

At the same time, more cops were kicking the door into the next-door bedroom, where Sackey cowered spread-eagled, face down on the bed, trying to protect his now-screaming girls with his arms.

"They told me just to make a move, just one," Sackey said. With their assault rifles leveled at him, he was handcuffed and, with his small children trailing him and crying, was led to the kitchen to join Singleton.

Downstairs, Morgan, Adrian and Deon heard the explosion. Morgan ran out of his room and part way up the stairs to investigate and realized it was the police. He ran back to his room and told his brother and friend to be cool.

Moments later cops burst through the open bedroom door, aiming their assault weapons at them, red lasers pointed at their heads and their hearts. In the cramped bedroom, Morgan made the mistake of demanding to know what they were doing in his mom's house. Then, he asked again.

"This Robocop dude threw [Morgan] down on the floor and kicked him in the head," Gooden said. "Then he said, 'You're in my custody, I have a right to shoot you, and you can't do nothing about it.' "

In separate interviews, Adrian and Deon said they saw the rifles' red lasers pointed at Morgan and watched while the cop stepped on the teenager's hands and threatened to shoot him.

"Watching him get roughed up like that, that's not cool," Gooden said.

Then, the family's frightened German shepherd came running into the room. The cops started screaming, "Shoot the dog, shoot the dog," but eventually tied him up instead, the teenagers said.

The cop who slapped the handcuffs on him asked Gooden what he was doing hanging out at his friend's house. "He said I should be playing basketball instead of hanging out with these thugs," Gooden said.

The three teenagers were herded to the kitchen to join Sackey, Singleton and the two crying girls for questioning.


I have a right

Meanwhile, 43-year-old Juanita Clinton had gotten off work at a local pawn store and was pulling up to her house. Seeing a small army of police surrounding and inside her home, she ran, hysterical, toward the front door. A cop stopped her from going inside and she demanded to know what was happening.

They told her everything was fine, her children and her grandbabies were fine, and she relaxed. Then she realized that, no, it was not fine. The cops, she said, initially refused to tell her what they were doing inside her house, but she persisted.

"I told them I have a right to know what is happening inside my home, and [one cop] said 'I have a right to stop you from selling drugs from your home.' "

That's when Juanita McClinton realized that what she had hoped to put behind her two years ago was back with a vengeance.

Officers from the Metro Vice Narcotics and Intelligence unit spent 2 1/2 house ransacking the house. They dumped houseplants onto the floor, emptied the contents of the linen and clothes closets onto the floor, and picked through the family's videogame collection and boxes of previously unopened toys and pulled apart the insides of their freezer. They yanked up baseboards and pulled down tiles from the downstairs bathroom shower wall. They broke framed pictures, and damaged a chess set when they threw it on the floor.

This is what the cops found:

A marijuana pipe.

A little over five grams of marijuana.

A decorative Egytian pipe that could potentially be used to smoke pot.

Two cellular phones.

Three scales.

A straw, found under a couch in the basement, which tested positive for a residue of cocaine.

A letter that had been sent from an El Paso County jail inmate to Juanita McClinton's son, Adrian McClinton.

The cops did not find the motherlode of crack cocaine upon which their search warrant was based. They did not find any guns or explosives in the house. They did not issue any citations as a result of their knock-and-announce raid on the house, other than hauling Sackey, 24, to jail on an unrelated misdemeanor failure to appear outstanding arrest warrant.

After the five men were searched questioned and identified, they were individually released. Gooden said he watched Morgan, 16, run outside, into Juanita McClinton's arms. One cop -- in front of curious neighbors and other officers -- sarcastically commented, "Look at the little baby, running into his momma's arms."

"I thought, 'Dang, that's rough,' " Gooden said.


The sting

The CSPD's policy on executing knock-and-announce warrants explicitly states, "By the terms of the Fourth Amendment, a search for or seizure of evidence must be reasonable."

"The test of reasonableness is met by the ACCUMULATION of facts and circumstances amounting to probable cause to believe the evidence sought is located at the place or on the person to be searched. Where probable cause is shown, an individual's constitutional right to privacy may yield to the government's right to search and seize," reads the policy, which can be reviewed in full on the Independent's Web site at www.csindy.com.

In the case against Camile Sackey, which led to the June 16 raid at Juanita McClinton's home, a good deal of the accumulation of facts and circumstances was conducted by CSPD Det. Mike Happ, whose affidavit was used to secure the search warrant at 22 N. Claremont.

District Court Judge Barney Iuppa, who previously served as the El Paso County District Attorney from 1984 to 1988, signed the knock-and-announce warrant giving police the right to search McClinton's house.

Happ did not return several messages seeking comment for this story.

According to his affidavit and supporting police documentation, Happ has spent much of the summer involved in an undercover sting operation in which Camile Sackey was targeted as a potential criminal. (The complete affidavit also can be reviewed online.)

On May 15, with the assistance of an unnamed confidential informant, Happ bought 2.3 grams of crack cocaine from suspected Colorado Springs drug dealer, Dexter Glover. A month later, Happ initiated another buy from Glover, and the confidential informant indicated that Sackey, who he claimed lived at 22 N. Claremont, was involved.

During a deal where police did not personally witness an exchange of drugs, Happ reported his confidential informant provided him with another 2.3 grams of crack cocaine on June 12. (It is unclear why the two purchases, a month apart, were of exactly the same measurement.) Based on the latter exchange, Happ indicated he believed Sackey was the source of the crack cocaine.

In his affidavit, Happ twice made reference to a red Subaru that Sackey drove that belonged to Juanita McClinton, who is responsible for the Colorado Springs Utilities account at 22 N. Claremont. McClinton's Subaru is blue.

Happ's investigation determined that Sackey, who has a local police record dating back to 1993, was associated with Juanita McClinton's daughter, Kaprisha Jones, who, nearly two years ago was busted at the house with a quarter pound of cocaine, which had been found under McClinton's bed.

The October 1998 bust was her first offense, Kaprisha Jones said. "I made a big mistake. My dad had just walked out on my mom, leaving us high and dry. Someone offered me money to hold the coke and for the first time in my 25 years, I said yes."

Tipped off, police raided the house and seized the coke. Jones got probation and a fine of more than $3,000, which she is still paying off.

Before their June raid this year, if the police had investigated further, they would have learned that the 2- and 4-year-old girls who are often at the house are Sackey and Jones' daughters. The couple, however, have their own apartment. The only mail that Jones still receives at her mom's house is her monthly bank statement, she said.

"I feel really bad because my mom is going through so much," Jones said. "I'm sorry I made a mistake, but is she going to constantly have to go through this; is she? Will my kids continue to be tormented because of something I did two years ago?"

Juanita McClinton said that, since the raid, some neighbors who once greeted her don't lately, and casual playmates of her granddaughters who live down the street don't come by to play anymore.


Good cops, and better cops

Police did not obtain an arrest warrant for Dexter Glover -- from whom the original crack cocaine buy was made -- until June 29, nearly a month and a half after their initial buy and almost two weeks after they executed the raid at McClinton's house.

After the raid, an outraged McClinton called Police Chief Lorne Kramer, but he didn't return her calls.

She was eventually directed to the office of Internal Affairs and set up a meeting with Lt. Peter Carey. The officer gave her a copy of the affidavit, upon which the no-knock raid was based. It was full of errors and sloppy police documentation, she said. Despite her discomfort over having the same officers scrutinize a matter in which their fellow colleagues stood accused, McClinton asked for an internal investigation.

Her biggest complaint was that her children and grandchildren had been abusively treated and, during the cops zealous and unsuccessful efforts to find proof that drugs were being sold from her home, her property was unreasonably damaged.

Her two grandbabies, she pointed out, could have been seriously injured by the screen door shrapnel. Also, she was critical because cops initially refused to tell her why they were raiding her home.

"Lt. Carey said there are good cops and there are better cops, and I wanted to ask him, Are you a good cop or a better cop?, because that's what I need," McClinton said.

McClinton said the officer also indicated the police officers had concluded that drugs were being sold out of her house, noting the connections -- as detailed in the affidavit -- between Camille Sackey and his tenuous ties to Glover, and her home.

"They assumed?" McClinton responded. "I said, 'Wrong answer.' "

"Before you came into my home and trampled on my family and tore up my house and endangered my grandbabies, you should have been 100 percent proof positive," she said she told Carey.

McClinton subsequently provided a 40-minute taped statement detailing her grievances. Based on the long interview, Carey wrote up a short one-paragraph summary detailing McClinton's complaints about the raid. It read:

"On June 16, 2000 TEU (Tactical Enforcement Unit) executed a search warrant at Mrs. Mclinton's residence at 22 Claremont Street. Mrs. McClinton was not home at that time, but was later told by her 16-year-old son Morgan that during the search warrant he was kicked in the head by a police officer. Mrs. McClinton also said that Morgan told her that the police stood on his hands while he was laying on the floor. Mrs. McClinton also said that numerous items inside the residence were unnecessarily damaged during the search."

A week after her interview with Lt. Carey, his boss, CSPD Cmdr. Kurtis Pillard, called her and asked her to come down to the station.

There, he told her that he was now in charge of the internal affairs investigation and said he would interview everyone else who was inside the home at the time.

Despite Carey's earlier promise to provide a copy of her taped testimony and police reports related to the raid, McClinton said Pillard refused her request for the information.

"He said I couldn't have copies of anything until his investigation was complete, that none of the paperwork is public information," she said.

Pillard has interviewed Morgan McClinton, whose mother insisted on staying present during the interview with the minor.

But, more than two months after the raid, Pillard has not interviewed Singleton, Gooden, Sackey or Adrian McClinton. Juanita McClinton said she was initially told the investigation would be wrapped up within a few weeks.

Pillard has been out of town on vacation and at a conference for the past two weeks. On Monday, Aug. 28 he denied telling McClinton that the investigation could be completed in such a short time, noting the volume of paperwork he has to process. He has interviewed 13 people, and must talk to 14 more, mostly CSPD employees, he said. Two people have failed to show up for their appointments, he said.

"As with any complaint, we're anxious to get to the bottom of it and conduct an objective investigation," he said. "If something inappropriate did occur, we'll take appropriate action to correct it."

Disciplinary actions for cops who are determined to have abused their position vary from verbal counseling to termination to anything in between, Pillard said.


The public nuisance tactic

McClinton believes she has now been targeted by the police because of her complaints. Two months after police raided her home and found no proof of drug dealing, the Colorado Springs police are threatening to seize the property under the city's new public nuisance ordinance.

On Aug. 14, CSPD Det. Rita Gysin contacted McClinton's landlord, James Gast. During their meeting, Gysin gave Gast information documenting the number of times the police had gone to the house in the 10 years that McClinton and her family have lived there. Four of the six calls were times when family members called the cops to report they were victims of a crime.

The other two calls included the 1998 drug bust at the house and the June raid where police did not find the drugs they were seeking.

"I thought they were supposed to protect my rights, and now they're using it against me and acting like the police are here all the time, and it's not that way," McClinton said.

Gysin also gave Gast a copy of a photograph of a black man named Adrian Durham and claimed he was a robbery suspect who lived at his rental property.

Gysin declined to comment on the case, citing the open internal affairs investigation. However, according to police reports, Gysin reported she told Gast that his tenants "were famous for not opening the door to police." She did not qualify that statement. During a later conversation with Gast, Aug. 22, Gysin implied that the residents of his house were drug dealers, an unproven allegation that McClinton insists is untrue.

"I ... told him that it is my experience that persons involved in illegal drugs do not take care of the properties they live in," Gysin wrote in her police report documenting the conversation with Gast.

McClinton was devastated when she got a call from her landlord and was told of the threat to seize the property. Though she had lived in his home for nearly 10 years, she said he pointed out that the property would see him safely into retirement and he could not afford to have it seized by the police. He asked her to move or to find a lawyer who could assure him his property would not be seized.

And when Gast gave McClinton copies of the police reports on which the detective based her claims that the house is a public nuisance, including the photograph of Adrian Durham, their suspected robber, McClinton was floored.

She did not recognize the man in the photograph, and he certainly did not live in her home, she told her landlord.


Always a good tenant

Gast declined to comment, calling the situation a private matter between himself and McClinton and he was "not inclined to [discuss the matter] in public press."

However, in her Aug. 22 police report, Gysin noted that Gast characterized McClinton as having "always been a good tenant" and did not think evicting her would be fair.

"He said that he did not think that the premise histories I had provided him proved that 22 N. Claremont was a drug house," Gysin noted.

Police subsequently determined that they had identified the wrong Adrian -- and that the Adrian they really wanted was Juanita's son, Adrian McClinton, who police believe goes by the nickname "Karate Yati."

On Aug. 23, police surrounded McClinton's home and arrested Adrian McClinton on suspicion of a Jan. 11 armed robbery at the Loaf 'N Jug on East Platte Avenue. Their evidence was based on the contents of an unsigned letter that an inmate at the El Paso County Jail had mailed to McClinton, which police had seized during their unsuccessful June drug raid.

At the same time, Det. Gysin also prepared another warrant to search McClinton's home, but in police reports did not specify the purpose of the search, or what she expected to seize inside McClinton's house this time. Gysin was advised to postpone the latest search of the home because of McClinton's pending internal investigation complaint from the June 16 raid.

McClinton pawned her jewelry to pay her son's $10,000 bail.

"It's hard when your financial status is bad," she said. "If I had money, if I had a ton of money, this never would have happened."

For the time being, McClinton said, her landlord has given her a reprieve from having to move. She has contacted numerous lawyers seeking help, and all of them have told her they could not take her case pro bono, and she would have to pay high fees to retain their services. She has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and so far, has not gotten a firm answer of whether she'll get any help from either of those organizations.

McClinton earns about $1,200 a month from her job, and the single mother and grandmother cannot afford to pay lawyers' high fees. Nor can she afford to move to another house in a tight market, where the requirement of first and last month's rent, plus deposit would be untenable.

"They are coming after me, when all I said was, 'Why are you coming into my house?' " McClinton said. "It's like I don't have any rights. They can do whatever they want, when they want, and no one can stop them.

"This is supposed to be America and we're supposed to have constitutional rights."

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