Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Wake Up Call

My morning was a little odd. Just after 6 am I heard someone yelling "POLICE! OPEN THE DOOR!" over and over, and a loud pounding. As I woke up I groggily realized it couldn't be at my door, because it would be even louder (my bed is right over the front door). Jumping out of bed, now fully awake, I peeked out the front window and saw at least four cop cars, glancing to my right, I realized there were a number of officers with guns drawn posed on my neighbor's porch. I went to the side window and got a better look as they broke down the door and entered, still yelling. I went into a little bit of shock. I know at least two children live in the house, and I just saw at least five cops in full raid gear with weapons drawn break down the door and enter the house.

I heard no shots. I rushed in to the bathroom where poor Eric was showering and tried to tell him what happened. He couldn't hear me the first two times. I threw on regular clothes, just in case, and repeated myself until Eric understood. Then I watched. I counted the cop cars, four of them, and not all from Churchville. One car was from a larger town 30 miles away. As I watched, a plain dark minivan pulled up and a cop got out. He went to the rear of the van and pulled out a large case and walked up to the house. I stopped watching for a moment and went downstairs. By the time I opened the downstairs shades there were seven cop cars outside. Two were blocking the neighbor's driveway completely, and there was a police SUV blocking our driveway. A couple of cops were leaning against a K-9 unit car chatting. They looked relaxed.

As I continued to watch, mostly by glancing out the window while I did my morning internetting, I saw three children leave the house in the company of a familiar adult. I think he's the father of two of the kids, as I've seen him around. The police talked to him for a moment, then all four of them got into a car and drove away. More police arrived. The dog got out of the K-9 car and went inside the house. I finally got a look at the insignia on one of the guys who was driving an unmarked car, and it said DEA. Ah. A glimmer of understanding.

I watched for a bit while Eric continued to get ready for work, then when he was nearly ready to go I went outside and got the attention of the officers standing on the neighbor's porch at the moment. They immediately guessed that I needed the cop cars moved, and went to spread the word. I looked at our driveway. Three cop cars were blocking it completely now. Other neighbors were driving by, slowly, and looking as curious as I felt. The cops came out of the house one by one and moved the cars; the last one, the original SUV, just as Eric went out to open the garage. Off he went to work, and I continued to watch.

The neighbor brought the kids back, which surprised me. He parked in my driveway since there was no place nearer, and the cop said something to him. I came out of the house to let him know it was ok to stay in my driveway. He thanked me, looking a little frazzled and puzzled. The kids were led back into the house by the cops, and came out a few minutes later with backpacks. One of the boys was sobbing silently, tears streaming down his face. The girl was crying openly. She looked broken and terrified. The other boy, the one I didn't recognize, was grim and silent. They went back to the car parked in my driveway and sat. It was around 7:30 am, and the sun was shining.

After about fifteen minutes I went out to check on the kids and see if they needed any water, or maybe cookies. The father thanked me but declined, and so did the kids. That's when I saw that the mother was outside, and her car was now parked behind the car the kids were in. My immediate reaction was that she had done some kind of Houdini trick, since there was no way she could have gotten out of their driveway. In retrospect, I wonder if she was even home during the raid. I nodded to her and the kids and went back inside. I wanted desperately to ask what was happening, but I felt like they were already going through too much for me to pile on.

The morning wore on, and the cops started to leave, one at a time. I stayed by the window, half-reading a Popeye collection while I kept tabs on the events in front of my house. The family sat in the car in my driveway. More cops left until there were only DEA agents. One of them talked to the father, and then they got in their cars and left. During the time I was watching I saw no one arrested and no violence other than the breaking down of the door. I did not watch continuously, so it is possible that evidence or another person was taken from the house and I didn't see it. But the family I know lives there was in my driveway for over half the raid, being mostly ignored by the police.

After the last of the officers/agents had left, the father got in the car and pulled it around into their own driveway. All of them got out and went into the house. The mother pulled her car into the garage. They couldn't close their front door. When I glanced out later, they had pulled the frame off and set it on the porch. Other people arrived, including a handyman who opened the big ol' toolbox on his truck and went to measure the door. Others who may be part of the extended family arrived, making my cunning plan to bring cookies over and offer assistance in the hopes of gathering more information moot. Not that I think I could've mustered the nerve to do it anyway. At some point, the boys came out and played a lackluster round of basketball on the streetside hoop. School let out yesterday, so all the kids in the neighborhood are home. Things seem to be settling back into "normal". But I'm still desperately curious.

I'll update if I learn anything new, but I suspect this is all I'll ever know about this event.

Other thoughts...

  • I know that there was no way I could've gotten from my bed fast asleep down to open the door in the time from when I first heard the cops yelling and pounding until they started to break the door. In short, unless I'd been awake in the living room at six am, the "open the door!" command could not be met.
  • The sobbing of the kids scared me and makes me wonder if they were simply stressed or something worse happened. I haven't heard their dog barking since the raid.
  • I don't know if the raid was "justified" or a mistake. I may never know. But I've been opposed to the way the Drug War is being carried out in the past. This event has only firmed up my opposition. There were children in that house, and the police entered with guns drawn. There has to be a better way.
  • I like my neighbors and don't suspect them of anything. I know they have extended family in the Valley, and could be convinced that the cops were looking for one of them. Every family has a black sheep.
  • If this had gone much worse, I would be one of those neighbors saying "I never suspected there was a problem, they were so quiet!" Except they aren't. At least the kids aren't. They are normal kids.
  • I'm dying of curiosity, but any method I could use to get to the heart of the matter would be rude. And so I sit in ignorance, utterly unblissful.
Update: As noted in the comments, I did a little sleuthing and was unable to find out what had happened, although I was told that there was a lockdown at the local schools. When I went out to get the mail at 2:30 I chatted a bit with my neighbor on the other side, who thinks there may be shenanigans involving the abandoned house across the street. As I walked up my driveway, one of the boys in front of the raided house asked if my offer of cookies was still good. I said yeah, as long as they didn't have allergies, and went in to grab the batch of banana oatmeal cookies. I asked one of them about this morning, if the raid was a mistake. He said, very quietly, that it wasn't a mistake. I didn't ask anything else. I had to repair my plum tree that had been knocked over by the windstorm, so I decided to, again, leave well enough alone. The good news is that they apparently liked the cookies, so I think that recipe goes on my "keep" pile.


Wings said...

Wow. That IS one hell of a wake up call. I would have been by my window all day. Would have had to try something to find out what was going on, offer of coffee maybe. Interesting.

Tegan said...

My offer of water to the kids was kind of in that vein. I figured they would tell me if they felt I needed to know. As it was, I didn't want them to feel pressured any more than they already were. Getting woken up by the police breaking into your home at 6am has to be stressful, right? It was bad enough for me seeing it happen next door.

Wings said...

Yeah, you are right. I guess I would have just been too nosy! :)

Tegan said...

Well... I just called the local paper. They told me all the schools were in lockdown this morning, which is strange because I *swear* someone told me that school let out yesterday. They then said I'd have to call the police for details on what happened here.

So I called the non-emergency number of the local police. They confirmed the lockdown information, but all she could say about the raid at our place was that it was "assisting outside agency". She didn't even have the name of the agency they were assisting, and my statement that I saw "DEA" patches was news to her.

So I (perhaps stupidly) checked out the DEA website and called the nearest agency in Seattle. While she was willing to help, the woman who answered took a bit of an adversarial stance that made me very uncomfortable. I decided to leave well enough alone. She also wanted to know how I knew the DEA was involved, so I told her I saw DEA insignia on the uniforms of some of the officers. But she made it sound like I had been snooping when she asked, unlike the local police, who just sounded curious.

I think that's as far as I'm getting with this one.

Roger Owen Green said...

Your treatment by the DEA rep was REALLY annoying; "snooping", indeed.

Tegan said...

Roger, understand that this was my impression, not necessarily her actual attitude. I'm not a big fan of the DEA as it is, so you must accept that I may have taken some emotional baggage into the call and misinterpreted her.

Bytowner said...

Living next door to the raided house = An interesting redefinition of snooping.