For most people, their knowledge of what a police raid looks like comes from TV shows like “Cops” — loud rapping on the door, usually with a big flashlight, followed by frenetic shouting and eventually the door-busting thud of boots or a battering ram.
On television, it’s exciting.
But Albuquerque residents Bertha and Carlos Gamboa can now tell you that in real life, being on the receiving end of a police raid is frightening and nerve-racking.
The Gamboas were at home watching television last week when shouting SWAT officers from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department burst through the door of their Southeast Heights apartment and ordered them to the floor at gunpoint.
Deputies were executing a search warrant two doors away in a very serious and grisly case involving the discovery of a burned-out SUV on the Southwest Mesa that contained the charred remains of two people. One of the SUV’s owners lived in the apartment two doors down from the Gamboas.
Somehow, the Gamboas’ address became wrongly implicated in the case, and deputies were attempting to get a search warrant for their home, too. But before that could happen, deputies on the scene decided to break in. They soon realized the Gamboas had nothing to do with the SUV case, dropped the effort to get a search warrant and apologized to the couple.
But the damage had been done.
“I’m not the same person like I was,” Bertha Gamboa said. She said the trauma caused her to vomit and sent her to the hospital overnight. Their lawyer has already signaled their intention to sue.
This case demonstrates why it’s so important for law enforcement to do the prep work and take the step of getting a judge to agree with it and issue a search warrant before initiating such an invasive action. Events at a scene, such as gunfire or loud screaming for help, may well require immediate action. But absent extreme circumstances, people should be able to feel secure in the privacy of their own home without fearing the equivalent of a home invasion by police.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.