Just before 9 a.m. on February 19, 2015, police executed a SWAT no-knock raid on Ray Rosas’ home in Corpus Christi, Texas. They had a warrant to arrest his nephew, and to search for drugs. Rosas had been threatened by gang members for testimony he had given. His house had been subjected to drive by shootings. At the trial, it was disputed if the police shouted “Police!” or if they did so before or after throwing a flash bang grenade through a window into Rosas’ bedroom.
Rosas responded to the grenade and the breaking down of his door with gunfire from a Glock .357 Sig with a .40 cal barrel installed. He fired 15 times and made five hits on three officers, all of whom survived. The hits were to extremities. The most damaging was one shot to the upper leg near the groin. From kristv.com:
Three Corpus Christi Police Department SWAT officers were shot Thursday morning while they attempted to serve a search warrant at a suspected drug house on the 3000 block of Churchill Street.
Police said the officers were trying to make entry to the home when someone started firing a gun at them.
Three officers were hit.
Senior Officer Steven Reubelmann, who has been with the department for six years, was shot twice in the wrist and hand.
Officer Andrew Jordan, a four-year veteran, was shot in the upper leg and forearm.
A bullet also grazed Officer Steven Brown’s leg.
Rosas spent nearly two years in jail. Bond was set at $750,000. The nephew was not present during the raid. Police found only small amounts of drugs. In what seems to be a use of targeted administrative vengeance, Code Enforcement was sent to the house. From kristv.com:
Small amounts of cocaine, crack cocaine, prescription medications used for anxiety and pain, and some marijuana were found inside. Officers also seized $600 in cash.
Code Enforcement also had to arrange for the water and gas connections to be terminated. According to police the residents were stealing utilities. AEP disconnected the electrical service as the connection was deemed to be unsafe.
The original subject of the warrant, 30-year-old Santiago Garcia, is facing drug possession charges.
After 22 months in jail, on 13 December, 2016, Rosas was acquitted of all charges by a jury of his peers. An unusual instruction by the Judge about prosecutorial misconduct may have had an effect. From kristv.com:
He told the jury that the prosecution had mishandled 22 items of evidence crucial to the case.
“The state had constantly refused to hand over evidence material to the defense,” Judge Williams said.
That is called spoliation of evidence. Under the Michael Morton Act, prosecutors in Texas are required to share all evidence with the defense before a criminal trial starts.
However in Rosas’ case, some evidence was not preserved, and other evidence was not handed over in time for trial.
The defense attorneys say this is not the first time this has been a problem with district attorney Mark Skurka. They said the withholding of evidence had occurred in several other cases. The voters fired Skura and voted in a new district attorney, Mark Gonzalez, who will take office 1 January, 2017.
After the trial, the jurors spoke with the defense attorneys. Here are some of the reasons given for the acquittal.
Afterward, the jury talked to the attorneys and the following issues came out:
- The officers were not credible, their stories didn’t match
- The fact that the flash-bang is designed to disorient and distract, which it did
- That there was no video from body cams or vehicles
- That the police did not conduct pre-raid surveillance
- That Rosas was indicted for an assault committed by an officer
- That the officer wasn’t also indicted
- That the prosecutor dismissed half of the charges in the middle of the trial
These sort of cases are happening with greater frequency. The number of “no knock” raids has shot up dramatically. Cases like this fuel the call for reform. No knock raids should have a very limited role in law enforcement.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch