Police raided home, pointed guns at kids but should have known their target was in prison: lawsuit
Nov. 05, 2019
When police smashed through Jolanda Blassingame’s door, threw stun grenades in her apartment and pointed assault rifles at her kids, they should’ve known the guy they were looking for was in prison for murder — and hadn’t lived there for nine years.
Her complaint was spelled out in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Chicago Police Department and the SWAT and plainclothed officers who entered her South Side apartment in January 2015.
Blassingame has never met or even heard of a man named Derec Bell, the target of the warrant.
Police “did not bother to perform the simplest, most routine verification” of information provided to them by a confidential informant with a long criminal record, according to attorney Al Hofeld, who held a news conference in his downtown office Tuesday.
Blassingame was making fried chicken and her three sons— ages 11, 6 and 4, along with an 11-year-old cousin, were playing video games or watching television when police began to bang open the front and rear doors of her second-floor apartment in the 1800 block of South Lawndale, Hofeld said.
”I thought someone was trying to break in,” Blassingame said, adding she reacted by hiding in a bedroom with three of the children while a fourth sought refuge in a closet.
Officers swore at Blassingame and pointed assault rifles at her and the children, she said.
”I really thought they was going to shoot one of the kids by mistake,” she said Tuesday.
The officers refused to say what they were doing as Blassingame and the children were forced to remain in the kitchen for three hours. During that time, they trashed her apartment, breaking furniture and televisions while looking for heroin and other drug paraphernalia, according to the suit.
A police supervisor finally handed her a copy of the search warrant as officers exited, Hofeld said.
The raids traumatized all of the children in the apartment to varying degrees, she said. Lingering effects range from a stuttering problem to eating issues and problems trusting police.
No apology was ever offered. And expensive items, such as jewelry, were taken during the raid and never returned, she said.
Blassingame said she decided to file a lawsuit nearly four years after the raid because she saw a similar story on the news.
Hofeld said mistaken raids, as well as raids where children have guns pointed on them, are a growing issue that needs to be addressed.
Hofeld didn’t specify a dollar amount the family was seeking in damages. A similar lawsuit he filed on behalf of a separate family was settled for $2.5 million in 2018.