FBI Launches Review of Berwyn Heights Raid
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 7, 2008; 4:51 PM
The FBI has launched a review of the police raid of Mayor Cheye Calvo's home in Berwyn Heights last week, that resulted in the deaths of the family's two dogs.
Richard J. Wolf, spokesman for the FBI in Baltimore, which has jurisdiction over federal civil rights investigations in Maryland, said the agency has begun "reviewing the events that occurred at Mr. Calvo's residence."
The raid, conducted by the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office and county narcotics officers, was launched after police tracked a shipment of drugs addressed to the mayor's wife. During the raid, sheriff's deputies shot and killed the family's two black Labrador retrievers.
Such FBI reviews precede investigations and are used to determine if law enforcement agencies had proper procedures in place, and if they executed those plans properly.
In a news conference today Calvo and his wife, Trinity Tomsic, called for the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights investigation into the practices of Prince George's law enforcement, including the raid on their home. The couple also sent a letter today to the department.
Calvo suggested a systemic problem might exist in the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office and the county police force in executing search warrants, noting he has received other reports of misconduct since a Sheriff's Office SWAT team and county narcotics officers raided his home.
"This has happened before, and without oversight, it will happen again," Calvo said at an afternoon news conference, while standing on his front lawn next to his wife and surrounded by county elected leaders and friends.
County law enforcement burst into the home after Calvo brought a package filled with 32 pounds of marijuana and addressed to his wife into the house. Police had been tracking the package since a drug-sniffing dog in Arizona alerted authorities to the presence of drugs. It had been left on the porch by police posing as deliverymen and was later seized unopened inside the house.
On Wednesday, police announced they had arrested a package deliveryman and another man in connection with a scheme to smuggle marijuana by intercepting packages addressed to unsuspecting recipients. Prince George's Police Chief Melvin C. High said Calvo and his wife were likely innocent victims of the conspiracy, but that the case remained under investigation. He defended the actions of deputies and officers who carried out the raid.
"A shadow was cast over our good names," Calvo said today. "We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us."
Calvo also called on the sheriff's office to release graphic photos of the two black Labradors taken the night of the raid, which he said would prove the dogs did not engage deputies who entered the home, as the sheriff's department has asserted. He said those statements seemed to blame the dogs and asked for Sheriff Michael Jackson to retract them.
He also said the sheriff should take back his suggestion that the SWAT team was justified in raiding the home without announcing its presence because his 50-year old mother-in-law had screamed upon spotting officers through the window storming the home's front lawn.
The sheriff's office did not immediately return a call for comment.