By Jack Minor
GREELEY, Colo. – A Colorado woman has filed a lawsuit after agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the ATF, entered her home without a warrant and threatened her and her 8-year old-son while looking for a previous tenant who had left the address more than a year earlier.
According to the filing from Linda Griego, it was on June 15, 2010, when officers with the ATF – as part of the Regional Anti-Gang Enforcement Task Force – violently entered her home without a warrant, handcuffed and pointed guns at her and her son, Colby Frias.
“They had multiple machine pistols pointed at my son. I could see the laser sights on his body and he began to freak out. While I was cuffed I had to calm him down while the officers broke down his bedroom door,” she said.
Her legal action is against the Greeley Police Department and the ATF for illegally entering the home without a warrant.
David Lane, Griego’s attorney, told WND that to this day the agency still has not produced a warrant authorizing it to enter her home. He said Frias continues to suffer nightmares about the events of that day.
A couple of months ago, Frias had a friend over to the house, and the family had ordered pizza. When it arrived, the delivery driver gave a loud knock on the door.
“It scared my son so bad he jumped over the couch to hide. This was two years later, and it still bothered him,” Griego said.
In the months following the incident, Frias was so scared he had to sleep with his mother.
“Here he is an 8-year-old boy, and he is sleeping with mom again,” she said.
In the months prior to the incident, local authorities had been to Griego’s house several times looking for Angela Hernandez-Nicholson, a former resident.
Each time, Griego told authorities she was no longer living at the address and even provided them with information on how to locate Nicholson.
“I tell them to contact social services because she is getting government benefits. She is on Section 8 housing, if the state is paying her rent, they should be able to find her,” Griego said. “I have even seen her at Wal-Mart all the time. How hard can it be for authorities to track this woman down?”
Griego said when the officers arrived on the day of the incident around 6:30 a.m. she was in the shower getting ready for work with the radio on while her son was sleeping in his bedroom. She had just come out of a nasty divorce, and a restraining order was placed on her ex-husband.
“I heard the knocking and rushed out of the shower dressed only in a towel. I went to the window at the front and saw a man knocking on the door, but I could not make out who he was,” Griego said. “I then went around to the back where they were also knocking. My first concern was for the safety of my son, and what if my ex-husband and friends had come by.”
She then saw one of the officers turn, and she made out part of the word SWAT on the back of his uniform.
“At that point I realized everything would be OK, since we had done nothing wrong. I told the officers I had just come out of the shower and to give me a minute to get dressed.”
After getting dressed, Griego told them she was coming. Once she unlocked the door, the officer forced the door open, causing it to strike her.
According to Griego, she was then violently grabbed and yanked outside where she was pushed up against the house and handcuffed by authorities.
“They had weapons drawn and were pointing them at me. I begged them not to go in because my son was in there.”
When they dragged her back into the house, she saw the officers surrounding Frias with their laser sights pointed at him.
“I will never forget the fear I saw in my young son’s eyes that day. Having guns pointed at you would be terrifying enough for an adult, let alone an 8-year-old boy,” she said. “As a mother, I felt so helpless, since I was handcuffed and had guns on me as well.”
The officers kept calling her Angela, and she kept telling them she was Amanda. It was only after emptying her purse and seeing her ID they realized she was not the person they were after.
Authorities then told Griego she did not match Angela’s description anyway, noting that the woman they were after was in her 50s.
She said another concern is that because of the incident, Frias is now afraid of police officers.
“If he ever has a time where he needs a police officer, I’m afraid he may not seek help, because he is still traumatized by what happened. He is afraid of police officers,” she said.
Sgt. Susan West with the Greeley police told WND they were not able to confirm if Griego had told officers Angela did not live at the address or not.
She said the department investigated the incident, and their involvement was “minimal.” She could not elaborate further, she said, due to the ongoing litigation.
Griego said after they released her, an officer even admitted that they knew that she was living at the residence and even had a restraining order against her ex-husband.
“He said, ‘You are Amanda, and you have a restraining order against your ex-husband.” If they knew all of that, then why did they break in and threaten us?”
“What is frustrating is that to this day no one from the police or the ATF has even bothered to contact her and apologize for their mistake,” Griego said.
“The last thing they told me was, ‘Well I hope you have a better day than you’ve had so far.’ And then they left,” he said.
In fact, the officer chastised Griego for not opening the door sooner.
“I waited just long enough to throw some clothes on and my hair was still wet, but the officer told me I should have opened the door immediately, regardless of whether I was dressed or not and said I could face consequences for making them wait.”
Last year, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that “there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.” In issuing its ruling the court said public policy disfavors such a right.
The court admitted it was overturning hundreds of years of law going back to the Magna Carta as well as U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The court dismissed the decisions, saying, “We believe however that a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.”