Police Send SWAT Team, Break Into Wrong House (With TV Film Crew) In Response To Internet Troll

from the wow dept

We’ve heard of police very frequently overreacting to things and sending in SWAT teams when they aren’t necessary. We’ve also heard of them sending SWAT teams to the wrong place. But this latest story, found via Radley Balko (who tracks these things like no other) may be the most insane yet. It involves police sending a SWAT team and breaking into the wrong house (whose front door was open) in response to some internet trolls. I’m not kidding.

The issue was that on a Topix community forum for Evansville, Indiana, someone claimed that a list of police staff had been “leaked.” Some trolls in the comments spoke out against the police — and one certainly went too far, suggesting that a certain officer’s house was going to be shot up. Rather than investigating the issue, the police got some info on where the comment came from (or, rather, where they thought the comment came from) and sent the SWAT team and a TV news crew to the home of Ira and Louise Milan — whose front door was open. Now, they could have rang the doorbell and spoken to them. But, instead, they broke down the screen door, broke the front window, and tossed a flashbang into the living room.

And… all for naught. While they seized a bunch of computer equipment, it turns out that no one in the house had anything to do with anything. Something they could have ascertained by, you know, talking to people in the house. The police are defending their massive overreaction because…. the internet!!!!

“This is a little more difficult that a traditional crime scene, because we’re dealing with the Internet. They definitely weren’t expecting (a SWAT team at the door). The reason we did that is the threats were specific enough, and the potential for danger was there.

“This is a big deal to us,” Cullum said. “This may be just somebody who was online just talking stupid. What I would suggest to anybody who visits websites like that is that their comments can be taken literally.”

Yes, so because the police might overreact, you should watch what you say online. And also always be ready for a SWAT team to show up, in case a stranger you know nothing about says something bad online. After all, it’s “the internet.”

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Comments on “Police Send SWAT Team, Break Into Wrong House (With TV Film Crew) In Response To Internet Troll”

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RadialSkid (profile) says:

They overstepped their boundaries when they sought to “punish” this person, for any reason. That’s not the job of the police. The police were arrogant in their actions, and deserve to pay accordingly…in a way that will hopefully make them think twice before pulling a stunt like this again. I’m talking firings and possible prosecution of the officers involved.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The most egregious part of this, imho, is that if anyone other than a police officer or someone with some local political influence, reported the same “threat” to that department, they’d have been informed that unless some action had been taken, there’s nothing they could do about a non-physical threat.

Anonymous Howard, Cowering says:

Aw c'mon #3

Have you SEEN Google Maps??? Look at all those streets and stuff!!!!1!1 They all look the same with the yellow and the white… and then when you go to Google Earth it’s different!!!!1!!!1! The colors are gone and it looks like, um, real life, except it’s always in the daytime. How can we be expected to find the right house when, and PIRACY!!!!! And PEDOPHILES!!!!!!! And FILESHARING!!!!!!!11!!111! TERRORISTS!!!!! CYBERCRIME!!1!!!!111!

Khaim (profile) says:


While I agree that the police should never be “punishing” people, I’m not sure where you got that from. The police didn’t say they were sending in SWAT to rough a guy up – they did it to prevent a supposed threat.

Now granted this was a massive, massive overreaction to a random internet comment, and any ten-year-old could have told them that there was no actual threat. That still doesn’t make the police here into bullies or thugs. It just means they are very very stupid.

Khaim (profile) says:


Yeah, that’s not what I said. Of course it’s threatening! But the OP implied that the police used these tactics as a “let’s teach these internet punks a lesson!” type of thing. From what I can tell, the police actually thought that someone was going to make a bomb and blow up a police officer’s house. Then the grabbed the first IP address they could find and called in SWAT.

The problem is, the police are allowed to do stuff like this because when there are rogue bombmakers, I would really like a SWAT team to toss flashbangs through the windows and bust down the doors. The failure here isn’t that the police decided to mess with some innocent people for kicks, the problem is that they didn’t bother to do the most basic investigation before assuming that the owner of an IP address must be a criminal explosives nut.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Huh?

If they thought someone was making a bomb they wouldn’t have thrown in a flashbang. Unless they were trying to blow up the house.

Also, I understand that you think the police being “very, very stupid” is a sort-of, kind-of, partial excuse for this behavior; it isn’t. They sent in SWAT primarily as a scare tactic. They knew this wasn’t a real threat; they also knew this person wouldn’t receive any punishment if they investigated this properly. So instead of doing their jobs they decided on a little street justice.

Torg (profile) says:

“What I would suggest to anybody who visits websites like that is that their comments can be taken literally.”

Wow, that’s exactly the opposite of what I would suggest. I’ve never taken any Internet-based threats literally, and they’ve never turned out to be serious. That’s a pretty good track record. How’s your policy working out for you, Cullum?

Anonymous Coward says:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy the 35th President of the United States, was shot dead in broad daylight in the company of his beautiful wife, 22 November 1963, in Dallas Texas .. Jim Braden is thought to have fired the first shot, from the roof of the Dal Tex Building across Houston Street from the TSBD, he was taken in by a Sheriffs Deputy before being released.

Lee Harvey Oswald was blamed for killing the President and Dallas Police Officer JD Tippit, a couple miles away around forty minutes later, despite photos show him at the doorway of the Texas School Book Depository, when the shots were fired in the first instance, and when the three tramps were marched by hours later!

The Moorman shot has snipers nests on the Grassy Knoll, with muzzle flashes behind the picket fence left screen, E Howard Hunt firing with Martin Luther & Coretta King to his right .. Afro Secret Serviceman Abraham Bolden is behind and to Coretta?s left, the ?Badgeman? enhancement, has Dallas Policeman Joe Smith firing from behind the rotunda wall, with Gordon H Arnold, an unidentified bald guy, and deaf mute Ed Hoffman & wife.

William F Buckley was “Umbrella Man,” who signaled the shooters all systems were go, his accomplice is believed to be Corsican adventurer Lucien Sarti .. As the limousine emerged from behind the freeway sign, the driver William Greer, turned and looked over his right shoulder, he turned back, and while holding the steering wheel with his left hand, retrieved something from under the dash with his right hand,

He transferred the object to his left hand, and turning back around to look at the President, brought his left hand around his body, and aimed and fired at John Kennedy?s head .. The Three Tramps were E Howard Hunt of Watergate fame, Charles Harrelson father of television actor Woody Harrelson, and Charles Frederick Rogers, wanted in Houston TX, for killing and dismembering both his parents in 1965!

Ted Gunderson was FBI Bureau Chief in Dallas when President K was murdered, after the shooting he was filmed in possession of one of two rifles, on the sixth floor of the TSBD, he was in Memphis when Martin Luther King was shot, and in Los Angeles when Senator Robert Kennedy was slain,

He was part of the Franklin Case cover up, that goes back nearly thirty years, whence Rusty Nelson testified Hunter S Thompson paid him $100,000 a time, to film snuff killings to the tune of around fifty dead

Anonymous Coward says:

Completely Unprofessional

The house can be fixed but throwing a flashbang in the house could cause permanent hearing damage. I find that ridiculous and compensation is due these people.

I also find it hard to believe the response would be the same if the aleged “troll” had targeted a civilian house.

Finally, if this article quotes the police accurately, their response is ridiculous. They should apologize profusely and an internal investigation should result in policy changes that puts a safety mechanism on the SWAT team. Their actions were VERY unprofessional and it will take years to restore the damage they’ve done.

Anonymous Coward says:

Completely Unprofessional

…throwing a flashbang in the house could cause permanent hearing damage.

?Disquiet builds nationwide over police flash-bang use? by Corey Mitchell, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dec 13, 2011:

Injury of Minneapolis woman during raid is one in string of mishaps with controversial grenades.

Long before a Minneapolis police “flash-bang” grenade burned Rickia Russell during a botched drug raid last year, the devices had sparked unintentional fires and caused injuries and deaths, even among officers trained to use them.

The $1 million settlement awarded last week to Russell by the Minneapolis City Council follows lawsuits and payouts for people injured or killed by the devices in California, Michigan, New York and other states.


abc gum says:

I must say – I’m very disappointed in the Evansville, Indiana police department. WTH – there was no family pet to shoot? No wheelchair bound granny to taze? WTF are these guys thinking? One must do their homework prior to busting in the wrong address – said target must have multiple things to shoot, taze and bomb, otherwise it is a big waste of time and donuts. What has happened to our police force training that such basic procedural points are missed prior to harassing the innocent nobodies? Sheeesh !!!!111111

Anonymous Coward says:


I’m very disappointed in the Evansville, Indiana police department. WTH …? No wheelchair bound granny to taze?

No, that was Peru, Indiana.

?Peru police Tase Alzheimer patient? by Carson Gerber, Kokomo Tribune, June 20, 2012:

PERU ? At least one Peru police officer is on administrative leave after a 64-year-old nursing home resident with advanced-stage Alzheimer?s was Tased three times. Police said he wouldn?t obey their commands.


Howard?s wife, Virginia, called the incident ?sadistic? and said she plans to press charges against the officers.

She said her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer?s 13 years ago and doesn?t understand the simplest directions or commands like ?sit down or pick up a book.?

?He?s a child trapped in an adult?s body,? she said. ?He?s not even at a 2-year-old?s level.?


According to Google Maps, Peru is about a five-hour drive from Evansville. Looks like Peru is up north of Indianapolis, sort of towards Ft. Wayne.

Thomas (profile) says:

And what about..

the poor people whose house was broken into? can they sue the police for damages? emotional distress? Most likely the most they will get is an apology, and then their insurance company will refuse to pay pointing fingers at the cops and the cops/city will say it’s up to your insurance company. The cops care very little about the civil rights when they think there is a criminal there. bah.

Rapnel (profile) says:


Who the fuck is driving? And why would they give a license to hurt people with sticks and guns to stupid ass brain washed cunts that can’t fucking to the absolute minimum amount of investigation that should be required – demanded before any mother fucking risks bodily injury? MINIMUM – ask a fucking question!

Internet. That shit strikes back in mysterious ways fuckos. Get a grip.

Anonymous Coward says:

4th amendment violation, sounds like:

From the source


“Police were executing a search warrant approved by a judge. Such warrants are routinely filed in the Vanderburgh County Clerks Office, but officials in the clerks office said Friday afternoon they had no record of a warrant served on that address.

When asked by the Courier & Press for access to the document that allowed them to force entry to the home, Bolin refused. He said it might contain information that would compromise their investigation. However, he said the document didn?t contain names of any suspects.”

“Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann also refused to release the warrant.

The Courier & Press filed Freedom of Information requests Friday afternoon seeking the document from the police department, clerk?s office and prosecutor?s office.”


Kinda makes me want to go all “If you’ve done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide” on the cops.

Anonymous Coward says:

when are you people going to realise that if it weren’t for the internet, we wouldn’t have any crime, any famine, any child abuse, any drug problems, any wars, any human rights issues, absolutely nothing wrong with anyone, anything, anywhere, ever. we wouldn’t be able to order things without going to the shop, or see anything/anyone across the world, talk to anyone 1,000’s miles away, send letters/pictures instantly or hundreds of other things. my god. the internet has a lot to answer for!

Anonymous Coward says:

4th amendment violation, sounds like:

Also from the article:

Bolin said the SWAT team used its standard ?knock and announce? procedure of knocking on the wall and repeating the words ?police search warrant? three times before entering.

The police chief said the procedure doesn?t require officers to wait for a response.

?It?s designed to distract,? he said.

Compare with the Supreme Court’s holding in Wilson v Arkansas (1995):

We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict among the lower courts as to whether the common-law knock and announce principle forms a part of the Fourth Amendment reasonableness inquiry. We hold that it does, and accordingly reverse and remand.

It is not reasonable to break windows and throw a flashbang at innocent people without warning in order to create a TV spectacle. You don’t just throw flashbangs at people?unless you’re trying to cause collateral damage.

They wouldn’t have hauled the TV news crew along if they were expecting a real firefight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 4th amendment violation, sounds like:

If the screen door was open, then those cops didn’t “knock” or speak loudly when announcing. Probably tapped and whispered loud enough for their buddy to hear and state on record they knocked and spoke loudly and clearly.

It’s weird that the people inside the house didn’t simply see the cops and TV crew preparing outside their living room window. Guess they were too innocent to be constantly looking out their large window. Cops could have waited until after dark, but the sunset being so late as it is this time of year, I doubt it.

This reeks of the police overreacting to a threat that was made only against the police chief, who unfortunately had the power to raise a lot of alarms and call in his SWAT team, because again, unfortunately he has that authority, and did all of this under the doubtless assumption that regardless of his complete lack of investigation, because its “THE INTERNET” (cue the scary music), that means they would 100% Definitely find a threat there and could work with the DA and judge to come up with a post-dated warrant later, to make it all legal in the end. Good thing that asshat cop instead made a major fool of himself and his people, with video evidence!

Now, hopefully the family will sue, or the ACLU will get involved and sue. People like that are clearly unfit for law enforcement since “due process of law” is thrown out the window the moment an anonymous threat gets made on a random internet site that doesn’t actually even list anything besides an officers name and general area of town they live in. Speaking of which, if cops were really afraid of people knowing where they live, then maybe, just maybe, those idiots shouldn’t park their cop cars in the drive way every day and instead drive normal civilian vehicles like the rest of us when we’re off the clock at work. Maybe the cops should hire people with basic common sense to consult on stuff like this.

Anonymous Coward says:

And what about..

the poor people whose house was broken into? … their insurance company will refuse to pay pointing fingers at the cops and the cops/city will say it’s up to your insurance company.

From the article:

[Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said Friday] [that] police told him that the Milans? storm door and window were being repaired at city expense.

The city mayor knows the cops fucked up. That’s why the city’s paying for the storm door and window.

Thomas (profile) says:

I hope

the victims have the sense to hire a really good lawyer and sue the cops. The cops believe they did the right thing and the city agrees. Just goes to show that cops don’t give a rats tushie about civil rights. The woman was hugely lucky she wasn’t thrown down on the floor, cuffed, arrested, and thrown into jail and then interrogated without an attorney. They would certainly have managed to get some kind of confession out of her. After all most people will crack after hours and hours of interrogation, especially if rubber hoses are brought into play. Never never trust a cop.

And the cops wonder why no one trusts them. sheesh

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We should ban flash-bang grenades.

We should ban flash-bang grenades.

We should disband local police SWAT teams.

Instead, urban para-military units should be under the national guard. While those guard units could be stationed in big cities, they should not used without the authorization of the state’s governor or his deputy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I love this.

I personally hope the “SWAT’ING” trend gets WAY out of hand. The more they screw up the more likely something actually gets done about the police problem.

?Your ideas intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.?

Yeah, I’ve heard the theory before, of course. And ?I’ll give you this? it even sounds superficially plausible.

But is there any real evidence that it works out in the real world?

Take the cops up Peru who just tazed the Alzheimer’s patient. Why did they do that? Were they just evil, sadistic monsters? No, probably not. Instead, their over-arching goal was to control the situation. So, they used force in an utterly inappropriate fashion. It was so outrageous it got a cop put on administrative leave. But will the police learn?

Look. The cops know that innocent civilians are getting SWAT’ed because phreakers are trying to social-engineer them into police reform.

So will the police change? They will continue to attempt to control the situation.

And the fucking pigs just don’t care how many houses they break into ?how many civilians they assault? ?how many folks they kill? because they intend to win at all costs. If you want them to change, then they will stay rigidly fixed in their responses. No matter how crazy that is.

Richard Vert says:

cops acting as judge , jury , hit squad.

As long as these nut jobs are allowed to police themselves none of us are safe. No sane person would allow this stuff to continue but it happens every day in America. Today’s police force is entirely ex-military. (trained killers)They treat every public contact as a military operation and jump at the chance to dress up in kevlar & velcro. These people have no business at all dealing with the public.

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