Menlo Park police raid wrong home, residents say

Residents file claim over Nov. 2, 2010, search of East Palo Alto home

Two East Palo Alto addresses differed only by a single number, but that number led Menlo Park police to raid the wrong house, according to a claim filed against both cities by the home's residents.

The claim states that Menlo Park police operating within East Palo Alto conducted an early morning search on Nov. 2, 2010, that left the home's residents battered and emotionally traumatized.

Represented by attorney Edward Aljouny, the three residents -- Carlos Nava, Melissa Verduzco and their 2-year-old daughter -- are asking the cities of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto to jointly pay $500,000 for damages.

Filed on April 27, the claim describes Nava being slammed to the ground, kneed and punched by "a Sergeant Cowans," while others, "including Det. Chris Sample" pointed guns at Verduzco and her child.

The document also says the officers have harassed Nava upon seeing him in public after the incident and that he now stutters as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Without judging its validity, the city of East Palo Alto rejected the claim at its May 17 meeting, but noted that did not prevent court action.

Menlo Park is still reviewing the claim, City Attorney Bill McClure said, and typically takes action within 45 to 60 days of the filing. Its council may not get a say in the disposition.

"Generally claims are not presented to the City Council unless there is a specific reason to do so -- our policy is to have the City Attorney, the City's outside claims adjustor and the City's internal risk manager review and act on claims, either settling them, potentially holding a closed session if we need/want to review and advise council and obtain any kind of direction or authority, or issuing a denial," he stated in an email.

The police department referred all questions to McClure.

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Like this comment
Posted by hahaha
a resident of another community
on May 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm

So typical, I bet being in California and the bay area he's gonna win.

Like this comment
Posted by be more careful
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 19, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Cops gotta be more careful or pay the consequences.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Ironic
a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2011 at 10:03 am

Luckily the guy wasn't in the kitchen cooking cooking with a knife or he might not be alive.
Being innocent and getting abused and guns pointed in your face, by the same people you are supposed to trust, will def change a person. And the kid saw this....guess how she will feel about the police now.
And they wonder why people dont trust cops.
Then after the event they still harass him in public.
I hate people who abuse their power.

Like this comment
Posted by al
a resident of Barron Park
on May 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

you have no rights, people!

Wake up and see whats going on.

No judgement will help these folks...scared for life, I know I would be.

We are doomed, one crazy, over the top, cop story at a time

Like this comment
Posted by Show-Me-The-Warrant
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

So .. what was the purpose of the raid against the house that should have been raided? Where is the search warrant? Why hasn't the Weekly obtained a copy of it, and posted it? Did the police give the family a copy, or just start abusing them?

> Without judging its validity, the city of East Palo Alto
> rejected the claim at its May 17 meeting

This happens a lot. Makes one wonder what the point of having City Councils involved with this process. How many elected officials know anything about the law? How many even care if their police forces are wrongly, or illegally, raiding people's homes?

> Filed on April 27, the claim describes Nava being slammed to the
> ground, kneed and punched by "a Sergeant Cowans," while others,
> "including Det. Chris Sample" pointed guns at Verduzco and her child

Certainly might be interesting to see the police report. The article says "early morning raid", but doesn't say what time. Were these folks in bed, asleep, when they were raided?

And how long did it take for the police to determine that this was the wrong house? Any internal probes to find out why this happened? Or just "business as usual" for these guys? And what about the house that was "one number off". As written, the Weekly's article doesn't seem to recognize that most houses on any street have another house on the same street with only one number off. There are hundreds of thousands of such homes in Santa Clara County, and San Mateo County. So, who made the mistake, and why, on the police department's part?

Too much missing information to be able to make much out of this article.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

How many more of these Gestapo raids will we tolerate before we end criminal sanctions against drugs? Almost always these No Knock raids are drug related, No Knock because of the fiction that evidence will be destroyed. All to maintain the profits of the drug cartels.

Like this comment
Posted by be more careful
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 20, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Unfortunately, there have been several cases where the cops raided wrong houses and killed innocent people who did not know what was going on. The cops really need to double check everything before they start these raids.

Like this comment
Posted by tiredofthebs
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Show me the warrant,

The East Palo Alto City Council rejected the claim, because it was the Menlo Park Police Department that served the warrant.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The excuse for no-knock warrants is the possibility that evidence will be flushed down the drain. A plug can readily be inserted in the street sewer cleanout, thus saving all the contents of a flush. There is therefore NO EXCUSE for no-knock. This is one of the worst residuals of the War on Drugs. Better a few "incomplete" arrests than busted doors and erroneous killings.

Like this comment
Posted by Melissa Verduzco
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2011 at 12:54 am

I am one of the victims on this case and to those ppl who keep saying that its drug related its Not. If u read the article it says that they mixed up the houses and thee for we are doing what we are doing against them. Yes we were sleeping and got woken up by a loud knock right then and there they threw my bf to the floor ran to my room where I was half naked n pointed laser guns at me and my two yr old baby grl bt reality ppl I dnt care if I get money out of this I just want justice because what they did was not right. For cops mistakes an innocent person can loose thier life.

Like this comment
Posted by To Melissa
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I am so truly sorry that those entrusted to protect and serve did neither with you or your family. While I understand mistakes get made, it doesn't excuse what happened. What's especially heinous is your partner now experiencing harassment by the police. I hope you win your case and that the officers involved, from both agencies, are disciplined. As a long term resident of EPA, this detestable behavior is inexcusable.

Like this comment
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

These people work on the San mateo county narcotics task force. Detective Chris sample has been in law enforcement for only 6 years. 4 years before becoming a detective with the task force. Sgt cowans, though well spoken is a Terri ly manipulative individual who will lie in court in order to get a prosecution. These types of task forces, though arguably effective in getting drugs off the street, will lose their sense of reality, rationale, and logic after being on the task force for a while. They can be compared to high school football teams right before they run out onto the field. They get hyped up and are entrusted with making rational decisions in regard to charges, arrests, and report writing. Unfortunately more often than not they will all participate in what is known as the blue code of silence. As an ex police officer specializing in natcotics, I can attest to officers lying in court solely to protect each other's case-dismissing mistakes made. They will alter reports also solely to protect the "brotherhood." this is nothing for the San mateo county court to review, but rather grounds meriting a full review of the organization and ways of operation of these types of task forces by the FBI.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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