LOS ANGELES (CN) – Residents of a mostly black neighborhood are fighting back against authorities who they say ransacked their homes in the dead of the night in a fruitless search for alleged gang members. Residents of Oakwood, a “long-established black community” in Los Angeles’ Venice neighborhood, say about 300 city, state and federal officials targeted at least 25 homes in a predawn raid in early February as part of a “concerted assault on plaintiffs in the dark of night.”
Plaintiffs say they were “treated like criminals, their front doors kicked in without advance knock and notice,” and that “explosive devices (were) thrown at some of their windows.” They say officers fired a rifle “blindly into at least one home as a ruse to enter … for which there was not any arrest or search warrant.”
They say cops pointed weapons at adults and children during the raid, and that most of the men – and boys – were handcuffed, “photographed and questioned on threat of arrest if they did not submit.”
They say authorities swiped family photos from their homes.
“For most, their homes were torn apart in the search for some possible evidence of gang activity and drugs,” according to the 25-page federal complaint.
“This assault on a long-established black community targeted the grandmothers, mothers, aunts and other family members knowing full well that these were not the homes of the warrant targets,” the lawsuit states. “The assault on plaintiffs’ persons and homes … were carried out in a manner that was intended to and did cause fear, humiliation and harassment.”
Plaintiffs say they won’t be “stigmatized as ‘gang associates'” just because they are they are related to someone the police believe to be associated with gang activity.
The class includes elderly people, some of whom are physically and developmentally disabled.
One disabled man, Milton McCarty, says he was left alone in his bed after authorities, in search of his caretaker’s grandson, ordered the caretaker to leave the home.
When the caretaker and McCarty’s cousin told officers that McCarty cannot be left alone, they say cops refused to let anyone go in the house and “laughed and ridiculed McCarty because he could not walk.”
Dametra Moore claims she and her disabled sister were forced to lay on the floor in dog feces for 45 minutes while police ransacked her home in a fruitless search for evidence that would incriminate her son who does not live with her.
“When the police broke down the door, Moore’s dog became scared and defecated in the house,” the complaint says.
The women claim they were ordered to “crawl through the living room and exit the house while guns were still pointed at their heads.” Moore’s sister eventually soiled herself because officers would not let her use the bathroom, the complaint says.
The residents are suing the City Of Los Angeles; Benjamin Cate, Director of the California Department of Corrections; Attorney General Eric Holder; and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to stop future mass raids, and unspecified damages.
They are represented by Carol Sobel of Santa Monica.