Police apologize for serving warrant at wrong address, breaking down elderly woman's door

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 9:19 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank talks about a warrant being served to the wrong house Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Police Chief Chris Burbank issued an apology Friday to the woman whose door officers broke down while serving a no-knock search warrant Thursday night at the wrong address.

"She's certainly had the event of a lifetime, and one that I am very sorry that she had to experience at all," Burbank said.

The incident happened around 10 p.m. Thursday near 300 East and 900 South. Neighbors said police crashed through the door with guns drawn.

Such mistakes, Burbank said, are "simply unacceptable."

"However, it did happen, and again we take full responsibility for the actions of the officers that were there that night," he said.

The department has protocols in place to prevent such mistakes from happening, Burbank said. Officers did not follow protocol, he said, though he declined to elaborate.

Burbank said he has met with the family, apologized to them and assured them that the police department will repair all damage to the woman's home.

Neighbors say there's a drug problem in the neighborhood that they were hoping police were working to resolve.

"We have a very real problem on this street, and now said individuals can go underground," said Teresa Ryan, who lives just a few houses away from where police served the wrong search warrant.

"They sort of missed the boat," Ryan said. "We had a chance to get rid of a problem, and now we have a bigger issue."

Teresa Ryan's husband, Michael, said he and other neighbors are frustrated by a few houses that attract the wrong type of people to the neighborhood.

"You feel a little uneasy," he said. "You want to feel safe in your own home for sure."

Michael Ryan said police busted down the front door of a corner house, which makes the blunder even more difficult to understand.

"Mistakes are made. I understand that," he said. "But that's a pretty serious mistake."

Paul Fracasso lives next door to the woman and watched as police served the no-knock warrant on the wrong home.

"I saw them going through the door, crashing through the door," Fracasso said. "There were guns and flashlights going everywhere, (and police) telling them, 'Get down. Get down. Get down.'"

Fracasso said he knew immediately that police had made a mistake.

"I knew they were there for no reason," he said. "She's a sweet old lady, just like my grandma. I think they should have done their homework. I can't believe it actually happened. They wouldn't have to be apologizing after the fact if they had done their homework."

Stephen Clark, an attorney representing the woman and her family, said the family "remains focused … on helping her deal with the consequences of the traumatic incident."

The family is assessing the official account of the events provided Friday by police and will make a statement when appropriate, Clark said.

Twitter: @FinleyJY

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