Monterey Co. pays $2.6 million in wrongful death by cops

Monterey Co. pays $2.6 million in wrongful death by cops

 

This is from William Norman Grigg, America’s best reporter on police brutality:

Rodney King beating 1991

Rodney King beating 1991

After eluding the police for more than a week, Alejandro Gonzalez surrendered in San Jose on January 10, 2011. The 22-year-old was the suspect in a non-fatal shooting that had taken place on New Year’s Day at a local bar called the Mucky Duck.

As should be expected, the police had done nothing useful to solve that crime. Their only contribution to the case was to stage a lethal SWAT raid against a man who had been nowhere near the bar when the shooting took place, and had nothing to do with it.

Four days after the Mucky Duck shooting – in which three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries — a multi-agency SWAT team invaded the home of 31-year-old Rogelio Serrato, Jr.  Serrato, who was known as Roger to friends and family, was not a suspect in the shooting.

The search warrant issued for Serrato’s house should have been executed by a small group of deputies. Although police contended that Serrato was “connected” in some way to Gonzalez, there was no reason to suspect that he was harboring the fugitive. 

Serrato did have outstanding misdemeanor warrants, however, and apparently this was considered sufficient justification for sending in two dozen paramilitary drag queens who arrived in an armored convoy that included a Bearcat combat vehicle.

For about an hour, the invaders broadcast surrender demands via a “thunder-hailer” megaphone. One young female left the house and was taken into custody. Serrato – who, it is believed, was intoxicated and perhaps unconscious – didn’t comply.

A three-member “break and rake” team approached the house, shattered a window, and threw in a flash-bang grenade, which lodged itself between two highly flammable polyurethane sofas that were next to an artificial Christmas tree. One of the sofas immediately ignited. The fire quickly propagated itself through the house, generating a dense black cloud of highly toxic smoke.

Roused by either the sound of the grenade or the subsequent fire, Serrato began screaming and trying to leave the house. The sight of the unarmed man, clad only in his underwear, threw a scare into Sergeant Joseph Banuelos, who had supervised the “break and rake” team.

“Suspect!” shrieked Banuelos. Rather than rushing into the home to arrest the suspect, the intrepid sergeant – acting in the interests of that holiest of all considerations, “officer safety” – ordered his team to retreat to the Bearcat vehicle. The SWAT team then trained its weapons on the house, which effectively prevented the victim from escaping from the burning building.

Significantly, the use of a flash-bang grenade as a “scare tactic” was part of the raid’s tactical plan, rather than an improvised measure. Deputy Mark Sievers and Detective Al Martinez, who were part of the “break and rake” team, had previously ignited fires with flash-bang grenades, so they were aware of the potential fire risk involved in using that device. That the raid posed a potentially fatal fire danger is further demonstrated by the fact that the Greenfield Fire Department had been notified of the planned raid and was on standby.

The Fire Department responded quickly once fire enveloped Serrato’s home – but the SWAT team held them at bay for nearly a half-hour while the screaming victim was trapped inside. By the time the firefighters could enter the home, Serrato was dead.

Just a few days ago, Monterey County agreed to a $2.6 million settlement with Serrato’s family, which was paid by the county’s insurance carrier and absolves the sheriff’s office of legal responsibility. Speaking the language of institutional self-exculpation with remarkable fluency, County Attorney Charles McKee insisted that Serrato was to blame for his own death and that the officers should be “commended for trying to resolve a very tense situation.”

It’s often said that police are the country’s most dangerous street gang. One significant distinction between police and their private sector counterparts is that street gangs don’t expect to receive commendations when they kill innocent people.

It would be a wonderful thing if people could develop the intellectual equivalent of a computer utility that would remove uniforms, badges, and titles from news accounts of fatal police raids. Subtracting the indicia of “authority” would enhance the ability of people to see the truth about acts of aggressive violence, and recognize them as crimes irrespective of the claimed identity of those who commit them.

The killing of Roger Serrato was an act of murder through depraved indifference. The assailants had no justification to attack his home; they knew that their plan of attack posed the risk of a catastrophic fire; once that fire began, the assailants took no action to rescue the victim, and impeded the efforts of others to do so.

The SWAT raid was a specimen of police overkill born of opportunism: What’s the use of having a SWAT team unless it can be deployed to arrest people with outstanding misdemeanor warrants?

Read the rest here.

21 comments

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  1. Donkey
    Donkey 25 August, 2013, 11:04

    “It would be a wonderful thing if people could develop the intellectual equivalent of a computer utility that would remove uniforms, badges, and titles from news accounts of fatal police raids. Subtracting the indicia of “authority” would enhance the ability of people to see the truth about acts of aggressive violence, and recognize them as crimes irrespective of the claimed identity of those who commit them.”

    I admire the writings of Will Griggs. Back when I was writing articles in defense of Ashley MacDonald I stumbled across his words at Pro Liberate and have been forever enlightened. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  2. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 25 August, 2013, 14:48

    More police misconduct. Suing dumb and dirty cops NEVER gets old.

    Reply this comment
  3. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 25 August, 2013, 19:56

    so if you were King how would u fix this John?

    Reply this comment
    • John Seiler
      John Seiler Author 26 August, 2013, 11:00

      Ted: If I were king, I would abdicate. As to ending police brutality:

      1. End the federaliztion and militarization of local police, which has them treating us like Afghanis.

      2. End the “war” on drugs, which has vastly increased police powers, by legalizing drugs.

      3. End the SWAT teams.

      4. Police used to be instructed to protect the community first, not themselves. Go back to the old policy.

      5. Get rid of the California Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights, which sets cops above us as overlords. In particular, it makes it almost impossible to find out what happened in cases of brutality like this.

      6. End collective bargaining for police.

      For starters.

      Reply this comment
      • Ted Steele, Janitor
        Ted Steele, Janitor 26 August, 2013, 21:12

        John– I know you’re slipping a few paranoid gears,,,,but you can’t be that naive, can u?

        No swat team? You calling the army when you’re outgunned by evil doers?

        Reply this comment
  4. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 26 August, 2013, 13:06

    LOL, In your dreams John!!!! You really are out of your mind and have no idea what you are talking about……..

    Reply this comment
    • John Seiler
      John Seiler Author 26 August, 2013, 18:38

      NTHEOC: Please be specific about how I am “out of my mind.” Except for No. 2, all I’m calling for is a return to the policies of c. 1975.

      Reply this comment
  5. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 26 August, 2013, 17:34

    Do you CWD gangbanger sympathizers ever tell the true story!! Serrato,was a member of the Tiny Locos and Vario Greenfus Norte gangs, had two misdemeanor warrants for domestic violence and was connected with the main shooting suspect! The woman who had exited the home told authorities at the scene that Serrato had been hiding in the attic, sheriff’s Cmdr. Mike Richards said.The ceiling above where Serrato was found was broken downward into the room, so it appears he fell from the attic. Oh yes, but he was a GOOD BOY and an outstanding citizen! Haha lmao!! Again, just follow the commands of the Police and everything would have been fine. I see the woman in the house did and came out without a scratch! Hmmmmmmm……

    Reply this comment
    • John Seiler
      John Seiler Author 26 August, 2013, 18:43

      NTHEOC: 1. If you read the story, you know Monterey County admitted the police were wrong in killing Serrato, paying out $2.6 million of the taxpayers’ money to his family.

      2. Belonging to a gang does not merit the death penalty.

      3. Having two misdemeanor warrants does not merit the death penalty.

      4. Hiding in the attic and drunk (apparently) does not merit the death penalty.

      In better days, the cops would have just waited him out.

      Reply this comment
  6. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 26 August, 2013, 21:17

    In better days, the cops would have just waited him out. –

    you making this stuff up again John? Who says? You>???

    Reply this comment
    • John Seiler
      John Seiler Author 27 August, 2013, 08:13

      I knew a lot of cops growing up because my father was the District Judge of Wayne, Mich., 1960-85. The cops back then were part of the community. No way they would burn down somebody’s house with him inside just to arrest him for a couple of misdemeanors. And they didn’t need a SWAT team.

      Reply this comment
      • Ted Steele, Janitor
        Ted Steele, Janitor 27 August, 2013, 21:17

        John–So if I read you right, we ought to do things now the way you as a child perceived they did it in the midwest in the 60’s? Wow– you should start seminars on that John!

        Reply this comment
        • John Seiler
          John Seiler Author 28 August, 2013, 08:50

          No. My father was in office until I was 30, in 1985. For many years he lamented the centralization of the judicial system around the Feds.

          But I’ve also done independent research. See the writings of former San Jose Police Chief Ed McNamara. For example, last December he wrote an article on how the federal regime’s “war on drugs” has generated a culture of lying in local police forces: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/debate/mcn/mcn6.htm

          Reply this comment
          • Ted Steele, Janitor
            Ted Steele, Janitor 28 August, 2013, 09:08

            LOL– same point—–so we should all do what the 20 something John S. remembers what they did in the midwest in the 60’s?

          • John Seiler
            John Seiler Author 28 August, 2013, 11:22

            We should do what highly decorated Chief McNamara says: legalize drugs.

          • Ted Steele, Janitor
            Ted Steele, Janitor 28 August, 2013, 16:13

            I agree but know that when we do— THAT will come with its own huge set of trouble.

  7. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 26 August, 2013, 22:20

    John how can you sit here and take the Teddy Steals and NTHEOC drivel??? Why you allow them to pollute the comments doesn’t make sense 😉

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 26 August, 2013, 22:24

    Get rid of the California Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights, which sets cops above us as overlords. In particular, it makes it almost impossible to find out what happened in cases of brutality like this
    ==
    You always sue sops in federal court under the civil rights act, he state laws like that peace officers bill of rights gets tossed out the second you file….. no special cop protections in federal court

    Reply this comment
  9. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 27 August, 2013, 07:44

    Ok John, how about we just agree to disagree…..

    Reply this comment

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