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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Settlement in Md. town mayor's lawsuit

By Ruben Castaneda
Ruben Castaneda

Attorneys for Prince George's County on Monday settled a lawsuit brought by Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo that accused deputies from a county sheriff's SWAT unit of storming into his home without a proper warrant the day they shot his family's two dogs and held him at gunpoint.

The civil trial was scheduled to begin Monday in Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro.

Calvo said he could not comment on the amount or other details of the settlement, which are being worked out.

However, he did say that the settlement will include reforms in the way county law enforcement officers conduct such operations. The reforms will involve such issues as how and when SWAT teams are deployed and the humane treatment of pets.

"We're achieving reforms we were seeking," Calvo said.

A county spokeswoman said she would check with County Executive Rushern L. Baker III to see whether he wished to comment.

Sheriff's SWAT officers raided Calvo's home July 29, 2008, at the request of county police narcotics investigators. A police dog at a shipping facility in Arizona alerted to a package addressed to Trinity Tomsic, Calvo's wife. County police intercepted the package, which they said contained marijuana, and delivered it to Calvo's porch. Police stormed in after Calvo, who had been out walking his dogs, picked up the package and brought it inside.

SWAT deputies shot and killed the family's two black Labradors, Payton and Chase, and forced Calvo to kneel on the ground with his hands bound.

It turned out that neither Tomsic nor Calvo had any connection to the package of marijuana.

Payton and Chase never tried to attack any of the invading deputies, and at least one of the dogs was shot as he was trying to run away, Calvo said.

According to the lawsuit, sheriff's deputies failed to "knock and announce" their presence before storming the house. The lawsuit also alleged that the sheriff's department had no protocols regarding when to use force if pets are in a household, and that county law enforcement officers use such warrants unnecessarily.

An internal sheriff's investigation found no wrongdoing by the deputies. Then-Sheriff Michael A. Jackson said the deputies "did their jobs to the fullest extent of their abilities."

In an opinion article he wrote for The Washington Post, Calvo said the event -- and the findings of the sheriff's investigation -- were "business as usual" for county law enforcement officers.

The county Sheriff's Department is responsible for security at the courthouses in Upper Marlboro and Hyattsville. It uses Labradors, including black Labs, as police dogs in those buildings.

The dogs are trained to sniff out drugs and other contraband. Canine officers have said Labradors are also good to use in a courthouse because they are particularly friendly around people.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

By Ruben Castaneda  | January 24, 2011; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse, Pr. George's, Ruben Castaneda, Updates  | Tags:  Prince George's County crime, excessive force  
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Comments

I hope one of the terms of the settlement is for Calvo to have a 'get out of jail free card' if he ever felt the urge to ram his car through Chief Jackson's front door at 3AM.

Posted by: leatherman1 | January 24, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

"Sheriff's SWAT officers raided Calvo's home on July 29, 2008, at the request of county police narcotics investigators. Poilce had learned that a box of marijuana had been delievered to the home in the name of Trinity Tomsic, Calvo's wife."

Is that correct? As I remember this story, Police in Arizona interdicted the package. Then the package was delivered to the mayor's home in PG county by the POLICE.

A subtle difference. But very important in the eyes of the law.

Posted by: JoeMck | January 24, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

The promised reforms are crap. If there was any likelihood of reform, the whitewash of an investigation that cleared officers who chased fleeing dogs in order to shoot them.

Posted by: jasonjkeyes | January 25, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Pg is an epic failure. Move away if you live there. It was the smartest thing I ever did.

Posted by: augustiswest | January 26, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

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