Illinois Family Sues After Police Execute Wrong-Door Raid, Detain Them

A family in Joliet, Illinois, says they were terrorized by police, held at gunpoint, and detained for six hours after officers executed a search warrant on the wrong house.

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday by the law offices of Al Hofeld Jr. accuses the town of Joliet and nearly two dozen police officers of unlawful search, excessive force, false arrest, and conspiracy, among other rights violations.

On November 2, 2021, 62-year-old Adela Carrasco and her family were awakened by the sound of banging and shouting at their front door. Carrasco, whom her lawsuit says suffers from asthma and uses a cane due to a hip injury, hobbled toward the door to see what the commotion was.

Carrasco discovered 21 armed law enforcement officers from the Joliet Police Department, Will County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Marshals Service. The officers were investigating a deadly Halloween-night shooting two days prior and had decided to execute an outstanding warrant for 18-year-old Elian Raya, one of Carrasco’s grandsons.

“I asked them to show me a warrant; they didn’t show me nothing. They just pushed me aside and went in,” Carrasco said at a press conference Thursday announcing the lawsuit. “And I’m screaming at them the whole time to put down their guns because they’re going to shoot my grandkids.”

The lawsuit says the officers barged into the bedrooms of Carrasco’s grandchildren, who ranged in age from 12 to their early twenties, and pointed guns at them while shouting obscenities.

There was only one problem: The search warrant for Raya listed his address as 226 South Comstock. Carrasco lived at 228 South Comstock. The building is a duplex with two separate front entrances, both with addresses clearly marked.

The lawsuit alleges that although officers knew or quickly realized that they were not in the right unit, they continued to ransack Carrasco’s house, cutting open couch cushions, flipping mattresses, and dumping drawers. 

Even after the officers went next door and arrested Raya, they continued to detain Carrasco and her grandchildren for the next six hours while Raya was taken to the police station and interrogated. The lawsuit says officers refused to let anyone go to the bathroom, put on clothes, or retrieve Carrasco’s asthma medication.

“This is unacceptable behavior towards young children and an elderly, disabled woman, regardless of the circumstances,” Zach Hofeld, an attorney for the family, said at Thursday’s press conference. “There is a modicum of decency and reasonableness with which police must treat the elderly and children. The psychological injuries they suffered as the result of officers’ misconduct are profound and will remain with them for the rest of their lives.”

The lawsuit alleges that Joliet police officers filed misleading and incomplete reports to cover up their search of the wrong unit and that the department has refused to provide Hofeld’s firm with body camera footage of the raid for over a year.

Hofeld’s firm says nothing came of Raya’s arrest. Three unrelated suspects were later arrested in connection with the Halloween shooting.

Carrasco’s fear of her grandchildren being shot was not hypothetical. Earlier this year, the city of Richton Park, Illinois, agreed to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from a 2019 SWAT raid during which a police officer shot a 12-year-old boy in the kneecap.

Hofeld’s firm represented that family as well, plus roughly a dozen other Chicago-area families who say police pointed guns at their children during botched raids.

An investigation by the local news outlet CBS 2 found that Chicago SWAT teams frequently relied on unverified search warrants to ransack houses; hold families, including children, at gunpoint; and, in one case, handcuff an 8-year-old child. In another case, 17 Chicago police officers burst into a family’s house with their guns drawn during a 4-year-old’s birthday party. The members of one Chicago family say officers raided their house three times in four months looking for someone the residents say they don’t know.

In 2018, Chicago settled another civil lawsuit for $2.5 million by a family who claimed Chicago Police Department officers stormed their house and pointed a gun at a 3-year-old girl

And in 2020, the Chicago Police Department made national headlines after body camera footage showed officers humiliating a naked woman during a wrong-door raid. Chicago police burst into the apartment of Anjanette Young based on a faulty tip and handcuffed her while she was naked, forcing her to stand in full view of male officers as they searched her home. The city eventually settled a lawsuit filed by Young for $2.9 million.

Reason has been reporting for decades on the disastrous consequences of police departments’ reliance on volatile SWAT raids, which put both innocent people and officers at risk.