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Thread: SWAT rampage destroys Iraq vet's home over guns

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    Grand Poobah Gunco's Avatar
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    Postak SWAT rampage destroys Iraq vet's home over guns

    While Army Sgt. Matthew Corrigan was sound asleep inside his Northwest D.C. home, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was preparing to launch a full-scale invasion of his home. SWAT and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams spent four hours readying the assault on the English basement apartment in the middle of the snowstorm of the century.The police arrested the veteran of the Iraq war and searched his house without a warrant, not to protect the public from a terrorist or stop a crime in progress, but to rouse a sleeping man the police thought might have an unregistered gun in his home.

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    Gunco Good ole boy tanvil's Avatar
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    While Army Sgt. Matthew Corrigan was sound asleep inside his Northwest D.C. home, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was preparing to launch a full-scale invasion of his home. SWAT and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams spent four hours readying the assault on the English basement apartment in the middle of the snowstorm of the century.

    MATT

    (This is part two of a four part series on Sgt. Corrigan's case. Click here to read the first story.)

    The police arrested the veteran of the Iraq war and searched his house without a warrant, not to protect the public from a terrorist or stop a crime in progress, but to rouse a sleeping man the police thought might have an unregistered gun in his home.

    It all started a few hours earlier on Feb. 2, 2010, when Sgt. Corrigan called the National Veterans Crisis Hotline for advice on sleeping because of nightmares from his year training Iraqi soldiers to look for IEDs in Fallujah. Without his permission, the operator, Beth, called 911 and reported Sgt. Corrigan “has a gun and wants to kill himself.”

    According to a transcript of the 911 recording, Beth told the cops that, “The gun’s actually on his lap.” The drill sergeant told me he said nothing of the kind, and his two pistols and rifle were hidden under clothes and in closets, to avoid theft.

    So around midnight, the police arrived at the row house at 2408 N. Capitol Street. Over the next two hours, several emergency response team units were called to the scene, calling in many cops from home.

    apt

    Police memos from that night describe the situation as involving a man who is, “threatening to shoot himself,” but “doesn’t want to hurt anybody.”

    None of the cops’ documents indicate a threat that warranted a “barricade” and the closure of several streets to create “an outer perimeter that prohibited both traffic and pedestrian access.” With dozens of cops on the scene, they created a “staging area” two blocks away.

    ‘Rambo’

    Around 1 a.m., the police knocked on the door of Tammie Sommons, the upstairs neighbor in the row house. Ms. Sommons had lived there since 2008 with her three roommates and, in that time, had become a close friend of Sgt. Corrigan. She had a key to his apartment and often walked his dog Matrix.

    “I opened the door to this scene with three cops with guns pointed at Matt’s door,” she recalled in an interview this week. “One officer told me that Matt called a suicide hotline and was about to kill himself. I said that was impossible, he wasn’t that kind of guy. I told the police I see him every day and would know if he was suicidal.”

    dog

    Over the next hour, Ms. Sommons repeatedly told the police she was sure that Sgt. Corrigan was merely sleeping. She knew he took prescription sleeping pills because of repeated nightmares from his year in Iraq. The cops wouldn’t listen to her.

    “I said to the police, ‘You guys are making a big mistake. He’s not what you think,’” recalled Ms. Sommons. She offered to go downstairs and clear up the situation, but the police would not let her.

    The officers asked her whether Sgt. Corrigan owned any guns. “I said, of course he has guns, he’s in the military,” she replied. Ms. Sommons had never seen the sergeant’s guns, but she is from a military family, in which gun ownership was the norm. She was truthful with the police because she was not aware the District requires registration of every gun.

    This month, the U.S. House passed a nonbinding amendment, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey, that said active military living in or stationed in D.C. should not be bound by the stringent firearm laws. Were such a law in place two years ago, Sgt. Corrigan would not have been targeted by the police.

    sig

    MPD told Ms. Sommons that someone had reported that there was the smell of gas coming from Sgt. Corrigan’s apartment. “I told them that there was no gas in his apartment -- it was all electric,” she recalled. “I said if they smelled something, it’s just my roommate who was cooking chicken parmesan.”

    Still, the police refused to accept the simpler explanation. “The cops said we needed to leave our house because Matt was going to shoot through the ceiling,” Ms. Sommons said. “They painted this picture like Rambo was downstairs and ready to blow up the place.”

    At 3 a.m., the police called in an EOD unit -- the bomb squad. They brought in negotiators. They had the gas company turn off the gas line to the house. A few minutes before 4 a.m., they started calling Sgt. Corrigan’s cell phone, but they got no answer because he turned it off before going to bed. They woke him up by calling his name on a bullhorn. He then turned on the phone and was told to surrender outside.

    Arrested Without Cause

    When the police wouldn’t accept Sgt. Corrigan’s word that he was fine, he was forced to leave his home and surrender. When he stepped outside, he faced assault teams with rifles pointed at his chest. He immediately dropped to his knees, with his hands over his head.

    Officers in full protective gear zip-tied Sgt. Corrigan's hands behind his back and pulled him up from his knees, forcing him into a large tactical command center called the “BEAR” which was parked at the staging area.

    GUNS2

    Although police did not read Sgt. Corrigan his Miranda rights, they questioned him inside the tactical truck. They asked the Iraq veteran basic questions about his life from various angles to get him to admit to owning guns. He remained silent about his two handguns and one rifle, which he had not registered after moving into the city.

    Suddenly a police commander jumped in the truck and demanded to know where Sgt. Corrigan put his house key. He refused.

    “I’m not giving you the key. I’m not giving consent to enter my house,” Sgt. Corrigan recalled saying in an interview with me last week at D.C. Superior Court after the city dropped all 10 charges against him.

    “Then the cop said to me, ‘I don’t have time to play this constitutional bullshit with you. We’re going to break your door in, and you’re going to have to pay for a new door.’”

    “‘Looks like I’m buying a new door,’” Sgt. Corrigan responded. “He was riffed”

    DOG3Realizing quickly that his house would get raided without his permission, he asked for one thing from the police. “I said, ‘Please don’t hurt my dog. He’s friendly. He’s a good dog. Please don’t hurt him.’ They said they wouldn’t.”

    The police then took Sgt. Corrigan to the VA hospital, still with his hands restrained. He didn’t want to be put in the hospital against his will, so he was okay with being left there temporarily. He signed himself in for help.

    “After having all those guns at me, I was broken,” he said, pointing again at his chest, where he’d seen the rifle red laser dots. “I hadn’t slept in days, I just wanted to sleep.”

    The reservist spent three nights in the hospital. When he got out, the police were waiting to arrest him for the unregistered guns found when they raided his home, without a warrant.

    Search, Seizure, but no Warrant

    Since Since Sgt. Corrigan refused to permit a search of his house, the police had to break down his door. The cops, however, didn’t bother to wait for a search warrant before doing so. “They were all keyed up because they had been there and ready to go all night,” surmised Sgt. Corrgian’s attorney Richard Gardiner.

    rAIDThe first to enter the apartment with the supposedly dangerous apartment was the Emergency Response Team, which secured the dog Matrix and gave him over to animal control, according to police reports. Only then did the EOD personnel enter to search using portable x-ray equipment.

    During the “explosive threat clearing efforts,” police reported finding the sergeant’s “hazardous materials,” which included two pistols and a rifle, binoculars and ammunition. The report also details how it took the combined efforts of the police, EOD and the D.C. Fire Department to seize the “military ammunition can that contained numerous fireworks type devices.” These were fireworks left over from the Fourth of July.

    Also taken into evidence was what the police described as a “military smoke grenade” and “military whistler device.” This smoke-screen canister and trip wire were put in Sgt. Corrigan’s rucksack in 1996 by his squad leader and had long been forgotten over the years. EOD took custody of the smoke grenade and whistle. The rest of the the materials were handed over to the crime scene search department at 7:30 a.m.

    RAID

    Police Lt. R.T. Glover was pleased with the seven hour operation that resulted in finding three unregistered guns in D.C. In his report to Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, he concluded that, “as a result of this barricade incident, there are no recommendations for improvement with respect to overall tactical operations.”

    Police Destruction

    The dry after-action notes from the police following the operation give no clue to the property damage done to Sgt. Corrigan’s home. They tore apart the 900 square foot place.

    Instead of unzipping luggage, the police used knives to cut through and destroy the bags. They dumped over the bookshelves, emptied closets, threw the clothes on the floor.

    In the process, they knocked over the feeding mechanism for the tropical fish in the sergeant’s six-foot long aquarium. When he was finally released from jail two weeks later, all of his expensive pet fish were dead in the tank.

    FISH

    The guns were seized, along with the locked cases, leaving only broken latches behind. The ammunition, hidden under a sleeping bag in the utility closet, was taken. They broke Sgt. Corrigan’s eyeglasses and left them on the floor. The police turned on the electric stove and never turned it off and left without securing the broken door.

    When Ms. Sommons came back to her home the next day, she looked into Sgt. Corrigan’s apartment. “I was really upset because it was ransacked. It made me lose respect for the police officers involved,” she said, the stepdaughter of a correctional officer.

    “Here was Matt, who spent a year fighting for our country in Iraq -- where these police would never set foot in -- and they treat him like trash off the street.”

    RAID2

    In February, Sgt. Corrigan filed a civil suit against the District asking for a minimum of $500,000 in damages for violating his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. His attorney, Mr. Gardiner, intends to add some of the individual officers to the suit when they are identified in discovery.

    NEXT IN THE SERIES: Iraq vet is lost in DC jail

  3. #3
    Gunco Good ole boy tanvil's Avatar
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    The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) seems to have it out for our military. The department is using the city’s pointless firearm registration mandate to harass, arrest and jail servicemen.

    matArmy 1st Sergeant Matt Corrigan was woken in the middle of the night, forced out of his home, arrested, had his home ransacked, had his guns seized and was thrown in jail -- where he was lost in the prison system for two weeks -- all because the District refuses to recognize the meaning of the Second Amendment. This week, the city dropped all charges against Sgt. Corrigan, but the damage done to this reservist cannot be so easily erased.

    This story will describe how Sgt. Corrigan went from sleeping at home at night to arrested. Subsequent installments of the series will cover the home raid without a warrant, the long-term imprisonment and the coverup by MPD.

    Sgt. Corrigan, 35, and his attorney Richard Gardiner appeared before Judge Michael Ryan at D.C. Superior Court on Monday. The District’s assistant attorney general moved to dismiss all ten charges against him - three for unregistered firearms and seven for possession of ammunition in different calibers.

    Wearing a blue suit and black-rimmed glasses, Sgt. Corrigan looked unemotional after the hearing that ended his two-year ordeal. Outside the courtroom, I asked him how he felt. I expected some vindication or, at least, relief. Instead, he was weighed down by the losses and trauma of the experience. “For court, I put on a face showing I’m okay,” he said. “Overall, this has broken me.”

    Nighttime Raid

    Sgt. Corrigan was asleep in rented apartment on North Capitol Street in the Stonghold neighborhood at 4am on Feb. 3, 2010, when he heard his name being called on a bullhorn from outside. There was a heavy snow falling -- the first storm of what became known that winter as “snowmageddon.”

    Flood lights glared through the front and back windows and doors of his English basement apartment. “Matt Corrigan, We’re here to help you, Matt,” the voice said in the darkness. An experienced combat soldier, he assumed a bunker mentality and hid in the dark room.

    dogHe turned on his cell phone and a police detective immediately phoned and said, “Matt, don’t you think this is a good time to walk your dog?” The SWAT team outside could obviously see the 11-year old pit bull, Matrix, a rescue from dog fighting, who had been with Sgt. Corrigan since graduate school in Northern California.

    “I’ll come to the window and show myself,” he offered on the phone. Sgt. Corrigan still didn’t know why his house was surrounded, but he knew exactly what he should do in such situations. “I’ve been on the other end of that rifle trying to get someone out,” he explained.

    He said that the cop on the phone answered that, “‘It’s gone beyond that now.’”

    Iraq

    Sgt. Corrigan volunteered to serve for a year in Iraq from 2005-2006. He’s an Army reservist in a drill sergeant unit based in Alexandria. By day, he is a statistician at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. His unit would generally never be needed overseas, but the Army need people to train the Iraqi soldiers. So, the then-drill sergeant signed up for the deployment because he thought it would be good for his military career.

    iraqThe reservist and nine other soldiers were embedded with the Iraqi army to train them to be a functional military force. He was stationed in Fallujah during the transition from the assault on the city to allowing the civilian population to move back in and through the elections. The team was spread out over 4 or 5 locations so that each Iraqi company could have a very different tasking from the Marines who operated that battlespace.

    Among other duties, the sergeant would go out on patrol with the Iraqis, clear routes of IEDs, prevent new IEDs from being placed in the urban areas. During patrols, he would search for any detail in the street that had changed in a way that would indicate a possible new explosive, then he would scan the horizon for the enemy with the detonator. He says that in his daily life now, he’s still looking for the “IED triggerman.” He was awarded the bronze star.

    His twelve months of service ended without much time to re-adjust to civilian life. “In 20 days, I went from being shot at to sitting in a cube wearing a suit,” he recalled of the difficult transition returning to his statistician job. “Your body is in America. Your head is in Iraq.”

    Night of the arrest

    Sgt. Corrigan never fully recovered emotionally from the combat and continues to have vivid nightmares that gave him insomnia. The Veterans’ Affairs (VA) hospital gave him medication to help him sleep, but by early 2010, he started having new dreams.

    bronze“I kept seeing my own dead body with my friend and family standing over me, looking disappointed. Sometimes I died in Iraq, sometimes here,” he recalled. “I didn't sleep for four or five nights in a row.”

    At the same time, he was tasked to prepare a mental health manual for his soldiers on mild traumatic brain injury and suicide prevention. On a pamphlet from VA hospital, he saw a link to a website VeteransCrisisLine.net. On it, he found a number for a counseling hotline, which turned out to be a suicide hotline.

    When he called it a little before midnight, he asked to speak to someone about the bad dreams and sleeplessness. The woman asked for his name, address, phone number, whether he was active duty, if he was using alcohol or drugs, and his unit. Then she asked if he had any firearms.

    Sgt. Corrigan had three personal guns for protection and for competition in his home. He had recently moved from Virginia to the District, but had not registered them because he thought the process was too convoluted and risky.

    “It didn't sound right that I could just carry my guns to the police station and not get arrested.” He recalled thinking that, “I’ll just wait for them to clear up this complicated process and do it then.” The only places in the United States that require citizens to register every single gun they own with the government are Hawaii, New York City, Chicago and the District.

    After the police raided his home that night, they took the three firearms: a Sig 226 in .40 caliber, a Smith and Wesson 5904 in 9mm and a M1A Springfield Armory Scout Squad rifle.

    courtAt the Monday hearing at D.C. Superior Court, Mr. Gardiner petitioned the court to return the property. It took two years for the firearms’ attorney’s other active-duty veteran client, Lt. Augustine Kim, to get his guns returned.

    Judge Ryan gave the attorney general’s office three days to file a document in opposition to the release, and he said he will make a decision by the end of this week.

    When asked by the VA hospital counselor on the night of Feb. 2 whether he owned guns, Sgt. Corrigan answered truthfully.

    The woman answering the suicide hotline would not listen to him. “I told her, ‘I don’t have the gun out.’ And she kept saying, ‘Put down the gun.’ She talked like I had the gun in one hand and my cell phone in the other."

    "She insisted I repeat the words, ‘The guns are down,’” he said. “I finally got agitated and said, ‘I shouldn’t have called’ and hung up.” Then, Sgt. Corrigan took a prescribed sleeping pill and went to bed.

    Attack and Surrender

    After being jolted awake four hours later, Sgt. Corrigan agreed to exit his home to show that he was fine. As he walked out his front door, he turned the lock on the knob so that it would lock when he closed it. He had a stow-away key in a box outside.

    When he opened the door, he saw about 25 officers in full body armor and kevlar helmets, carrying M4 assault weapons. SWAT and explosive ordinance disposal teams were on all sides. Streets were barricaded for blocks. “They were prepared to be blown up or attacked,” Sgt. Corrigan remembered. Experienced in combat, he knew how to surrender with the least chance of being hurt. He put his hands over his head and spun around so they could clearly see he was unarmed.

    matt2In the dark, snowy night, the Iraq vet was an easy target. “I looked down at saw 10 jiggly red dots all over my chest,” he said, appearing afraid at the memory. “I crumbled.”

    Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one officer ready to tackle him, so he dropped to his knees and crossed his ankles to demonstrate complete defenselessness.

    “They immediately zip-tied me tighter than I would have been allowed to zip-tie an Iraqi,” Sgt. Corrigan said, pulling up his dress shirt cuff to show his wrist. “We had to check to fit two fingers between the tie and the Iraqi’s wrist so we weren’t cutting off circulation. They tied mine so tight that they hurt.”

    Mr. Gardiner, the defense attorney, still questions whether this initial arrest was legal, since there were no charges against him at this point. The only thing the police had was the word of a VA operator saying he claimed to be a gun owner. He was not read his rights. MPD spokesman, Gwendolyn Crump, would not comment on the case.

  4. #4
    GuncoHolic twa2471's Avatar
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    1st, this "Beth" should be held accountible for "false reporting"and duely punished by having to pay for cost of this operation.

    2nd The MPD should be held accountible for all damages as well as the intentional disreguard of the laws of this country,,,, period, no frigging excuses. It's the law,,, and it's there job to know that. All these PD's lately, seem to think there above the law and need to be held accountible and heads need to roll in that department as well as others, over things like this, period. NO MORE BS EXCUSES!!!! This has become an all to common occurance in this country and it needs to stop,,, NOW... Just My opinion!! What to hell is going on in this country?????

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    Gunco Addicted for life j427x's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twa2471 View Post
    1st, this "Beth" should be held accountible for "false reporting"and duely punished by having to pay for cost of this operation.

    2nd The MPD should be held accountible for all damages as well as the intentional disreguard of the laws of this country,,,, period, no frigging excuses. It's the law,,, and it's there job to know that. All these PD's lately, seem to think there above the law and need to be held accountible and heads need to roll in that department as well as others, over things like this, period. NO MORE BS EXCUSES!!!! This has become an all to common occurance in this country and it needs to stop,,, NOW... Just My opinion!! What to hell is going on in this country?????

    costs+ any and all material loss, court costs, awards for trauma, and anything else the Sgt can think of, + criminal charges for making a false police report---

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    GuncoHolic twa2471's Avatar
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    You betcha j427x,,, +++++++++++ They need a good lesson on this one.

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