Court Allows Suits To Proceed Against Connecticut SWAT Team Accused of Excessive Force

In 2008, a botched SWAT team raid in Connecticut led to two innocent men being shot – one fatally. Today, lawsuits against the police departments can go through, a federal judge has ruled, because the departments used “excessive force” and thus cannot claim “qualified immunity,” Huffington Post is reporting.

The events of May 18, 2008, played out as follows: Ronald Terebesi and his friend, Gonzalo Guizan of Norwalk, were watching TV at Terebesi’s home in Easton. A 21-member SWAT team, consisting of members from the Easton, Monroe, Trumbull, Darien and Wilton police departments, acting on a tip from a stripper that she had seen a “small amount” of cocaine at the home, burst through the door, throwing flash-bang grenades. In the commotion that ensued, Terebesi was shot six times – by Monroe police officer Michael Sweeney, but survived; Guizan died in the shooting. Only a small amount of drugs was found.

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Terebesi filed suit, claiming that the police used excessive force in executing the warrant. He claims that he was hit on the head with a gun, and suffers from PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – as a result of the botched raid, and that his civil rights were violated.

Terebesi’s lawyer, former FBI agent Gary Mastronardi, told The Connecticut Post:

“It was the most blatant overuse of police power I’ve ever seen.”

The towns have collectively claimed that no excessive force was used, and that the raid was justified. In 2009, the Attorney General of Connecticut exonerated Sweeney, and all of the officers involved in the shooting, of culpability in Guizan’s death. In 2012, the lawyer who represents both Sweeney and the towns, tried to block Terebesi’s lawsuit. In 2013, Guizan’s family settled for $3.5 million. This week’s ruling means that Terebesi’s suit can go forward.

“We have overcome all their attempts to throw the case out; now it’s time for the police to face the music and for a jury to decide whether Terebesi is entitled to money damages.”

The case bears similarities to an incident that took place outside of Atlanta earlier this year. In May, an Atlanta-area SWAT team, responding to a tip that a $50 meth deal had taken place at a home, threw flash-bang grenades into a baby’s crib, severely injuring toddler Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanhs. “Baby Bou” was in a coma for days after the incident, but survived (see this Inquisitr article). As of this post, Habersham County is refusing to pay the child’s medical bills, taking the stance that the police are the victims in this case.

Do you think that police officers should be immune from liability for their actions when carrying out SWAT raids? Let us know in the Comments.

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