Members of a Brooklyn family say officers from the New York Police Department burst into their home looking for heroin, but ended up leaving with the cremated remains of a family member instead — and are now refusing to give it back.
The incident happened last year in the Bushwick neighborhood and has now led to a lawsuit from members of the Santiago family. As the New York Post reported, 65-year-old Lucia Santiago said she was sleeping when she awoke to seeing officers yelling at her to get up.
“When I opened my eyes I saw… six or seven police [officers] in my room,” Santiago said. “They told me, ‘Get out of the bed!'”
As the report noted, police put handcuffs on the elderly woman as well as her son and grandson and demanded to know where they were hiding guns and drugs. Family members say there were no drugs in the house, but police seized memorial urns with the cremated remains of Lucia’s husband, who died in 2016.
The officers thought that the ashes, which were sealed in an airtight capsule inside the urn, were actually heroin and seized it as evidence despite Lucia Santiago’s pleas for them not to take it. The police insisted that the substance inside the urn was drugs, even as she told them it was the ashes of her late husband, the family’s lawsuit claims.
Lucia Santiago was charged with possession of a controlled substance and ammunition; family members said the officers found a few old bullets that were kept in the home.
All of the charges were later dropped, but the NYPD refused to return the deceased man’s ashes to the family. Members of the family fear that the ashes were trashed.
The NYPD has been involved in a number of other lawsuits that have gained national attention, including a recent judgment for a surgeon who hit an NYPD officer with her car and later filed an excessive force complaint. As Fox News reported, Dr. Rachel Wellner said that police mishandled her arrest after she clipped an officer with her car, and a jury agreed, giving her a $1.2 million verdict.
The prominent breast cancer surgeon took some heat for the lawsuit, the report noted, but said that she was not the one in the wrong.
“I’m the hero,” the 43-year-old surgeon said, “the cops are not.”
It was not clear what the Santiago family were seeking in the lawsuit claiming the NYPD took the ashes of their loved one.