2/11/08 MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO); Few things are more frightening than hearing a noise and thinking someone is inside your house. Late last year, Yee Moua watched a movie at her family's home in North Minneapolis. Her husband, Vang Khang, and six young kids were safe in their beds just across the street from the neighborhood police station.
However, shortly after midnight strange sounds and breaking glass jolted Moua from the TV to the telephone. Fearing violent criminals were breaking in, she dialed 911 and her husband grabbed his shotgun.
WCCO-TV has obtained a copy of a tape of the calls where Moua pleads for the 911 operator to send help.
911 Operator: What's the address?
Moua: Uh, 1321 Logan Avenue
911 Operator: Logan North or South?
911 Operator: What's going on there?
Moua: Um, I don't know. Glass is breaking like ... please, will you hurry up?
Khang fired three shots at what he thought were intruders from his bedroom. They returned fire with more than 20 rounds through a bedroom door, leaving the family's dream home riddled with bullets.
It turns out the strangers breaking in were not violent criminals. They were members of the Minneapolis police SWAT team, raiding the wrong house. They had gone there after officers from the MPD's Violent Offender Task Force had obtained a high-risk search warrant, expecting to find guns connected to the Rolling 60s Crips street gang.
On the 911 tape, you can hear SWAT officers yell "Get on the floor!" and "Where's the gun?"
Moua pleads with them saying, "Will you tell me what happened?"
SWAT officers: Police, police! Stop! Stop! Be quiet!
At first, Moua didn't believe the armed men were really police officers.
On the tape, you can hear Moua ask "Am I sure you are the police?" A 911 operator assured her they were.
Moua : Yeah, I'm just not sure if it is the police or not.
911 Operator: It is the police. They are at your house.
Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger is one of two lawyers hired by the family since the raid.
"The law is very clear. Every homeowner has the right to use deadly force if necessary to protect his home and his family," he said. "But for the grace of God, and about 12 inches, we'd have had a couple of fatalities here."
He, and the family's the attorney Sia Lo, criticize police for acting on a bad tip and mistakenly threatening an innocent family in the middle of the night.
"The police were the ones that were there illegally and they started this problem. Had they never entered the building illegally none of this would have happened," said Heffelfinger.
Home video shows Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan apologizing to the family in person two days after the raid. Dolan hugged one of the children who may have seen her parents in handcuff during the raid in their own home.
Dolan admitted mistakes were made during the investigative end of the police raid which led to the SWAT team being called in to search for guns in the wrong house. That is something Khang and Moua worried about the most, the traumatic effect witnessing this raid would have on their kids.
From the 911 tapes:
Moua: Please check my little babies in the other room.
Officer: They are okay. They are okay.
Moua: I don't want them to see me like this.
Officer: Well, I didn't really want to get shot in the face with a shotgun today either. But I guess we don't get what we want sometimes.
For all the bullets flying in the house last Dec. 16, it is amazing a child or officer wasn't hurt, or killed. Khang did shoot two officers but they were not injured because of their protective gear.
Dolan assured Khang he wouldn't be charged with a crime and that city would repair his house. The chief has also promised a full internal investigation into how an informant's tip led police to the wrong house.
Dolan said he has already made a policy change to tighten up the supervision of future high-risk raids. So far, no word on whether any officers, or supervisors, will be disciplined for the mistaken raid. Dolan said it will depend on the outcome of his internal investigation and what it reveals about who dropped the ball before the raid.
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