Updated: 8:44 p.m. December 10, 2008Gwinnett police break down wrong door
3-month-old baby was in the house
By ANDRIA SIMMONS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Gwinnett County police drug investigators on Wednesday served a “no-knock” search warrant and forced entry into a Lawrenceville house, but soon discovered they were at the wrong address.
In a news release, a Gwinnett police official said it was “a case of human error and not deliberate malfeasance on the part of the investigator.”
The investigators intended to serve the search warrant at a home on Valley Spring Drive in Lawrenceville about 9:15 a.m. One of the investigators mistakenly pointed out another house nearby.
Once the officers forced entry to the house, they briefly detained a male and female resident before determining they were in the wrong place.
The search was immediately halted and no intrusive search was ever executed, said police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman. A supervisor came to the scene to further explain the situation and apologize to the residents.
The department also is paying to repair their front door, Spellman said.
“Everyone apologized extensively to them for the mistake,” the spokeswoman said. “It’s a mistake on our part so we’ll take the full responsibility for that.”
Spellman said she wasn’t sure why confusion arose over the address. The department did not release the name of the investigator at fault.
The front door was patched with a piece of wood Wednesday night, but splinters still littered the front hallway of the home of John Louis, 38, and his girlfriend Heather James, 37.
Louis said he was upstairs working from a home office when police used a battering ram to break through the door. James and their 3-month-old daughter were asleep in separate bedrooms.
“They came in here and put guns to us. The house was full of police,” Louis said. “I’ve never had a gun in my face before. I’ve never even held a gun.”
He said that he and James, who was in a nightgown, were ordered at gunpoint to lie on the floor. When he tried to ask what they wanted, Louis said, he was told to “shut up.”
After the officers roamed through the house for a few minutes, they spotted the baby and realized their mistake, Louis said. He said they apologized and told him they confused his home with that of a neighbor two doors down, a suspected methamphetamine distributor.
Louis said he still has questions for police about how such a mistake happened.
“If you had the house under surveillance for three months, why did you come here?” Louis said. “You broke in here and put all our lives in danger, and all you can say is you’re sorry?”
After the snafu, officers went to the correct house and served the search warrant, which was part of a three-month drug investigation that police said is still ongoing.
Efrain Pedruza, 31, was arrested without incident, and $24,000 in cash was seized. Pedruza is being held on related charges in Gwinnett County Jail.