A suburban Chicago family has filed a federal lawsuit against the Village of Bellwood following an early morning police raid that occurred as the result of a prank emergency call.
Geroge Soto, who is running for village trustee, said his back was fractured after a police officer handcuffed him, threw him to the ground and forced a knee into his back.
“I’m still getting flashbacks of what happened, how they treated my wife, my grandchildren, like we were criminals, like we were animals,” Soto said. "Shame on them. Shame on them."
Soto’s home security cameras recorded officers from a west suburban task force approaching his house with guns drawn at around 1:30 a.m. on March 17.
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"It was a prank call that turned into a bad swatting incident which turned into an unconstitutional search and seizure," said attorney Andrew M. Stroth, who is representing the Soto family.
Swatting occurs when someone calls in an emergency with the intent of getting a police SWAT team to respond.
The security video also shows police searching the home and taking away Soto’s 15-year-old grandson.
"He was gone for 20 minutes,” said Margarita Soto. "He was interrogated by the officers in the car without an adult."
The Sotos are demanding police turn over footage from their body cameras. The federal lawsuit alleges the family has suffered physically, emotionally and monetarily.
The Bellwood Police Department released a statement that said its dispatch center received a 911 call regarding a man in possession of a high-powered rifle and a person shot. The department said Bellwood police officers, along with officers from surrounding departments, were dispatched to the address.
“Pursuant to the department’s standard operating procedure, and given the seriousness of the allegations, police personnel were required to search the house to ensure that there was no imminent threat to the community or occupants,” said the Bellwood Police Department.
According to the Bellwood Police Department, a person emerged from the house, but failed to adhere to police commands and retreated inside. The department said the officers exercised their duty and obligation to enter and secure the home, as well as conduct a search for any injured people or those under the threat of danger.
Bellwood Police subsequently determined that the 911 call was a prank call. They said the incident was unfortunate, but the responding officers had no real-time information that would provide them with an alternative course of action and the officers acted appropriately under the circumstances.
The department said an investigation is ongoing to attempt to identify the person who made the prank 911 call.