Cops Botch Arrest By Raiding Wrong House; City Settles Suit

Posted: April 30, 1996

The city yesterday agreed to pay $75,000 to settle civil-rights abuse claims filed by a North Philadelphia family whose home was mistakenly searched by police 18 months ago due to a clerical error.

``That'll teach them to go to the wrong house,'' said A. Charles Peruto Sr., the lawyer who prosecuted the suit on behalf of Dwayne and Janice Fullard and their 6-year-old son, Idris.

Peruto said the police did everything by the book during the raid on the Fullards' home. However . . .

Peruto said the Fullards had suffered lasting emotional and psychological injuries, as well as pain and suffering, lost earnings and costs of medical care and treatment.

With better training, Peruto contends, the detectives involved would have realized they lacked ``probable cause'' to apply for a search warrant, since there was no evidence the man they were looking for had been in the house shortly before the raid.

And instead of just relying on a court computer printout for the suspect's address, a more thorough search of their own police records before the raid would have shown that the man they were looking for lived next door and not in the house they raided, Peruto said.

According to court records, the raid on the Fullards' home, on Uber Street near Brown, took place shortly before 7 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 1994, as Dwayne Fullard, a design engineer, was getting ready to go to work.

The cops were looking for one of two armed men who had robbed bartenders and patrons at a bar two weeks earlier, threatening to kill everyone in the place.

A bartender had identified one suspect from a police mug shot.

The suspect had prior convictions for robbery, burglary and drug offenses, and was considered armed and dangerous, so a SWAT team was asked to participate in the raid.

Based on this information, detectives obtained a search warrant, unaware they were directing their SWAT team to the wrong house.

When Fullard opened the front door to the SWAT team, he was shoved inside and ordered to the floor while officers ran through the house.

Fullard's wife, wearing only a T-shirt, and son, who was 4 at the time, were ordered downstairs and told to sit on a sofa in the room where Dwayne Fullard was lying face down on the floor with armed strangers standing around him.

After about 15 minutes, the cops showed the Fullards a photo of the man they were hoping to find.

The suspect was the Fullards' next-door neighbor.

The officers and detectives apologized and left.

Three days later, the man was seen outside the house next door and arrested quietly with no recourse to a SWAT team.

In a ruling earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Donald W. VanArtsdalen referred to the botched raid as an ``unfortunate saga.''

The judge found that the officers never ``set out to do anything other than properly execute a valid arrest warrant.''

The officers, the judge added, ``conducted the raid without physically harming anyone, promptly terminating the raid upon learning that they were in the wrong house, and sincerely apologized to all involved.''

As a result, the judge said the individual officers and detectives involved in the raid were immune from any liability.

Only the city remained as a defendant.

The trial was to have begun yesterday.

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