Mayor searches for answers months after raid on his home
County says investigation review is not complete
Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his mother-in-law were detained, and his dogs were shot and killed during a July raid that sparked concern over the way raids are handled in Prince George's County. Five months later, the mayor says county officials are refusing to provide documents that would help him understand why sheriff's deputies stormed into his house — and would determine his next course of action.
"Rather than defending their actions, they've chosen to hide them," said Calvo, who is considering legal action against the county. "We're left with no other options and that's a little sad."
Acting on a warrant from the Prince George's County police, sheriff's deputies entered Calvo's home shortly after 7 p.m. July 29 after intercepting a package containing 32 pounds of marijuana being delivered to his home. After breaking down Calvo's door, armed deputies shot and killed his two Labrador retrievers, and bound the hands of Calvo and his mother-in-law. The drugs were later found to be intended for a deliveryman who had listed Calvo's wife, Trinity Tomsic, as the recipient. Two suspects have been arrested, and officials publically cleared the couple of any involvement a few weeks later.
In letters obtained by The Gazette, county lawyers rejected the mayor's request to obtain police reports, officer accounts and other significant documents from the raid.
"We will object to any request that deals with matters that are or have been subject to investigation," wrote Mary C. Crawford, deputy county attorney, in an Oct. 21 letter to Calvo.
Police spokesman Maj. Andy Ellis said Monday that the county is still reviewing its role in the execution of the search warrant.
"The preliminary investigation has been completed," Ellis said. "Right now it's in the review phase."
Ellis said the department would likely notify Calvo of the conclusions of its internal investigation but said he wasn't sure if police would turn over incident reports and other documents the mayor has sought.
"It's not something we normally do," Ellis said. "I presume he could request them, and we would consider any request. But as a matter of course, it's not something we usually do."
Calvo's original request for information may be honored when the investigation wraps up, Ellis said.
Ellis declined to name the people ultimately arrested in the drug investigation, who he said were cooperating with other drug cases, or to comment on the search of Calvo's house. He was unable to say how long the review by the department's inspector general and a citizen oversight panel will take.
Crawford's Oct. 21 response came 34 days after Calvo's attorneys filed requests to the county police and sheriff's departments seeking everything from police training manuals to specific e-mails, incident reports and correspondence about the raid.
Calvo, who said he's become increasingly concerned with the tactics officers employ in drug warrants, had also requested copies and reports from other searches the county has done in addition to his own.
Though the county agreed to give copies of the training orders and policy manuals allowed under the Maryland Public Information Act, they denied more specific information about the July 29 raid and any other raids. County attorneys also said they would charge Calvo more than $1,000 to copy the allowed records, which include police training manuals and department policy statements on how to execute search warrants.
"It will be time consuming," Crawford wrote. "Please let me know if you want to spend the money to identify the material."
The Maryland Public Information Act allows anyone to request copies of existing records, though exceptions are made for personnel records, privileged communication with lawyers and material that is part of an ongoing investigation.
Crawford also said budget problems would hamper the county's ability to turn over the allowed information in a timely manner.
"My client has serious financial issues and employees are subject to furloughs," wrote Crawford, who did not return a call for comment from The Gazette. "Therefore, response times will be greater than in the past. I hope you will be understanding of our staffing shortages."
Calvo said he was disappointed by the county's response.
"I've reached the point where I'm no longer surprised by what they do," he said. "But it doesn't mean it's not wrong."
The investigation into the package of marijuana was handled by the county police, who obtained the warrant for Calvo's home the day of the raid. Because police teams were being deployed elsewhere, the warrant was executed by deputies with the county sheriff's department, police said.
Calvo said he still has questions about the raid, on everything from why police didn't knock before entering to claims that they were under attack from his two dogs. Police have refused to turn over photos of the animals taken at the scene, though he said a private autopsy he commissioned shows they were running away from the deputies when shot.
"There has to be information out there. There had to be incident reports," he said. "We want to know what the stories were. What they are now."
Calvo vividly describes how he had to scrub the pools of his pets' blood off the floor after law enforcement left and points to a small mark on his kitchen door where he says a bullet ricocheted. He's pretty sure that a bullet is lodged somewhere in the radiator, having missed his mother-in-law as it zipped through the narrow kitchen.
He said he wonders why the government hasn't taken a more active role in questioning police tactics.
"The way that you learn is to get things out in the open," Calvo said. "I think the County Council has an obligation to ask if this is standard operating procedure. Is this what they do?"
Council spokeswoman Karen Campbell said Tuesday that the council had no comment.
E-mail Daniel Valentine at email@example.com.