Updated 12:40 p.m.
A man and his wife are suing the Metropolitan Police Department for $1 million in damages for allegedly barging into and searching the wrong apartment during a drug investigation last year in Southeast Washington.
The suit, filed in Washington's federal trial court this week, alleges civil and constitutional violations. The police did not take anything from the home of Danny Costello and his wife, Gai Nguyen, according to court records.
“The police officers had a duty, before attempting to execute their search warrant, to make sure that they were executing the warrant only for the apartment the warrant authorized entry,” the couples’ attorney, Wendell Robinson, said in the complaint [.pdf]. “But the police officers negligently, intentionally, willfully, wantonly, and maliciously, forcibly entered the plaintiffs’ apartment without sufficient evidence that it was apartment #305."
A Metro police spokeswoman, Gwendolyn Crump, declined to comment on the suit. Acting D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment this afternoon.
The authorities were searching for, among other things, drug money, scales, bank records, tally sheets, packaging and boxes. The search warrant identified the target apartment as having a green door with a black iron gate. “There are no numbers on the door but it is directly across from apartment #304,” according to the warrant.
Robinson, a solo practitioner in Washington, acknowledged in the suit that his client’s apartment did not have a number on the door. Robinson was not immediately reached for comment this morning.
The suit said about 10 police officers burst into the apartment on April 9, forcibly entering with firearms drawn, to execute a search warrant. Costello was handcuffed.
“Let’s save time,” an officer told Costello, according to the suit. “Where is the stuff?”
“What is the stuff?” Costello allegedly responded.
“Drugs,” the office said, according to Costello’s lawyer.
Costello said the drugs were in a drawer.
“Not the prescription drugs,” the officer replied after looking in the drawer.
The police, Costello’s lawyer said, continued searching the apartment for more than an hour and did not find anything listed on the search warrant. Nothing was seized, court records show.
“Maybe we got the wrong door,” an officer said, according to the complaint.