Case of mistaken identity costs man his property

January 10, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

Frank Gray wants the police department to do something about his ransacked Glen Burnie storage locker, his destroyed possessions.

Instead, he says, department officials have refused to pay for damages caused by officers who mistakenly raided his cubicle at Storage Express in a drug sweep last October that resulted in the county's largest marijuana seizure.

"They were all pumped up and jumped up. Their adrenalin was pumping," Mr. Gray said. "I know how that is. It's just like how it was when I was in 'Nam."

The Brooklyn Park mechanic wants $2,000. He says he has talked with police officials, the county executive's office and the state's attorney's office, but no one is willing to reimburse him for the damages.

Mr. Gray, 44, says officers on the Oct. 29 raid ripped the stuffing out of a chair and pried open two expensive tool boxes as they looked for drugs.

"I'm not criticizing the police for doing their job," he says. "But their job is to search and seize, not search and destroy."

The case of mistaken identity hinged on a bookkeeping error by the storage company. A rental payment receipt given to Phillip Dulaney -- who was later indicted under the state's drug kingpin law -- was found by narcotics officers when they searched his home. The receipt was stamped with Mr. Gray's locker number, leading police to target that locker for a thorough search.

The four-county drug raid netted 800 pounds of marijuana and $320,000, but none of it from Mr. Gray's storage bin.

Mr. Gray got a letter from Storage Express acknowledging its mistake, but the company claimed no responsibility for the damages.

Robert Pollokoff, vice president of the management company that oversees Storage Express, says he has not received a reimbursement request from Mr. Gray.

"If he were to send us some kind of information and if we were confident that we were not being taken advantage of, we may be able to do something for him," he said.

Narcotics Lt. Harry Collier said his officers broke into the storage locker based on good-faith information that turned out to be incorrect.

"When things are locked, in situations like that, we have to get in," Lieutenant Collier said.

Sgt. Mike Wilson, the leader of the raid, wrote a letter explaining the incident to the department's legal adviser, who will forward his recommendation to the county's Department of Risk Management.

"We suggested that he first try to collect the money from the management at the storage facility," Sergeant Wilson said. "If that does not work, then he should try to seek reimbursement from Risk Management."

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