City police should come clean about groundless raids

September 13, 2000|By Gregory Kane

SIX-YEAR-OLD Antionette Locke is still traumatized, still recovering from the violation of her childhood that occurred during the invasion of her home one week ago today.

At a tender age, Antionette has learned to hate police.

She saw firsthand a state-sanctioned home invasion, you see. Baltimore police burst into her home around 7 a.m., put a gun to the head of her father, Thor Locke, and forced him to his bedroom floor, where they handcuffed him. Antionette's older brother, 13-year-old Donyea Barnes, was subjected to the same treatment in the hallway. Antionette was standing in the doorway of her bedroom, right next to her parents' bedroom, watching everything.

"I feel bad," the sweet-voiced Antionette said yesterday from her home. "They put a gun to my daddy's head."

"She tells me, `I'm still mad at the police for what they did to my daddy and brother,'" said Gailya Locke, Antionette's mom. What they did was humiliate Thor Locke and Donyea Barnes and terrorize the entire household, which also included Gailya Locke's daughters Ulia Robinson, 18, and Sha-Le Wolf, 10. Gailya Locke was at work when the raid occurred.

This was one of several drug raids city police carried out last Wednesday. It would have been nice if they had found some drugs or drug paraphernalia, some illegal guns, some large amounts of money. But they found nothing. They arrested no one. The "evidence" they seized was paltry: Thor Locke's bank statement, Gailya Locke's legally registered handgun, Robinson's address book and some pictures of her taken at a hip-hop concert in June or July.

What was the reason for this home invasion, this invasion of privacy, this traumatizing of a six-year-old?

"We'll tell you in one month," city cops told Gailya Locke and her family. Police had a warrant to search the house in the 2900 block of Allendale Road in Northwest Baltimore. The warrant, signed by Circuit Court Judge John Prevas, said that at the Locke's home "there is being concealed certain property, namely, Personal papers showing proprietary interest, Video and Cassette tapes, Ledgers, Electronic Data Storage Devices and U.S. Currency, which is in violation of the laws of Maryland pertaining to Article 27, Section 276-302 of the Annotated Code of Maryland."

More specifically, the warrant charged occupants of the house had violated sections 286 and 286a of the code, the ones about illegal drugs.

So the state, using gobbledygook and double-speak that even George Orwell couldn't have thought of, says, in a nutshell, "There's illegal drug activity going on at the home of Thor and Gailya Locke." They raid it and find no illegal drugs or paraphernalia. Then they say, as justification, "our investigation is continuing. We'll get back to you in 30 days."

The state's continuing investigation, Gailya Locke figures, falls distinctly into the category of none of her concern. She wants to know why police were in her home. No one in her home has a criminal record, she says.

"I'm a minister," Gailya Locke said. "I'm the assistant pastor of a church [Miracle Deliverance Evangelistic Center]. They're telling me I don't have the right to know why they're in my house?"

That's exactly what the state, in its arrogance, is telling her.

Legally, they're allowed to seal an affidavit for 30 days. Ragina Averella, a spokesman for Baltimore police, said, "We had a valid reason to be there. It's part of an ongoing investigation."

The warrant, Averella said, was legal, as if that somehow makes it right. The skeptics among us remember that slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law were also "legal."

This "drug raid" is justified, some may feel, by the war on drugs. But the war on drugs is failing. What's working is the war on civil liberties, privacy and terrorizing unoffending citizens and children. Police gleefully went before television cameras days before the Allendale Road "raid" and boasted proudly of breaking up a "major" drug ring in East Baltimore. Cops break up "major" drug rings every two months or so. But we don't hear from them when they raid a house and find nothing illegal. When they're questioned, they hide behind the 30-day sealed-affidavit law.

Lawmakers who still believe in privacy - if, indeed, there are any left - could change this. Simply pass a bill that says if cops raid a home for drugs and find nothing, they have to unseal the affidavit that day and tell the occupants of the house exactly why police made the raid. They would have to reveal precisely what probable cause led to it. Police shouldn't be allowed to hide behind the "ongoing investigation" excuse. That's justification for not unsealing the affidavit within 30 days, or 30 months or 30 years, depending on how long the investigation lasts.

"I'm not waiting 30 days," Gailya Locke vowed. "Somebody's telling me something."

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