Hey, there! Log in / Register

Dorchester woman in her 60s who says she was mistakenly detained by cops looking for a 19-year-old man next door sues city

Mayvernie Williams says she stepped out of her home at 15 Chamberlain St. in Dorchester three years ago for a trip to a nail salon - only to find herself held captive in her own car for more than an hour by SWAT cops who kept their guns trained on her even after they realized her address wasn't the one they were supposed to raid.

Williams yesterday sued Boston, Boston Police and 20 unnamed BPD officers for the incident, which she says terrified her so much she soiled herself as she lay, scrunched up across the front seats of her car, on orders of SWAT officers who were after a guy in the adjoining half of the two-family house - 11 Chamberlain St.

In her complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court,, she claims that last year, about four months after she had formally filed a complaint with BPD, another large contingent of cops, many again in SWAT uniforms, surrounded her home and car as some banged on her door and then demanded to know where the guy they'd been after in 2019 was - even though, as she told them, she hadn't seen him since the last time they showed up in force to arrest him and that if they had bothered to look, they would have seen her door was still marked with a large "15," which is not the same as "11."

The complaint says that when Williams walked out of her home on the afternoon of March 20, 2019, she immediately found herself in a maelstrom of heavily armed and armor-wearing cops, and that as soon as she got in her car, they swarmed her and ordered her to hand over the key through the window,

Williams says that even after the officers realized she was not the target of the raid - she's over 60, the man they wanted was 19 - they refused to let her out of her car, supposedly for fear she might somehow interfere with their raid, in which they did ultimately arrest the right guy. She says she began to scream in panic and that cops yelled at her to shut up and eventually ordered her to scrunch down across the front seat.

After it was all finished, a police captain did apologize and offer to call an ambulance; Williams says she responded "just let me go." She says she did make it to the nail salon, but was so distraught, she couldn't stay. That night, the suit continues, she went to Carney Hospital, where she was kept overnight because of a racing heart and "extreme anxiety symptoms."

Williams alleges police failed to familiarize themselves with the layout of the correct address and surrounding area and had no probable cause to suspect she was in any way involved in a crime, let alone to "seize, threaten or terrorize" her.

Today, three years later, the suit continues, she still suffers panic attacks, nightmares and other symptoms related to the incident and that she continues to undergo treatment for PTSD.

She is seeking the $68,000 she says she's already spent on counseling and medical care, plus damages for violations of her civil rights, assault, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress.

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 
Free tagging: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon Complete complaint596.65 KB

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

…. what she has gone through.

up
Voting closed 101

It would be up to a jury to determine a final amount, if they agree with her arguments.

up
Voting closed 36

It's $68k+ whatever the court will award her.

She deserves the money but it won't prevent the same thing from happening again if the money doesn't come out of an officer's pocket.

up
Voting closed 58

Williams walked out of her home on the afternoon of March 20, 2019, she immediately found herself in a maelstrom of heavily armed and armor-wearing cops, and that as soon as she got in her car, they swarmed her

This part doesn't make sense. She walks out the front door, there are a zillion cops there, they let walk to the car and get in the car, and then they go after her?

up
Voting closed 29

From otherwise unemployable government employees?

up
Voting closed 48

Wow. Is that a wallpaper glue brush?

Maybe their CVs reveal that most of them are employable. Maybe they'll be more likely to quit after incidents like this before their zeal for public service has been worn off completely.

"It was for her own safety" I'm sure, but her treatment (as a noncombatant in a military raid aka police arrest operation) was horrendous.

I'm sure even the most unemployable of the bunch could load livestock for transport.
No guns, but electric prods are very effective.

up
Voting closed 14

There is no 15 Chamberlain St.

11 Chamberlain St. is a two family property that should have two units (apt 1 and apt 2). Someone at some point put #15 for the 2nd apartment for 11 Chamberlain. She comes out of the side of the house (apt 2 which is labeled "15") and needs to be held until the kid with the firearm is arrested and the guns secured. That's really all I know about the situation but without looking to see if 11 or 15 are real addresses.

Whether they needed to hold her for an hour in a car is the issue though, not the wrong address. There is specific case law though for detaining "occupants" of places where arrest and/or search warrants are executed.

up
Voting closed 25

Legal address of the parcel is 11-15 Chamberlain St:
https://www.cityofboston.gov/assessing/search/?pid=1700016000

Streetview shows 15 on a side entrance, yes, but very close to the front of the building so it would seem obvious there are two entrances and at least one has a clear number:
http://shorturl.at/uvyN5

But either way, isn't proper procedure to just greet her, ask her if she has anything to do with the person, then let her go when she is clearly not the person and isn't interfering in any way? As you said, no specific caselaw even if she were an occupant, which it seems she isn't.

up
Voting closed 35

but either way if she comes out of 15 the cops need to know that there is a 15. If you search 15 Chamberlin it doesn't come up though, and if you search the street only 11 comes up. You need to click on the details to see that it says 11-15.

But yea, old ladies should be checked and cleared, as her license would have said 11 on it and her car would have been registered there.

up
Voting closed 20

That's the assessing database search function being screwy. I live in a double-numbered building as well, and the same thing happens with mine. Our legal parcel addresses with assessing, ISD, and the registry of deeds are all 22-24 Streetname plus the apartment number. The USPS addresses are 22 #2, 22 #3, and 24 #1. None of us put the apartment number on anything, especially number 24, and everything always gets here.

Entering 24 doesn't pull up our property on the assessing database, but the detail view shows 22-24, just like the Chamberlain address. There are numbers at our doors as well. Someone could easily look at the doors and decide one was "an address that doesn't exist," but I would hope they would be aware that there are tons of double-numbered properties in Boston (and parcels with blocks of apartments or storefronts that are 9-13 Bumfuck Lane or whatever) and wouldn't immediately decide that means anything untoward.

up
Voting closed 25

Apt and condo buildings replace multiple houses so 25 blah blah blah st replaced 23 & 25 blah blah blah when the houses are torn down. Not sure why the lots aren't renamed at that time but the condos I live in are 25, 29, 37, and 39 - al attached and the same size.

up
Voting closed 13

My building was built as a three-family in 1893. Still is. Still addressed the same as on the original permit (filled out in fountain pen) on file at ISD.

up
Voting closed 17

How far does the detain/frisk/search reach? Same household? Same building but different apartment? Entire block? Anyone walking within view?

up
Voting closed 22

But in general on an arrest and a search warrant officers can only detain occupants in the house or apartment named. Not in the same building, apartment, block or car.

Now is someone comes out of the apartment and the cops aren't sure? All depends on the timing. If they show up at 1pm ready to serve a warrant and detain someone leaving at 1:01 pm thats probably good. If they are watching a house for 8 hours and stop someone in hour 5, that isn't going to be legal.

And searching "occupants" is not permitted, but frisking and handcuffing (detaining) is permitted if the warrant concerns dangerous activity:

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2004/03-1423

Occupants may be frisked and handcuffed when the warrant concerns dangerous activity;
Muehler v. Mena, 544 U.S. 93 (2005): Executing a warrant for evidence related to a drivebyshooting, SWAT officers secured the premises and handcuffed a woman named Mena, who was initially asleep, and three others found in the home. Officers held all four in thegarage for three hours while a search that recovered a gun and other evidence took place. The detainees were allowed to walk around but the cuffs stayed on. Mena sued the policebecause she was never charged. The Supreme Court ruled: "In such inherently dangerous situations, the use of handcuffs minimizes the risk of harm to both officers and occupants."Mena's detention for the duration of the search was reasonable because she was an occupant
and police had a warrant. Three hours was not unreasonable for a home search.

They do have this concept of an "all persons present" warrant, which is rare, but in general, if cops have an arrest or search warrant for a violent crime, they are going to have a lot of leeway seizing people and holding them there. Searching them is a different story.

up
Voting closed 16

The odd part is the cops letting her get into her car in the first place. You always read about cops ordering people to get out of the car when they're trying to control a situation. The cops wouldn't wait for her to get in the car first, if they're just going to order to toss her keys out the window like she's high risk.

The only information we're provided is the plaintiff's complaint. That will understandably omit details favorable to the police. But even so I can't imagine how you'd fill in the blanks in a way that would make sense.

up
Voting closed 22

Who gets to choose house numbers?

What about apartment numbers? Can the property owner/landlord just make them up? Can they be changed? Does the city or post office have to agree?

up
Voting closed 11

The parcel has a legal address, on file with Suffolk Registry of Deeds and Boston Tax Assessing. There is then a postal address that is usually the same for most people, which a division of ISD relays to USPS. If you want to change the postal address because you’ve reconfigured to have the entrances on the side street, or something like that, you file it with addressing at ISD and it eventually gets changed with USPS. Your deed/parcel address doesn’t generally change unless the City of Boston renames a street.

up
Voting closed 15

don't you watch movies? they were out of site until she emerged and as she got to her car, they swarmed, meaning she didn't know they were there until she was getting into the car - still in the middle of the maelstrom (otherwise she'd have stayed home). They knew which door she exited from but still detained her. The main point of her suit - they knew right away she wasn't the person they were looking for and didn't live at the address they had and still had her detained with guns trained on her for more than an hour - that's pure torture. She thought for an hour she could die - with 20 guns on her, she'd have been shot dozens of times. I don't even see why you're questioning this - maybe not worded the way you want (by someone else) but the basic facts are there.

up
Voting closed 18

Where was this story three days ago when I could have used it as an argument against my 66-year old dad and his 70-year old neighbor in their decrying of defunding of police?

up
Voting closed 28

Similar to Edward Bronstein in California. Public surveillance protects people from criminals, unless those criminals work for the state.

up
Voting closed 27

Pay the WOMAN

up
Voting closed 16

Police pointing a gun at someone is a threat to kill. If they know the person is innocent, it's a threat of murder.
Police continuing to threaten an innocent person with murder for an hour while she screams and wets her pants in fear? That's just a gang of sadists who get off on the power trip of torturing people because they know they will get away with it.

up
Voting closed 54

In her sixties

Why so vague?

up
Voting closed 14

And I'm sure if I re-read it more slowly I could find out if her age was during the incident or her age today, but I had other things to do and figured it wasn't the most salient detail to go back and find.

up
Voting closed 20

Why, is it a bigger mistake if cops hold a 68-year-old woman hostage when the warrant is for a 19-year-old man vs. if she’s a 63-year-old woman?

up
Voting closed 17

Nothing a few million dollars' worth of PowerPoints and some more surplus military hardware can't correct, right everybody?

Ok. Sarcasm aside, folks can quibble over the details of how databases should record street addresses or whether specific case law supports detaining bystanders, but that misses the forest for the trees. BPD SWAT rolled up 20 strong to this house, guns drawn, and terrified the 60 year old woman who was walking out her own front door, all because they were hunting for a teenager who was suspected to be in possession of an illegal automatic handgun. This is insane.

We do not need to live in a society where gangs of men with automatic weapons routinely break down the doors of overwhelmingly Black and brown people in poorer neighborhoods and terrorize and even kill them. This is why we must literally abolish the police, and use all of that money and effort and equipment to pursue ACTUAL safety and justice.

up
Voting closed 20