Note: The "Raid of the Day" features accounts of police raids I've found, researched, and reported while writing my forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. It's due out in July, but you can pre-order it here.
Given the amount of force the Kaua'i, Hawaii Police Department meted out to catch him, you'd think David Hibbitts had gone on a spree of orphanage-and-nunnery-burning. Yet when Hawaii Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe finally sentenced him in May 2006, he got all of five years probation, some fines, and community service. His crime? He had mailed 11 pounds of pot to his home in Hawaii while visiting California.
A year earlier, Kaua'i police had intercepted the package and outfitted it with a radio transmitter. They then obtained an "anticipatory search warrant," which authorized them to search whatever house the package was in when it was opened. Hibbitts retrieved the package from the post office. The police followed his Toyota pickup truck down the Kaumuali'i Highway, then into a private neighborhood. But by the time the transmitter indicated that the box had been opened, the police had lost track of the truck. There were seven houses on the street. They had a one in seven chance of getting the right place. So they picked one at random, even though the truck they had been following wasn't parked in any of the driveways.
Inside that house, William and Sharon McCulley were babysitting their grandchildren. According to the McCulleys' subsequent lawsuit, the police entered the home quickly and threw Sharon McCulley and one of the grandchildren to the ground. They screamed profanities at her, put a knee into her back, and pushed a gun to her head, hard enough to leave an imprint of the barrel on her scalp. William McCulley was in the kitchen. Due to a nerve disorder, he used a walker and a leg brace. He also used an implanted device that delivers electrical impulses to help him manage pain. When the police ordered him to the floor, he was apparently too slow to respond, so an officer threw him down with violence. That caused his electrical device to malfunction. He began convulsing -- or as the lawsuit colorfully put it -- "flopping like a fish."
The police had raided the wrong house. When they finally realized as much, they picked another house to raid. Still no box. Finally, on the third try, the police raided the home with Hibbitts, the box of marijuana, and two others inside.
In October 2007, Kaua'i County settled with the McCulleys for $325,000.
Sources: Amanda C. Gregg, "'Wrong house' raid costs county $325K," The Garden Island News, October 24, 2007; Cynthia Kaneshiro, "Probation given in mailed-marijuana case," The Garden Island News, March 4, 2006; Lester Chang, "Violated couple may sue," The Garden Island News, February 9, 2007.