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Raid(s) Of The Day: Operation D-Day

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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.

In May 2008, as part of a massive effort tellingly codenamed "Operation D-Day," Florida law enforcement and DEA agents raided 150 homes around the state that were suspected of growing marijuana. The impetus for the raids was a new state law that dramatically increased prison sentences for growing pot. Floridians faced up to 30 years in prison for pot plants, even if police had no evidence that the plants were intended for anything other than personal consumption.

One of the raids hit the Opa-Laka home of Noel and Isabel Llorente, Cuban immigrants who say they came to America to escape government oppression and the commando tactics of Cuban police. Noel Llorente, who was just leaving for work, was pulled from his vehicle, thrown to the ground, and handcuffed at gunpoint. The agents then ripped the Llorente's front door from its hinges, and confronted Isabel Llorente. She thought she was being robbed, and was attempting to call the police.

The police had raided the wrong house. The Llorentes said they were given only a curt apology, and the police were on their way. They left no search warrant, and no contact information for the Llorente's to arrange to repair the damage the police did to their home. "When I asked them about the door, they said, 'Sorry," Noel Llorente told a local TV station. "When I asked them about my reputation, they said, 'Sorry.'"

Despite the heavy-handed tactics and the saturation raids, the police found all of 10 guns. Of the 135 people they arrested, only 10 merited felony drug charges.

Sources: "Federal Agents Raid Wrong S. Fla. Home In Search For Drugs," NBC6.net, May 2, 2008; Larry Lebowitz, "Couple alleges DEA raided wrong house," Miami Herald, May 5, 2008; Norm Kent, "The Perils of the Grow House," Counterpunch, January 16, 2009.

Filed by Radley Balko