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.
On March 26, 1987, more than 25 police officers in Jefferson County, Kentucky (Louisville) help serve warrants on 37 people implicated in a five-month drug investigation. One of the suspects was Billy Ray McCue. When the police attempted to find McCue's current whereabouts, they found an address in the town of Okalona that he had given two years earlier when he renewed his driver's license. Without conducting any additional surveillance or further investigation to confirm that the address was still where McCue resided, Jeffersontown police officers John Rucker and Don Johnson went to the address to apprehend McCue.
The problem: McCue had long since moved out. The house had since been occupied by respiratory therapist Jeffrey Miles, 24, his wife Lucy, and their 8-month old son.Miles was working two jobs at the time to save up for a down payment on a house, so he was sleeping when Rucker and Johnson came to his home at around 6 in the evening in search of McCue. According to the police officers, they knocked and announced themselves, and when no one came to the door, Rucker forced his way inside. Rucker drew his gun, then walked through the house to the back to let his partner in. As the two started to search the place, Miles had woken, and apparently mistook them for armed criminals. According to Rucker, as he made his way from the kitchen to the living room, Miles grabbed his gun, and the two erupted into a struggle, during which Rucker says his gun accidentally discharged. The bullet struck Miles in the throat. He died 45 minutes later.
Miles had no criminal record, no connection to McCue. They later conceded they had simply broken into the wrong house. Four hours after Miles died, police arrested McCue. They found his correct address by looking him up in the Louisville white pages. Rucker later said there was a bright evening sun in his eyes that prevented him from seeing that the man he was fighting with wasn't McCue. The Jeffersontown police chief initially dismissed the shooting as an accident and told Rucker to take a few days off, "just to take it easy." But a month later, a grand jury indicted Rucker for manslaughter. He was suspended with pay pending the outcome of the trial. The following November, a jury acquitted him of the charge.
Asked to respond to what had happened, Lucy Miles said simply, "My husband was in his own home, minding his own business. Someone walked in and shot him."
Sources: "Policeman Indicted in Mistaken Raid Death," Associated Press, April 30, 1987; "Police Search Leads to Fatal Shooting of Wrong Man," Associated Press, March 29, 1987; "Prosecutor Ask That Officer Not Be Reinstated," Associated Press, November 13, 1987; and "Police Shooting Ruled an 'Accident,' Associated Press, April 16, 1987.