Wrong address! - Westmoreland resident livid after police raid his house with incorrect search warrant
Police investigators probing a string of murders in Westmoreland could face a legal challenge after they turned up at a man's premises in Williamsfield with a search warrant with the wrong address and only an alias of the person they were searching for.
Neville George told The Sunday Gleaner that he is moving to take action against the cops who two weeks ago barged into his house, ransacked three rooms and took his 26-year-old son to jail to spend the night while using a flawed search warrant.
According to George, the search warrant had been issued for a premises in Fort William, which is several metres away from his house in Williamsfield.
"I drove into my yard and I was pounced upon by several cops with high-powered guns pointing at me asking me to back out, and I refused," said George as he recounted the incident which took place on January 8, at about 7:00 a.m.
"I said 'I'm not moving, this is my house and nobody is going to stop me from going in'," added George.
He said he was later approached by a senior police officer who told him that they were searching for wanted men, weapons and contraband.
George said he insisted that the police show him a search warrant, and the officer did.
It was then that they realised that the search warrant was issued for premises in Fort William, and not Williamsfield.
"Fort William is two communities away from Williamsfield. It said 'warrant to search home in Fort William,' it didn't speak to a house Williamsfield," said George as he added that he used this address to question the police officer as to why they were in his house.
"They said that they had a warrant for someone name 'Hyper' and that it was my son."
According to George, while the senior officer was calm, other cops threatened him with violence.
Despite recognising the error, George said the police continued their search, ransacked three rooms in his house before hauling his son off to spend a night in jail.
Police later said the young man was detained on suspicion of wounding with intent and various shootings in the area. He was later released without charge.
George said he has since acquired the service of a lawyer to take action against the police and has also reported the incident to the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM).
"It's a good thing I was here. I suspect that if I wasn't here all hell would have broken loose. I just turned up in time," said George
Senior public relations officer at INDECOM Kahmile Reid later told The Sunday Gleaner that the agency has "received information regarding this incident from George.
"He was advised to make a formal report to the Commission, but he has not done so," said Reid.
According to Reid, INDECOM has received 20 illegal search reports since 2010.
Last Wednesday, Deputy Superintendent Andrew Nish, who is the operations officer for the Westmoreland Police Division, admitted that the warrant had the wrong address but was adamant that the police went to the right location.
According to Nish, George's son was among a list of persons wanted by the police for questioning about two murders, including that of a 65-year-old in Welcome two weeks earlier.
"It wasn't the wrong house. His son's name was also on the warrant. You have Williamsfield and Fort Williams, which is basically the same area," said Nish.
"In Westmoreland, every chain you walk the name of the area changes. It is the same road to take you to Fort Williams and Williamsfield, from one to the other, it could be any one.
"One thing though is that he cannot say that any of my officers abused him. If he said that he would be telling an atrocious lie. Everything that I do, I do it within the ambit of the law for the people of Jamaica, nothing else," added Nish.
Assistant Police Commissioner Winchroy Budhoo, who heads the Police Area One, which includes Westmoreland, late last week said he was unaware of the incident, and noted that the police must prepare a warrant before every planned operation.
"But that doesn't say that you can't search a house without a warrant. If a crime was committed and a person ran into your house, the police don't necessarily need a warrant. They can go into your house and search your house. It's spontaneous," said Budhoo.