Sunday, August 07, 2005

Massive screw-up by SWAT team in Florida

I am so outraged by this that I'm going to copy pretty much the whole thing.

Sunrise, FL:
The SWAT team assembled outside Anthony Diotaiuto's home in Sunrise Golf Village early Friday morning, expecting to find drugs and guns, authorities said.

Inside, Diotaiuto had been home for only a few hours after his night shift at one of the two jobs he kept to help pay for the home where he lived with his mother. He had a valid concealed weapons permit and kept a shotgun and a handgun for safety, friends said.

It was about 6:15 when the SWAT team smashed in Diotaiuto's door and shot him dead.

Officers were right to expect him to be armed, said Lt. Robert Voss, spokesman for the Sunrise Police Department.

'He had a gun and pointed it at our officers,' Voss said Friday morning. 'Our SWAT team fired.'

Later Friday afternoon, he didn't sound as certain about whether Diotaiuto, 23, aimed his weapon.

'In all likelihood, that's what happened,' Voss said. 'I know there was a weapon found next to the body.' He also said he did not know if detectives found any drugs or whether Diotaiuto fired any shots.

The shooting outraged and confused Diotaiuto's friends, who said he had no criminal record, was not violent and didn't sell drugs.

Diotaiuto was the third person killed in police-involved shootings in the past three days in South Florida. Earlier Friday, a federal drug agent in West Palm Beach shot and killed a man in an unrelated investigation. And on Tuesday, a Miami police officer killed a drug and alcohol recovery patient after the man pointed a gun at an officer, officials said.

Many of Diotaiuto's friends protested his death Friday afternoon outside his home. His mother, Marlene, collapsed when she heard of her son's death and was too upset to speak, friends said.

'They killed an innocent person,' said Charlie Steeves, who said he was Diotaiuto's best friend. 'He didn't sell drugs. He worked two jobs to buy that house.'

Voss said information about drugs at Diotaiuto's home led to the search warrant. The search warrant was not available Friday and Voss did not know what drugs were suspected or what information the warrant contained.

The concealed weapons permit, was a 'major factor' in the department's decision to involve the SWAT team, Voss said.

'The potential for violence was there,'
Voss said. SWAT officers must knock first and announce their presence, Voss said. If no one answers, the door comes down. 'Unfortunately, this is one of those that's gone bad,' he said.

Diotaiuto worked as a bartender at the Carolina Ale House in Weston and as a DJ on weekends. Steeves said Diotaiuto got the concealed weapons permit because he didn't feel safe coming home from work at 3 a.m. He thinks Diotaiuto panicked when he heard someone break in.

'What would you do if your door was knocked down and you were asleep?' Steeves asked.

Steeves buried his head in his stepfather's shoulder, overcome by grief as friends continued to gather on Friday afternoon.

'I know, I know,' comforted the stepfather, Nils Zetterlund. 'I would jump in front of a bus for this kid.'
So. A poor guy working two jobs to provide his family with a decent home, a poor guy who goes to all the trouble to jump through the hoops to get a concealed weapons permit is murdered because they know he has a permit and is likely armed. I doubt he had anything to do with drugs. That kind of slime doesn't usually go to the trouble of holding down two legitimate jobs--it would get in the way of their drug-dealing. If I were a member of his family, I would do all in my power to make the lives of everyone involved--from the one who pulled the trigger and all the way up the chain of command--a legal hell from which there would be no relief, until they were all reduced to driving the golf cart in a Walmart parking lot.

UPDATE: Turns out this man had a previous record of drug possession. I still think he was killed for doing the right thing. Armed intruders broke his door down early in the morning, only a few hours after he'd returned home from his night job and he responded the only way he could--with his own arm. He probably had only just gone to sleep and didn't even know what was going on. His previous record of drug possession was one arrest for marijuana seven years ago, when he was 16 years old. Big freakin' deal. (Just a note: in Texas this would have prevented him from ever getting a CHL). I'm sure this one instance of marijuana possession by a 16-year-old kid will be used to paint him as a fiendish 23-year-old pusher.

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