Deadly No-Knock Raid Sparks FBI Probe

  Deadly No-Knock Raid Sparks FBI Probe

Posted by FoM on December 16, 1999 at 13:53:53 PT
By Bruce Finley, Denver Post Int. Affairs Writer 
Source: Denver Post 

The FBI launched an investigation Wednesday into the death of a Mexican migrant shot repeatedly by Denver police in a no-knock raid. FBI agents will focus on possible criminal civilrights violations, said Christine DiBartolo, U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington.
Police Chief Tom Sanchez responded: "We're open to scrutiny."U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland formally requested an investigation Wednesday afternoon after conferring with Justice Department officials in Washington. Such requests require federal officials to follow up with a probe.Also Wednesday, Mexico's consul general, Carlos Barros, denounced the killing of 45year-old Ismael Mena, a father of nine, and the subsequent response of Denver police. Barros accused them of stonewalling grieving relatives and Mexican officials."There is a proper restitution that should be given to this family - not only economic restitution but moral restitution," Barros said.A fuller story is emerging about Mena, whose home was identified by Denver police as a suspected crack house in a Sept. 23 warrant secured by Officer Joe Bini.The man killed in a hail of gunfire on Sept. 29 was a skilled horseman from a small ranch who "was living for his family," his eldest son, Heriberto Mena, 21, a waiter in Los Angeles, said Wednesday in Denver.He said his father worked for most of his life around the western United States - field work, meatpacking, cleaning vehicles - to support his wife, five daughters and four sons.He sent money home to the family's small ranch, located north of San Julian in the state of Jalisco. He tried to visit every year and stayed as long as he could afford to. "His dream was to work with horses" and stay in Mexico - yet that wasn't economically possible."I believe that what has occured is an injustice, and I want to have this cleared up,'' said Heriberto Mena. Not only did his father deplore drugs, he knew little about guns, he said.Sanchez said Wednesday that "there's physical evidence'' Mena fired a gun "more than once" at SWAT officers when they stormed his apartment at 3738 High St. yelling "Policia!"'' Two officers fired their guns.Mena died crouched on the bedroom floor where he'd been sleeping. He worked the night shift at the Coca-Cola plant. Police found no crack and made no arrests.Mexican authorities said Mena was a legal resident. This was his first year in Colorado. In January, he'd driven to Denver from Idaho because he had relatives in the Fort Lupton area."He stayed with us for six months,'' said Carmen Mecillas, Mena's aunt. "He said he was coming to Denver to get a better job.''At first, he cleaned apartments for $5 an hour. He went to church, didn't smoke, refused beers when offered, Mecillas said. Then he moved to the apartment in Denver, a few doors away from an apartment where where police later found some crack.Heriberto's last contact with his father was a phone conversation. "He was asking about the family,'' he said.Mena's wife, Maria del Carmen, is unsure how to make ends meet without her husband. The burden now falls on Heriberto and his brother Jose in Los Angeles, where they earn $7 an hour, pay $300 a month for rent and figure they can raise $300 a month for the family.Denver Mayor Wellington Webb declined to comment on the FBI investigation.Sanchez said there are legitimate concerns about whether information in the affidavit was correct. "If somebody dropped the ball on this one, it's important that we find out," he said.District Attorney Bill Ritter passed supervision of a local investigation to Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas, saying his office could be accused of a conflict of interest."Our office is involved as the prosecutor's office working with the FBI, reviewing the fruits of their investigation,'' said Strickland, the U.S. attorney.The FBI probe is separate from any state or local investigation, DiBartolo said.Mexican government officials requested federal intervention using diplomatic channels in Washington, Barros said.Most troubling were the changing stories he received from police, he said. Also, police refused to share information with Mexican officials, which he called a violation of international law.Attorney Roberto Maes is working the case for the family.He's focusing on the use of noknock warrants. Denver police obtain more than 200 a year.In the wake of Mena's death, Sanchez has required supervisors to approve all warrants.Yet "the family intends to assert its claims,'' Maes said. In this case of a Mexican migrant, he said, Denver's police process proved "deliberately indifferent to the value of human life.''Published: December 16, 1999Copyright 1999 The Denver PostRelated Article:No Knock Numbers Going Up

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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on December 16, 1999 at 16:02:22 PT

Trust the FBI? After Waco?

This is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. The FBI has the blood of innocent children on its' hands. It is hardly in any position to be 'objective' about a murder investigation.
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