Scotland Community members form action group after raids
Residents say police improperly conducted six home raids in relation to gang investigation
Residents of the Scotland Community in Potomac have formed a community action group and involved the ACLU and NAACP after six neighbors claimed that police inappropriately raided their homes in gang-related SWAT raids last month.
Montgomery County Police have launched an internal review of claims after a local news channel broadcast a story about the raids, according to a spokeswoman for the department.
According to police, officers simultaneously executed six search warrants in Cabin John, Potomac and Germantown Sept. 24 in relation to a burglary in the Scotland neighborhood Aug. 29 in which weapons were used. Members of the 54 Mob, a gang affiliated with the Bloods, were reported to be involved.
The raids included SWAT units, police said, and some of them were "no-knock" – meaning that police were authorized to enter the home without notice.
The search warrants resulted in six arrests, according to police — Aaron Wilson, 18, of the 7700 block Scotland Drive in Potomac; Chase Freeman, 18, of the 7700 block of Scotland Drive; Randy Polite, 19, of the 7700 block of Scotland Drive; Bryant Stott, 20, of the 11500 block of Scottsbury Terrace, Germantown; Detric "Buzz" Thompson, 27, of the unit block Carver Road, Cabin John; and a juvenile, 16, of the 7700 block Scotland Drive.
According to charging documents, the items stolen included two Marc Jacobs leather jackets valued at $1,200 and $800, a Chopard platinum watch with diamonds valued at $8,000, and a Dior purse valued at $1,800.
Police have not released the name of the minor. According to police, the six were charged with first-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary, and theft over $500. All of the adults except for Polite were released on unsecured personal bond, according to officials at the Montgomery County Detention Center. Polite remains incarcerated on $1,000 bond in relation to the burglary charges and $100 bond on unrelated trespassing charges.
According to Lucille Baur, a spokeswoman for the county police, all those arrested were found to be affiliated with the 54 Mob.
Another arrest warrant was issued for Mohammed Soumah, 22, of the 7800 block of Scotland Drive, though he was not home at the time of the raid, according to Baur. Soumah was arrested on an unrelated trespassing charge Oct. 7 in Baltimore, and police there discovered he was wanted in Montgomery County, according to Lt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman.
At a Thursday meeting, residents whose homes were raided said they were confronted shortly after 5 a.m. with guns, threatened and handcuffed. "The police grabbed me out of the bed and threw me on the floor with guns in my face," said Scotland resident Sarie Dunbar, the aunt of Randolph Polite. Dunbar said officers destroyed some of her property, including slamming a door into a wall so the doorknob would leave a hole. Others echoed the claim that police had unnecessarily destroyed property and used curse words during the raid.
Tyrone Stott, the father of Bryant Stott, said his wife was pulled out of a bathtub, put on the floor and handcuffed.
Leo Thompson, the father of Detric Thompson, claimed that the police used curse words and threatened to shoot him.
"They said to lie down on the ground before they splattered my brains all over the place," he said.
Thompson told The Gazette that an officer said he wanted access to a shed on Thompson's property, and when Thompson offered him a key, the officer replied that he "had a key" and proceeded to break down the door.
Thursday, many raised concerns that there was little evidence to link the young men to the Aug. 29. burglary. Polite, Dunbar said, was in Ohio Aug. 29.
"My son has never been arrested, has never had a confrontation with police," Tyrone Stott said. "It doesn't add up."
All agreed that they felt Scotland was being targeted and labeled as a gang community, though they said there was no gang activity there.
The residents have formed a group known as the Scotland Community Action Team, or SCAT. The group has involved the Montgomery County chapter of the NAACP and local and national chapters of the ACLU.
Baur could not comment on specific claims of improper behavior during the raids because the incident is still under investigation, she said. "Some of the allegations he made were absolutely not true, but we are following up on all the allegations," she said referring to Thompson.
Usually, Baur said, internal police investigations are launched after a formal complaint has been filed through the Internal Affairs division, though no complaint was filed in this case. She said the concerned community members were instructed to get in touch with their district commanders or to file a complaint with the Internal Affairs Division.
"At this point, no one from the community, including Mr. Thompson, has made a formal complaint to our Internal Affairs division, so we are being proactive in addressing his concerns," Baur said.
Mike Mage, of the Montgomery County ACLU, said he hoped the police would conduct a thorough investigation into both the nature of the raids and the reason for conducting them. "We hope that when a group of heavily armed men break into your house and wake you up, they better have a damn good reason for doing it," Mage said. Lawyers from the ACLU's national office have been called in, Mage said, to help the community members evaluate their options.
Starks said the during SWAT raids, it is standard operating procedure for officers to use guns and handcuffs. "When they do a raid, their guns are out, and until they determine who is who, most people do get handcuffed in these kinds of raids," Starks said.
Starks said that hundreds of search warrants are executed using SWAT teams yearly, and it is rare for a formal complaint to be filed. "It's pretty serious when you say a police officer overstepped their legal rights and was brutal or used excessive force," Starks said.
All search warrants, he said, must be signed off on by a judge, indicating that there is significant reason that it should be carried out. "It is a very serious and significant step in an investigation because a judge is allowing someone to come into somebody's home," Starks said. "…To get to that level, it would have to be a pretty serious event."