Mayor Cheye Calvo got home from work, saw a package addressed to his wife on the front porch and brought it inside, putting it on a table.
Suddenly, police with guns drawn kicked in the door and stormed in, shooting to death the couple's two dogs and seizing the unopened package.
In it were 32 pounds of marijuana. But the drugs evidently didn't belong to the couple.
Police say the couple appeared to be innocent victims of a scheme by two men to smuggle millions of dollars worth of marijuana by having it delivered to about a half-dozen unsuspecting recipients.
The two men under arrest include a FedEx deliveryman; investigators said the deliveryman would drop off a package outside a home, and the other man would come by a short time later and pick it up.
Now, federal authorities say they're looking into how local law enforcement handled the July 29 raid. FBI Agent Rich Wolf said late Thursday that the bureau had opened a civil rights investigation into the case.
Calvo insisted the couple's two black Labradors were gentle creatures and said police apparently killed them "for sport," gunning down one of them as it was running away.
"Our dogs were our children," said the 37-year-old Calvo. "They were the reason we bought this house because it had a big yard for them to run in."
The mayor, who was changing his clothes when police burst in, also complained that he was handcuffed in his boxer shorts for about two hours along with his mother-in-law, and said the officers didn't believe him when he told them he was the mayor. No charges were brought against Calvo or his wife, who came home in the middle of the raid.
Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin High said Wednesday that Calvo and his family were "most likely ... innocent victims," but he would not rule out their involvement, and he defended the way the raid was conducted. He and other officials did not apologize for killing the dogs, saying the officers felt threatened.
Police announced Wednesday they had arrested two men suspected in a plot to smuggle 417 pounds of marijuana, and seized a total of $3.6 million in pot. Investigators said the package that arrived on Calvo's porch had been sent from Los Angeles via FedEx, and they had been tracking it ever since it drew the attention of a drug-sniffing dog in Arizona.
Police intercepted it in Maryland, and an undercover detective posing as a deliveryman took it to the Calvo home.
Calvo's defenders — including the Berwyn Heights police chief, who said his department should have been alerted ahead of time — said police had no right to enter the home without knocking.
But officials insisted they acted within the law, saying the operation was compromised when Calvo's mother-in-law saw officers approaching the house and screamed. That could have given someone time to grab a gun or destroy evidence, authorities said.
Neighbors in Berwyn Heights, which Calvo described as "Mayberry inside the Capital Beltway," have rallied around the couple. On Sunday night, supporters gathered on a ballfield to pay tribute to the family and the dogs. A banner on the wooden fence around Calvo's yard read, "Cheye and Trinity, We support you, Friends and Citizens of Berwyn Heights." Around it were dozens of handwritten messages from supporters.
In addition to being the part-time mayor, Calvo works at a nonprofit foundation that runs boarding schools. His wife is a state finance officer.
Calvo said he was astonished that police have not only failed to apologize, but declined to clear the couple's names.
I don't even know what to say. Apparently, this is the way things are done in America these days. The police can shoot you full of electricity for any reason they choose and can deliver marijuana to your house and then burst in without warning, shoot your dogs down in cold blood and then when it turns out you are an innocent victim, shrug and say what they did was perfectly appropriate. This could happen to any one of us at any time.
And it's not like this was a mistake in chasing down a dangerous killer. It was over marijuana for crying out loud.
This is actually a familiar tale. It reminds me of one of the very first posts I ever did on this blog:
The Smoak family was pulled over the evening of January 1 on Interstate 40 in eastern Tennessee by officers who mistakenly suspected them of a carjacking. An investigation showed James Smoak had simply left his wallet on the roof of his car at a gas station, and motorists who saw his money fly off the car as he drove away called police.
The family was driving through eastern Tennessee on their way home from a New Year trip to Nashville. They told CNN they are in the process of retaining a lawyer and considering legal action against the Cookeville, Tennessee, Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol for what happened to them and their dog.
"What did I do?" James Smoak asks the officers.
"Sir, inside information is that you was involved in some type of robbery in Davidson County," the unidentified officer says.
Smoak and his wife protest incredulously, telling the officers that they are from South Carolina and that their mother and father-in-law are traveling in another car near them.
The Smoaks told CNN that as they knelt, handcuffed, they pleaded with officers to close the doors of their car so their two dogs would not escape, but the officers did not heed them.
Pamela Smoak is seen on the tape looking up at an officer, telling him slowly, "That dog is not mean. He won't hurt you."
Her husband says, "I got a dog in the car. I don't want him to jump out."
The tape then shows the Smoaks' medium-size brown dog romping on the shoulder of the Interstate, its tail wagging. As the family yells, the dog, named Patton, first heads away from the road, then quickly circles back toward the family.
An officer in a blue uniform aims his shotgun at the dog and fires at its head, killing it immediately.
For several moments, all that is audible are shrieks as the family reacts to the shooting. James Smoak even stands up, but officers pull him back down.
"Y'all shot my dog! Y'all shot my dog!" James Smoak cries. "Oh my God! God Almighty!"
"You shot my dog!" screams his wife, distraught and still handcuffed. "Why'd you kill our dog?"
"Jesus, tell me, why did y'all shoot my dog?" James Smoak says.
The officers bring him to the patrol car, and the family calms down, but still they ask the officers for an explanation. One of them says Patton was "going after" the officer.
"No he wasn't, man," James Smoak says. "Y'all didn't have to kill the dog like that."
Brandon told CNN that Patton, was playful and gentle -- "like Scooby-Doo" -- and may have simply gone after the beam of the flashlight as he often did at home, when Brandon and the dog would play.
If it hadn't been for the video nobody would have believed this family. And as sickening as the shooting of the dog is, I have to say that the way this family was treated on the basis of that flimsy, absurd "evidence" is even more shocking, as is the treatment of the family in the first story. Here we have somebody report that they saw some money flying from a car and the first assumption is that these two middle aged people and a teenage boy are car jackers and must be dragged out of the car, shoved to their knees and handcuffed? Don't they train police or require they have any common sense anymore?
The Smoaks sued and won $9,100 in a federal excessive force civil case last spring and 77k in an earlier case against the county. Good for them. Not many people would have spent five years pursuing justice but they did it and good for them. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have deterred police anywhere else.