4 years, 6 months ago
MIDDLETOWN, Del. — Steve Tuppeny was in the garage having a smoke at 6:15 a.m., Thursday his wife and daughter asleep inside, when the Wilmington SWAT officers made their move.
Dressed in black, several officers rushed Tuppeny, ordered him to lie face down on the ground and handcuffed him. Other SWAT officers smashed the storm door in the front of the Tuppenys’ two-story colonial-style home, then used a battering ram to break through the red front door.
Jennifer Tuppeny, an elementary school teacher, said she was asleep upstairs when officers threw open the door to her darkened bedroom and ordered her at gunpoint to get up.
The couple’s 8-year-old daughter was awakened out of a “dead sleep” by “men dressed in black with guns shining flashlights in her face,” Jennifer Tuppeny said.
Police carried out the early morning raid in search of a man whom they called a “person of interest” in a homicide. The man, in a Sept. 19 court appearance, had said he lived at the Tuppenys’ address. Police had a search warrant authorizing them to obtain a DNA sample.
The man was located later Thursday in Smyrna, given a DNA swab and released, said Wilmington police spokesman Officer Mark Ivey. Police did not release his name, and Ivey said late Thursday afternoon that the man is neither a defendant nor a suspect.
“The person of interest had resided at the residence and provided court officials with this address within the last month indicating he currently lived there,” Ivey said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “In compliance with standard operating procedure, officers verified that the person of interest was no longer residing at the home and did not search the residence any further.”
By that time, Steve Tuppeny said, his family had been terrorized.
“I’m lying on the garage floor at gunpoint and they are invading my home terrorizing my family,” said Tuppeny, a line chef and general contractor. “This is America. We’re innocent people here.”
Jennifer Tuppeny said her family has lived in the home for four years. They purchased it from the father of the man who was the target of Thursday morning’s raid.
Analysis & Commentary
Make no mistake about it. Ms. Tuppeny said that she was at “gunpoint” by the officers, and the child had lights pointed at her. These lights weren’t cheap hand carry lights, they were tactical lights, just like I have, and they were attached to picatinny rails on weapons, just like mine are. In other words, they were pointing their weapons at an eight year old child in bed.
As I’ve observed before, “this is yet another example of poor muzzle discipline, and the incident may have included poor trigger discipline. When anyone who doesn’t happen to be a law enforcement officer does something like this, it’s called trespassing, brandishing a firearm, and assault with a deadly weapon (a felony offense that generally includes ”the intentional creation of a reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily harm”). And bodily harm often does result, as with the case of Mr. Eurie Stamps, prone on the floor after his home had been mistakenly invaded, and who was shot dead by an officer who had his finger on the trigger of his weapon and stumbled, firing as a sympathetic muscle reflex.
I’ve also remarked that based on my own friends who are law enforcement officers, one who is a Captain and who has effected hundreds of felony arrests, it just isn’t that difficult to ensure safety. A little OC spray makes the worst offenders very compliant while officers maintain stand-off distance. Furthermore, a little investigative work goes a long way. Stake out a home, effect the arrests in driveways, ensure that it’s the correct address, and so on.
It’s not only the reasonable and sensible thing to do, it’s the moral approach. Invading homes (when as far as the homeowner knows, the invader is posing as a LEO and intends his family harm) is the immoral approach, and pointing weapons at women and children is the behavior of cowards.