The entire Hallandale Beach SWAT detail resigned this week, citing “today’s political climate” and “several recent local events,” though one of the events was tied to a scenario that occurred six years ago when the SWAT team conducted a drug raid and killed an unarmed man inside his home.
The team offered its collective resignation in a letter dated Tuesday, June 9, but city officials said they did not receive it until Friday morning. City Manager Greg Chavarria assured the public that the team’s duties will be covered through a regional mutual agreement.
The officers resigned from the SWAT team, but did not resign from the police department, Chavarria said.
“The risk of carrying out our duties is no longer acceptable to us and our families,” read the letter, signed by 10 SWAT members.
Later, the officers wrote, “the team is minimally equipped, undertrained and often times restrained by the politicization of our tactics to the extent of placing the safety of dogs over the safety of team members.”
The specific complaint about the safety of dogs seems to refer to an incident from 2014, when a SWAT team of 15 officers showed up to a Hallandale Beach man’s home about 6 a.m., shot and killed his chained pit bull, broke down his duplex door, deployed a stun-grenade and fired a single shot into his chest as he stood in his kitchen in his underwear.
The man, Howard Bowe, 34, died in the hospital 11 days after the May 8, 2014 raid on his home. The officers were serving a search warrant as part of a narcotics investigation, but instead killed Bowe, a father of three, and his 13-year-old dog named Tank.
In the aftermath of the shooting, police confiscated about 18.5 grams of crack cocaine from Bowe’s home, according to a police report.
Bowe’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the city and four police officers involved in the shooting — including Officer Christopher Allen, whose name is included in the resignation letter from Tuesday. The family’s complaint alleged that the officers’ “military-style raid committed a series of errors resulting in unnecessary confusion and chaos among the officers,” and also accused them of unjustly roughing up, handcuffing and detaining Bowe’s 16-year-old son.
Two officers dragged Bowe’s 16-year-old son, Howard Bowe III, from his bed and handcuffed him before carrying him over his father’s body and outside, the complaint said. It also questioned why the officers used deadly force on a family pet that didn’t have a history of violence, and called the decision a compromise to the safety of the raid.
“A search warrant should not be a death warrant for innocent dogs,” according to the complaint.
A Broward County grand jury determined that Bowe’s homicide “was the result of the justifiable use of deadly force.” His family won a $425,000 settlement in the case in 2018.
Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana was a 20-year-old Hallandale Beach resident at the time. She spoke out against Bowe’s slaying to the city commission when they approved the settlement, and protested against it on Monday.
Her actions angered Hallandale Beach’s SWAT team.
The resignation letter describes their frustrations with the city’s government, particularly Javellana, who they accuse of openly making “ignorant and inaccurate statements attacking the lawful actions of the city’s officers and SWAT team, both from the dais and her social media accounts.”
The SWAT members wrote in the letter that they were upset Javellana protested against them and had command staff officers take a knee with her. Javellana and demonstrators chanted “Howard Bowe, re-open the case, State Attorney, re-open the case,” the letter said.
“She has shown that she takes pleasure in besmirching the hard work and dedication of the members of this professional agency, having the gall to compare us to the Minneapolis Police Department,” they wrote in the letter.
Javellana said she was shocked to learn about the letter while she was grocery shopping on Friday night. But she said she doesn’t regret attending the protest, which she said was organized by members of the community she knows and trusts.
“I have been vocal about the wrongful death of Howard Bowe since even before I was in elected office,” she said Friday night. “We have our own George Floyds and Breonna Taylors in our own city that we must address before we can heal and reform.”
Javellana said she met Bowe’s sister at the protest, where they hugged and cried together. “I couldn’t imagine the pain I would feel losing my own brother. But my brother is white passing and wouldn’t be targeted like Howard was.
Javellana explained what she said was the police department’s history of SWAT raids from 2006-2014 in northwest Hallandale Beach, which she said is historically black.
“Point is that Howard Bowe’s life mattered and he should be here living peacefully today with his son and his dog,” she said.
In a statement, City Manager Chavarria said: “The officers who submitted their resignation from their SWAT assignment include the newly elected president of the IUPA Police Union. They specifically mention their displeasure with the Chief joining members of our community in taking a knee against racism, hatred, and intolerance earlier this week. They have incorrectly stated the gesture was in support of an elected official. This is simply not true.”
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