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Sheriff's Police Apologize for Raiding Elderly Couples' Home

Chicago Tribune via Yellowbrix

October 11, 2010

CHICAGO – The Cook County sheriff’s police apologized Friday to an elderly couple hours after some two dozen gun-toting officers burst into their Southwest Side home late at night in a mistaken search for drugs and guns.

Anna Jakymec, 84, was just going to bed at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday when the heavily armed officers broke through the back and front doors at their modest yellow-brick bungalow a few blocks east of Midway Airport. Her ailing husband, Andrij, 89, had already been in bed for hours.

Their son, Andrew, said they were terrified by what they thought was a home invasion.

The errant raid was a public relations embarrassment for Sheriff Tom Dart, who is mulling a run for mayor of Chicago.

An informant had misled sheriff’s police to suspect cocaine and amphetamines were stored at the home, according to a copy of a search warrant left with the couple and a spokesman for Dart.

“I think the most potent drug they have is aspirin,” their son said.

By Friday afternoon, Deputy Chief Mike Smith delivered a personal apology to the family, the son said.

“He was very genuine and sincere, and he apologized profusely for the sheriff and the 25 men involved,” Andrew Jakymec said. “I have no complaints. It was a mix-up, an apology was offered and we have to move forward from there.”

His mother spent hours cleaning up the mess left behind after officers emptied cabinets and tore down blankets hanging in the basement. A little black bucket filled with shards of glass sat outside the back door — the remnant of a small basement window that was broken during the raid. The front door knob was askew, and the jambs to both the front and back doors were destroyed when officers battered their way into the home.

“I see maybe 20 guys come in and see the door knocked open,” Anna Jakymec said. “They broke two doors and a garage window. … (They) said someone complained we had all these drugs. …They broke everything. I told them they should have rung the bell.”

Steve Patterson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department, said officers relied on an informant who had provided credible information in other investigations. Based on the tip, officers obtained a search warrant on Thursday.

“As soon as we entered the home, we knew this couple was not involved in the activity alleged,” Patterson said in a statement. “Our officers immediately requested the assistance of an interpreter and, as a precautionary measure, a medic, while also asking the couple to contact a relative who could assist in the situation.”

The sheriff’s department agreed to pay for repairs to the home, and Andrew Jakymec said neither he nor his parents pressed Smith for details on what led to the mistake.

Still, he said he hoped the incident would prompt the sheriff’s department to take greater care in the future. The episode had been especially distressing for his parents, who he said grew up in fear of police raids during their teenage years in what is now Ukraine and were both forced into slave labor by Nazi Germany in World War II.

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