A Greeley woman whose son still suffers nightmares and flashbacks after law-enforcement officials burst into their home without a warrant and pointed multiple weapons on him has filed a lawsuit against the police department and the Bureau of Alcohol, tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
On June 15, 2010, officers with the BATFE as part of the Regional Anti-Gang Enforcement (RAGE) Task Force had recently made 13 arrests in a major drug sweep when they entered the home of Amanda Griego and her eight year old son, Colby Frias without a warrant.
During the encounter Griego was handcuffed and police reportedly pointed guns at her and Frias.
“They had multiple machine pistols pointed at my son. I could see the laser sites on his body and he began to freak out. While I was cuffed I had to calm him down while the officers broke down his bedroom door.”
Griego has since filed a lawsuit against the BATFE and the Greeley Police Department accusing them of violating her 4th Amendment rights when they entered her home without probable cause or a warrant.
David Lane, Griego’s attorney told the Gazette that the BATFE still has not produced a warrant justifying their entry into the home. He went on to say that even though the event happened two years ago, Frias still remains traumatized over the incident.
A few months ago Frias had a friend over to the house and the family had ordered pizza. When it arrived the delivery driver gave a loud knock on the door.
“It scared my son so bad he jumped over the couch to hide. This was two years later and it still bothered him,” Griego said.
In the months following the incident, Frias was so scared he had to sleep with his mother. “Here he is an 8 year old boy and he is sleeping with mom again.”
The incident was not the first time authorities had been to the house.
In the months prior to the incident local authorities had been to Griego’s house several times looking for Angela Hernandez-Nicholson, a previous tenant who had lived there in over a year.
Each time they showed up, Griego told authorities Nicholson was no longer living at the address and even provided them with information on how to locate her.
“I told them to contact social services because she is getting government benefits. She is on section 8 housing and if the state is paying her rent they should be able to find her,” Griego said. “I have even seen her at Wal-Mart all the time. How hard can it be for authorities to track this woman down?”
When officers arrived on the day of the incident around 6:30 a.m., Griego said she was in the shower getting ready for work listening to the radio while Frias was sleeping in his bedroom. She had just come out of a nasty divorce situation which resulted in a restraining order beings placed on her ex-husband.
“I heard the knocking and rushed out of the shower dressed only in a towel. I went to the window at the front and saw a man knocking on the door, but I could not make out who he was,” Griego said. “I then went around to the back where they were also knocking. My first concern was for the safety of my son thinking it could possibly have been my ex-husband and his friends.”
She then saw one of the officers turn and she made out part of the word SWAT on the back of his uniform.
“At that point I realized everything would be okay since we had done nothing wrong. I told the officers I had just come out of the shower and told them to give me a minute to get dressed.”
After getting dressed Griego told them she was coming. Once she unlocked the door the officer forced the door open causing it to strike her.
According to Griego, she was then violently grabbed and yanked outside where she was pushed up against the house and handcuffed by authorities.
“They had weapons drawn and were pointing them at me. I begged them not to go in because my son was in there.”
When they dragged her back into the house she saw the officers surrounding Frias with their laser sights pointed on him.
“I will never forget the fear I saw in my young son’s eyes that day. Having guns pointed at you would be terrifying enough for an adult, let alone an 8 year old boy,” she said. “As a mother I felt so helpless since I was handcuffed and had guns on me as well.”
The officers kept calling her Angela despite her correcting them telling them she was Amanda. Eventually, after emptying her purse and seeing her id they realized she was not Nicholson acknowledging that she did not match Angela’s description.
Griego said after they released her, an officer even admitted that they knew that she was living at the residence and even had a restraining order against her ex-husband.
“He said, ‘You are Amanda and you have a restraining order against your ex-husband.’ If they knew all of that then why did they break in and threaten us?”
Griego said since that night she has second guessed herself for taking the time to get dressed.
“I waited just long enough to throw some clothes on and my hair was still wet, but the officer told me I should have opened the door immediately, regardless of whether I was dressed or not and said I could face consequences for making them wait.”
She said one of the principal reasons for filing the suit was when she saw that her son does not appear to be getting over the event. She is concerned because since the incident, Frias is now afraid of police officers.
“If he ever has a time where he needs a police officer, I’m afraid he may not seek help because he is still traumatized by what happened. He is afraid of police officers.”
Sgt. Susan West with the Greeley PD told the Gazette they were not able to confirm if Griego had told officers Angela did not live at the address or not.
She went on to say the department investigated the incident and said their involvement was “minimal,” however she could not elaborate on what was meant by minimal due to the ongoing litigation.
The BATFE responded by saying they do not comment on pending litigation.
What is frustrating to Griego is that to this day no one from the police or the BATFE have taken the time to contact her and apologize for their mistake.
“The last thing they told me was, ‘Well I hope you have a better day than you’ve had so far.’ And then they left,” Griego said.