A Galveston family is demanding a full investigation after a botched police raid left their home damaged and children traumatized. And they are not alone in asking for answers.
On Monday, Galveston Mayor Craig Brown said he was shocked to learn about the details of the botched raid not from the city police officials but from the local newspaper.
The early morning raid at the home of Erika Rios on Sunday, Jan. 22, shattered windows and doors and sent the family into a state of fear and confusion. It was 2 am, and everyone in the home was sound asleep.
“My kids and I were home sleeping, and about 2 a.mm, we were awakened by wooden pellets in our doors and sounds of Galveston Police Department, Rios said. ‘Come out with your hands up!’ He said it twice and started firing (wooden pellets) into our windows and doors.
The ordeal was captured on the family’s security camera. It shows Rios, her teenage son, her daughter, and a friend being forced out of their house with their hands up. The teens, seen in the video, were clearly upset and had no idea what was happening.
“I was scared, screaming”, Chelsea Peralez, Rios’s daughter said. “I asked my brother what they were doing, and they continued to shoot wooden pellets.”
Hours later, the family would learn that police were looking for Cameron Vargas, a family friend who was identified as a possible murder suspect.
Vargas, a teenager living around the corner from Rios, would later turn himself in.
However, there are multiple major issues with the entire situation. Vargas did not live in the Rios house, nor was he there at the time of the raid.
According to the Galveston Daily News, charges were later dropped against Vargas because a witness falsely identified him.
Therefore, authorities say it appears Galveston police raided the wrong house looking for a murder suspect who later turned out not to be a suspect at all.
In addition, even though the raid happened on Jan. 22, Galveston city leaders did not learn about it until five days later, when the Galveston Daily News first reported the story.
“This type of issue is concerning to everybody”, Mayor Brown, said. “That’s why we need to be very careful and determine what went on, and what the details were and what prompted this.”
Mayor Brown says he and the city manager were not notified by anyone in the police department about the botched raid. They had no idea that officers went to the wrong house, that murder charges were filed, then dropped, until the newspaper article.
This caused the Galveston’s police chief, Doug Balli, to be placed on an 10-day administrative leave.
“We do not know where we stand with this, don’t know where the lines of communications within the police department was”, Brown said. “We do know the lines of communication with us, because we did not have any.”
Friday afternoon, the City of Galveston released the following statement:
“The Galveston Police Department, at approximately 2 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, executed a search warrant at a Galveston residence in the 5300 block of Avenue O. The search warrant was related to the homicide of Malik Dunn on Jan. 20, 2023. The department sought the search warrant based on information received in its investigation of the Jan. 20 shooting. During the search, officers determined the suspect was not located in the residence. Later, after performing the search, the department received new information contradicting the initial basis for the arrest. The mayor and City Manager’s Office learned of the search and the damage to the homeowner’s property on Friday, Jan. 26, through local news media.
On Friday, Jan. 26, the City Manager placed the Galveston police chief on administrative leave for a failure of communication regarding the Jan. 22 search. The Citys Human Resources Director will be investigating that issue. In addition, Acting Chief Mitchell has initiated an internal investigation into the circumstances leading up to and related to the search.
On Sunday, Jan. 29, the City Attorneys’ Office for the City of Galveston received notice of representation from a law firm on behalf of the homeowner. The City of Galveston is following the required steps for pending litigation and will respond to the claims asserted in the appropriate venue.
There are four open and active areas of inquiry related to this incident. The Galveston Police Department’s investigation of the homicide of Malik Dunn in which detectives are seeking all credible information to bring justice for the Dunn family and protect the public from his killer.
The Galveston Police Departments internal investigation as to the circumstances that led up to and resulted in the issuance of the search warrant and property search by its officers.
The claim for property damage which has been referred to the Citys insurance company.
An internal investigation to determine what communication failures delayed the notification to City Administration.
This information is being provided to ensure the public is made aware of current actions related to this incident. The City will provide updates if additional information becomes available.”