Vista Man Says Police Drug Raid Mistakenly Targeted His House
A man whose home was the scene of an early-morning drug raid by Hemet police says his family was traumatized by the incident and accused officers of hitting the wrong location.
Mario Balcazar Suarez, 39, said eight or 10 officers, some of them in plainclothes, broke down the front door of his home in the 800 block of North Citrus Avenue at 5:25 a.m., pointing guns at his four daughters and invalid mother-in-law and throwing some family members on the floor.
“We were traumatized and humiliated. My two older daughters went to school afterward, but they were both crying and very upset,” said Balcazar Suarez, a native of Mexico who speaks limited English.
Hemet Police Sgt. Randall Christianson, whose officers were looking for criminal evidence against a Vista man arrested in the Riverside County city, admitted that officers broke down the door, but said he was surprised that Balcazar Suarez was complaining about the incident.
“We went out of our way to be nice to these people. Once we explained why we were there, they seemed to be very happy and understanding of the situation,” Christianson insisted.
“I don’t think they have a complaint . . . We did do some damage . . . but the law allows us to break and enter.”
No drugs were found in the home, Christianson said.
Balcazar Suarez said he and his family were anything but joyful over the incident.
The Hemet officers, accompanied by members of the North County Narcotics Task Force, hit three other homes in northern San Diego County Tuesday, Christianson said. Officers recovered 11 pounds of methamphetamine, he added.
Search warrants for the raids were authorized Monday night by San Diego Municipal Judge Rafael Arreola.
According to Balcazar Suarez, the officers arrived at his duplex home and began pounding loudly at the door.
Christianson said the search of the Balcazar Suarez home was prompted by the arrest Monday of Abel Sotelo, who used to be one of Balcazar Suarez’s tenants. Sotelo was among several people arrested in Hemet and charged with possessing five pounds of methamphetamine, Christianson said.
Hemet police said Sotelo’s driver’s license showed the Balcazar Suarez’s Vista address. However, Balcazar Suarez said Sotelo moved out about six months ago.
Balcazar said the incident happened after his wife, Ernestina, 37, had left for work at a local food company, and while his daughters, Yadira, 17, and Yesenesia, 14, were watching television.
Two younger daughters, Rosa, 6, and Norma, 5, were asleep in a bedroom.
Balcazar Suarez said he was awakened by his daughters’ screams and the sound of someone breaking the door.
“I ran out of the bedroom and saw several men with handguns that they were pointing at my daughters. . . . My oldest daughter asked them in English what was going on, and they threw her to the floor and told her to shut up,” Balcazar Suarez said.
Christianson chuckled when told Balcazar Suarez said the officers threw his daughter to the floor.
“I don’t think she was shoved. She may have been guided to the floor or directed,” Christianson said.
Balcazar Suarez’s invalid mother-in-law, Sabina Jimenez, 67, was taken from her bedroom at gunpoint and shoved toward the living room floor, where the rest of the family was being held, Balcazar Suarez said.