No-knock police raid surprises local journalist
Update 10/3/07: According to Charlottesville Police Captain Bryant Bibb, officers were responding to a 911 call from someone in Tubbs'
Harmon Hammond Street neighborhood who had reported an attempted break-in. Officers heard what they thought were gunshots coming from the area near Tubbs' house, says Bibb, and when they noticed that Tubbs' backporch door was ajar, they assumed the suspect was inside. However, those gunshots turned out to be acorns.
"Our house sits underneath a stand of tall oak trees," says Tubbs. "When the acorns fall, they hit the roof with a very loud thud."
In his blog post, Tubbs says that a police officer was aiming a rifle at him when he opened the door, but Bibb says the officers did not have rifles, only handguns, which were drawn and ready but not aimed at Tubbs. Two days later, after speaking with Bibb, Tubbs concedes that the guns may not have been rifles, but he insists the officers were aiming at him.
"I'm still pretty sure I saw a gun pointed at me when I opened the door," he says. "And I'm pretty sure it was aimed at me."
But Tubbs says he has no trouble putting himself in the shoes of the officers.
"They put several clues together, made an assessment that something bad was happening in my house, and proceeded to investigate what they thought was a crime in progress," he says.
After reviewing the incident, Bibb says he thinks the officers responded appropriately, given what they thought was happening. Still, he admits that a knock on the front door or some other approach might have been an option. "Those things will be talked about in our internal discussions on the incident," he says.
"A more appropriate response, I think, would have been to post an officer at the back door while another came to the front door," says Tubbs. "And I'd like to think that this incident will help the police do their job better."
Sunday Saturday, September 29 at about 4:30am, local journalist and podcaster Sean Tubbs and his wife heard a noise and saw someone on their back porch with a flashlight. Tubbs grabbed a walking stick and went to investigate, his pregnant wife awake upstairs. Here's what happened next, according to an entry on his blog the next day...
A day later, Tubbs says he is still trying to figure out what went on. The officers said they were chasing a burglary suspect in the area, and because the door to Tubbs' mud-room was ajar, they assumed the suspect had entered his house.
"Of course, I'm thankful it was the police and not a burglar," says Tubbs, clearly shaken by the experience. "But I still have some questions. Was this an appropriate response to a breaking and entering case? Why didn't they just come through the front door? I don't know."
Some might call Tubbs' blog entry overly generous to the police, who appear to have stormed his house at 4:30am, guns drawn, because they "assumed" someone they were chasing was inside. Still, Tubbs says he isn't ready to pass judgment until he gets more facts from the police.
"I think there's a lot that can be learned from this experience," he says.
Photo of podcaster Sean Tubbs by Jen Fariello