Forestville, MD – The man who shot two Prince George’s County officers on Wednesday night will not be charged because the police investigation had led them to wrong address.
County officials have said that a warrant team going after a drug dealer had been given the wrong address when they busted through the door of the garden-style apartment at about 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 19, The Washington Post reported.
“We served the search warrant at the address that we identified through the investigation, however the investigation led us to the wrong address,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski explained at a press conference on Thursday.
“The individual that we are targeting does not live at that address... a law-abiding, hard-working citizen of Prince George’s County and his daughter were home at the point where we were executing that search warrant,” Chief Stawinski told reporters.
Prince George’s County PD Spokeswoman Jennifer Donelon said nine officers from the department’s Emergency Services Team busted through the door of the third floor apartment in the 2700-block of Lorring Drive after they had knocked and announced they were the police.
However, the man and his daughter inside may have been asleep and did not hear the knock and announce.
Chief Stawinski said that when the man woke up to the noise, he thought their home was being invaded, and he told his daughter to run and hide.
The father picked up his shotgun and fired at the intruders the minute the door was forced open, The Washington Post reported.
Two officers were hit, one in the shoulder and another in the hand, and another officer on the team shot back at the man, but did not hit him.
The officer who fired has been identified as Corporal Daniel Siculietano, and he has been placed on leave pending investigation as is protocol with all officer-involved shootings.
The chief said that the moment the father realized the invaders were police officers, he dropped his weapon and asked them not to shoot his daughter.
“That individual acted to protect himself and to protect his daughter from what he believed to be the threat of home invasion,” Chief Stawinski said. “I am confident that he did not intentionally fire that weapon at police officers because they were police officers.”
“This man was devastated when he realized that he had fired upon police officers,” he told reporters. “He was as worried about their safety once he realized that had happened as he was worried about the safety of his own daughter.”
The chief said the man would not be charged with a crime. Maryland State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks was in agreement with that decision, The Washington Post reported.
WTOP reported that the warrant squad had been directed to that apartment by a confidential informant.
Contrary to initial reports, the officers didn’t bust in to the wrong apartment, but they had been given an incorrect address by the informant, causing them to target the wrong house.
“We believed that we were serving a search warrant at that [suspected dealer’s] address. The investigation had led us to the wrong address. It led us to the address of a responsible hard-working citizen,” Chief Stawinski told reporters.
“Our officers had worked to corroborate the information from that confidential informant. However, we did not draw the right conclusion,” he explained.
As a result of what could have been a very tragic error, the chief has placed a moratorium on warrants served by the police department for 24-48 hours so that officials can go back and check every pending warrant to make sure the details of them have been thoroughly vetted, WTOP reported.
Chief Stawinski said his decision would only affect a “handful” of warrants.
“I want to assure that we will make certain that this does not repeat itself,” he said.
Both of the officers who were hit by the man’s single shotgun blast were airlifted to University of Maryland Shock Trauma in Baltimore, The Washington Post reported.
One officer was released on Thursday afternoon, the other officer remained in the hospital and was undergoing surgery for his arm.