The Gothamist reported Sunday that,
Earlier this morning, residents in Williamsburg and Bushwick noticed a helicopter buzzing in the air as well as what one tipster described as “at least 6 cars full of agents/officers” and “machine guns.” He added, “There were guns drawn and a lot of people in DHS gear all over.”
It was a combined NYPD and DHS raid. Allegedly a cop told a bystander that it involved “kilos of heroin.”
The helicopter, which was was apparently very low, was circling from around 1 a.m. until 1:30 a.m.; one person who lives a few blocks away said that it was “flying around shining a spotlight down on the neighborhood. It was incredibly loud. Sounded like it was hovering right over my apartment the entire time, I’m at Grand and Humboldt.” He said it seemed to be “flying in circles in a 1 mile-vicinity.” Another person on Bushwick Avenue said the helicopter was directly outside his window.
The vehicles used in the raid included a large paramilitary truck with the name of DHS emblazoned on it.
I assume that the DHS had good jurisdictional reasons for being involved, probably because the drugs came from outside the country. But what bothers me is what the Gothamist reported in a follow-up post:
A resident in a neighboring building told us that he and his partner “were utterly confused and frankly terrorized…I literally had a flashlight-gun pointed at me from a sniper on top of the black armored truck the first time I opened our window to see what was going on.”
The neighbor added, “What woke us up was a cop yelling ‘POLICE!’ outside and hearing some sort of scream. Then I noticed the flashing lights of the armored black truck so I peeped out the window. There were two snipers on top of the armored truck with flashlight-guns and one of them pointed at me immediately. If I was them and I was doing my job, I probably would have pointed it at me, too, but at the same I wasn’t even in the building they were looking at. He immediately pointed it away but needless to say, I was terrified because I could have been picked off instantly. Then in our backyard we noticed the helicopter lighting it all up. After about 20 minutes, all the armed guards made it to the backyard of 221 Devoe and were pointing their flashlight-guns everywhere.”
At least the sniper immediately refocused on his target, but it really disturbs me that a man had a sniper’s rifle pointed at him for looking out his window. I can’t help but think of the Boston martial law we experienced after the Boston Marathon bombing.
Perhaps I’m overreacting. But it also bothers me that Gothamist has not received any official explanation from either the NYPD or DHS. What happens when we start having raids and we never get explanations? How much of a change from our present behavior patterns would it be to live in a society where the government occasionally “disappeared” people? Where people are afraid to look outside to see what the government is doing to their neighbors?