By Philip Newman
At 8:20 p.m., Jan. 25, 2002, shouts of “stay away from windows and doors” erupted outside Joseph and Mary Bardy's home in Richmond Hill. Minutes later, police brandishing submachine guns broke down their back door.
“The police forced me, my husband, my daughter and my granddaughter to lie face-down on the floor while they ran through the house searching everywhere,” Mary Bardy said. “They handcuffed my son, who was upstairs.”
She testified last Wednesday at a hearing called by the City Council Public Safety Committee into police “no knock” raids following the death of Alberta Spruill, who suffered a heart attack when police broke into her home in Harlem May 16. Her death was ruled a homicide.
“When they began shouting outside, I thought police were chasing some criminal,” Bardy said. “The last thing I would have thought was that it was us they were after us.
“We were told it was a large number of bags of marijuana they were looking for,” Bardy said. Police would not confirm what they sought.
Bardy said the Emergency Service Unit police spent about 15 minutes inside the house searching three floors and the basement and left without finding anything. Police of the 102nd Precinct then arrived and a captain talked with the Bardys afterward in the kitchen.
City Councilman Hiram Monserratte (D-Jackson Heights) asked, “Have you received an explanation of why they raided your home or an apology?”
Bardy, who said her family had never planned a lawsuit against the city as result of the mistaken raid, said police had told them only that the raid was carried out with “a legal warrant” and was the result of a tip from an informant.
After her testimony, Bardy said, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly invited her and her husband to his office, where he apologized for the errant raid.
She said the mistaken raid on her home had taught her something.
“We have frequently heard the complaint that the police target minority people in poor parts of the city for these raids,” she said. “This seems to establish that when police believe they have legitimate information, they carry out raids anywhere.”
“But maybe this kind of thing would not happen if the police could spend a little time trying to find out who lives in these locations and something about them before breaking down their door.” she added.
When her house was raided, Bardy had just retired from her job as a police staff analyst. Her 33-year-old son, John, is a police civilian employee and her son-in-law is on three-quarters disability leave from duty as an officer with the 44th Precinct.
Kelly, answering questions for more than an hour during the hearing, denied that police mostly raid Hispanic and black areas of the city.
Peter Vallone Jr., chairman of the Public Safety Committee, asked Kelly to explain why “most of these mistaken warrants occur in communities of color.”
Kelly said police do not concentrate on neighborhoods but carry out such raids where there is crime.