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After mistaken SWAT raid, Pittsburgh police make policy changes to protect homeowners

PITTSBURGH — On Jan. 21, 2023, Monroeville police were called to the Red Roof Inn. A teenage girl had been shot, and the two boys responsible had taken off. But police had two key pieces of evidence: surveillance footage caught on the hotel’s cameras and a street address. Police obtained a warrant and dozens of officers swarmed a home in the city’s Larimer neighborhood, the problem they had the wrong home.

“I was numb, I was totally out of control, there was nothing I could do,” said homeowner Kelly Angell.

On the morning of Jan. 22, dozens of SWAT officers from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police surrounded Kelly Angell’s home. Inside were Angell’s spouse and five daughters, one of whom is autistic, unaware until she says this happened: “One of her sisters said what are those dots on you, and she looked at herself and she saw red and green dots,” said Kelly.

At that moment, the family did not know they were lasers from SWAT team weapons. Monroeville Police Department had asked Pittsburgh Police to execute a warrant for this man, 18-year-old Da’ Ronte Brown, a suspect wanted in the Red Roof Inn shooting.

Suddenly, and violently, officers entered the home.

“When I got to the bottom of the steps, I just saw a bunch of glass breaking and doors being pulled off,” said Angell as she explained what happened that morning.

Angell was dragged outside with no coat or shoes.

During our interview, we asked Angell what she thought as she was pulled from her home: “You have two kids with you, but you have other children in this house. What is going through your head.”

Angell replied, “I hope they don’t kill them.”

As Angell pleaded outside, officers continued to search the home, shattering glass windows and breaking through walls.

“I kept hearing them say 1102 Paulson Avenue, and I immediately said there is a mistake, you have the wrong address,” Angell said.

Angell filed a federal lawsuit, and in April was awarded an undisclosed amount from the city, but her attorney, Maggie Coleman, said police policy needs to be stronger.

According to the Pittsburgh Bureau’s policy, officers need to complete a risk assessment before every SWAT initiation. Officers are instructed to know who is in the house; children, the elderly, and those with disabilities, and then report that information to senior leadership.

“It was not completed in Kelly Angell’s case,” said Attorney Maggie Coleman.

Channel 11 News asked the current Police Chief Larry Scritto who was not in leadership at the time of this raid, if he considered this SWAT execution a failure. While he couldn’t directly comment on this case, he said, he believes the officers should use the risk assessment to determine the appropriate response.

Scirotto said under his leadership all pre-planned SWAT operations, like executing warrants are reviewed before swat teams enter a home.

“We have done things differently now than we had in the past,” explained Scirotto.

The chief highlighted the 2023 Garfield stand-off as an example, where city officials made repairs to nearby homes.

“We have a moral responsibility if we have impacted a community to create some sense of calm some sense of safety,” he said.

But Coleman explained that’s not enough.

“There needs to be more transparency about what the SWAT team is doing and how often it’s being used. Until about 2014/2015 the city of Pittsburgh released that data, and they have since stopped releasing it,” Coleman said.

Channel 11 News formally requested recent SWAT callouts and found that from 2019 to 2023, the number of times SWAT was used to issue a warrant decreased, from 89 in 2019 to 63 in 2023.

Angell said she’s satisfied with her court victory, but said the incident changed her family’s sense of security forever.

“Just knowing that at any time, people who are supposed to protect you can bust through your doors and come into your home. I will never have [security] because if it happened once it can happen anytime,” Angell said.

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