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September 14, 2004

Police apologize for raid

From: Clarksville Leaf Chronicle, TN - Sep 14, 2004

The Leaf-Chronicle

Clarksville Police Chief Mark Smith said he will offer two Old Trenton Road residents a written apology for officers mistakenly raiding their home Friday night.

"I want to publicly apologize," Smith said Monday during a press conference, adding that Friday's mistake was the first time in his 28 years with the department that officers broke in to the wrong home.

"There is certainly no pattern here," he said.

According to Smith, the police tactical team received information that a drug dealer lived at 343B Old Trenton Road, but they ended up going to the house next door that only had the letter "B" on the outside -- which turned out to be 341B.

The residents of 341B, Teresa Guiler and James Elliott, who are both in their 50s, were sitting in their home watching television when the masked men stormed into the house.

Guiler, whose arm was in a sling from a previous injury, told police that they had the wrong man as they pointed a gun at her and Elliott, who is deaf and had recently received a liver transplant, she said.

Guiler went to seek medical help after the raid and Elliott will be going to Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville today to be seen by his doctors.

Smith said that although he feels terrible about the raid, he insists the officers never used excessive force. But because Elliott resisted, officers had to control him by "bringing him down," he said.

"We (ensure) it's done safely and with minimal amount of force as possible," Smith said.

But Guiler and Elliott's attorney, Tommy Meeks, said what the police did is unacceptable.

"What justification can you give to kick a 54-year-old man who's down on the ground," Meeks said about Elliott, who is a Vietnam veteran. "All he saw was men in masks with rifles. He was terrified. Then to get knocked down and stomped. They picked him up like a suitcase. The Police Department said they acted in normal procedure, but that's not normal."

Smith said the man they were actually looking for was Jeremiah Taylor, a 24-year-old man who was arrested and charged Friday night with possession of ecstasy for resale. A separate warrant had to be secured for a raid of his home. Taylor was booked into the Montgomery County Jail with bail set at $28,000.

Smith said the mix-up on the addresses came from the drug agents with Major Crimes, who got their information from an informant. But even though the address was reportedly checked prior to the raid, the wrong house was still entered.

They did investigate to a "reasonable extent," Smith said, adding that policies and procedures will be reexamined and the department's Professional Integrity Unit will investigate.

"You always can learn from your mistakes," Smith said.

But Meeks said the department went too far, and the frail residents are hurting from those "mistakes."

"There's going to be some answers," said Meeks, who will wait to see what his clients' doctors say before moving forward with any possible legal action against the Police Department.

Chantal Escoto can be reached at 245-0216 or at