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Mayor wants federal probe after SWAT raids house, kills dogs

  • Story Highlights
  • Raid carried out after marijuana package mailed to home of Cheye Calvo
  • Deputies said they shot Calvo's dogs because they felt threatened by them
  • Calvo says he and his mother-in-law were handcuffed next to dog's carcass
  • Sheriff's Department expresses sympathy, doesn't apologize
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(CNN) -- A Maryland mayor is asking the federal government to investigate why SWAT team members burst into his home without knocking and shot his two dogs to death in an investigation into a drug smuggling scheme.

Calvo said he was handcuffed and forced onto the floor near the carcass of one of his dead dogs.

Berwyn Heights, Maryland, Mayor Cheye Calvo comforts wife Trinity Tomsic at a news conference Thursday.

"This has been a difficult week and a half for us," Cheye Calvo, mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, said Thursday. "We lost our family dogs. We did it at the hands of sheriff's deputies who burst through our front door, rifles blazing."

The raid last week was led by the Prince George's County Police Department, with the sheriff's special operations team assisting, after a package of marijuana was sent to Calvo's home.

Authorities say the package was part of a scheme in which drugs are mailed to unknowing recipients and then intercepted.

Calvo said he had just returned home from walking his two Labrador retrievers, Chase and Payton, when his mother-in-law told him a package had arrived for his wife, Trinity Tomsic.

Moments later, Calvo was in his room changing for a meeting when he heard commotion downstairs.

"The door flew open," he said. "I heard gunfire shoot off. There was a brief pause and more gunfire."

Calvo said he was brought downstairs at gunpoint in his boxer shorts, handcuffed and forced onto the floor with his mother-in-law near the carcass of one of dead dogs. Video Watch Calvo describe the raid »

"I noticed my two dead dogs lying in pools of their own blood," Calvo said.

Calvo said his mother-in-law is still recovering from the incident.

"She got the worst of it," Calvo said. "She was literally in the kitchen, cooking a lovely pasta dish, and they brought down the door and shot our dogs."

While he was being held, Calvo said, he told police he is the town's mayor, but they didn't believe him.

Berwyn Heights has its own police force, he said, but Prince George's County police did not notify the municipal authorities of their interest in his home or the package.

"They didn't know my name. All they knew was my wife's name. They matched that to the registration of the car," Calvo said. "It was that lack of communication that really led to what has really been the most traumatic experience of our lives."

After the raid, arrests were made in the package interception scheme.

The incident has prompted the couple to call for a federal investigation because, they say, they don't believe police are capable of conducting an internal investigation.

"They've said they've done nothing wrong," Calvo said. "I didn't sign up for this fight, but I think what we have to do now is make changes to how Prince George's County police and Prince George's County sheriff's department operate."

Calvo said authorities entered his home without knocking and refused to show him a warrant when he requested one.

But Prince George's County Police Department spokeswoman Sharon Taylor said legal counsel had informed her that "no-knock" warrants do not exist in Maryland. Video Watch authorities defend their actions »

Taylor said authorities were acting on a warrant issued based on information available to them at the time.

"This warrant was for permission to search the premises," she said. "The special operations team that supported us made a decision about the necessity of entry at the point of being on the scene."

"No-knock" warrants have drawn criticism before. In Atlanta, Georgia, Kathryn Johnston, 92, was shot to death by police in a botched drug raid involving such a warrant in November.

Taylor, a self-described dog lover, expressed sympathy for the loss of Calvo's dogs, but stopped short of apologizing for the incident.

"We've done these similar kinds of operations over and over again, to the tune of removing billions of dollars of drugs from the community and without people or animals being harmed," she said. "We don't want any of our operations to result in the injury or loss of anybody, and certainly not animals."

The deputies have said they killed the two animals because they felt threatened.

"I would say that the dogs presented a threat, I would imagine, to the special operations situation," Taylor said.

Meanwhile, Calvo and his wife said members of the community have expressed sympathy and concern about the incident.

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At a news conference Thursday, Tomsic tearfully recalled a recent encounter with a neighbor who used to wave at the couple as they walked Payton and Chase.

"She gave me a big hug," Tomsic said. "She said, 'If the police shot your dogs dead and did this to you, how can I trust them?' "

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