This is written in response to the Pasco County SWAT team raid of the home of Carl and Juanita Stark. The police say they were searching for stolen goods and weapons stored in the Stark’s house by the Stark's grandson. This flawed information was provided by the same man who says he sold the stolen goods and weapons to the grandson. After the home was ransacked for hours, no weapons were found at the Stark’s home. The mistake was so obvious that Carl Stark overheard two SWAT team members say they thought they must have hit the wrong house. The police do not claim to have probable cause to raid the home without a search warrant, yet the Starks were not shown a warrant until the following day. This should raise a question about the legality of the raid.
The police knew the grandson did not reside at the Stark's residence and he was arrested a few hours later without incident. So why was an element of surprise required through a no-knock raid of a 70-year old couples home? The only result of this operation is that helpless citizens were terrorized by those sworn to protect them. Sheriff Nocco says "I have no regrets in the operation that was performed."
Prior to the election, during the Pasco County Sheriff's debate at PHCC, Nocco reiterated a quote from his campaign website, “Criminals know no boundaries and neither should law enforcement.” The police absolutely have boundaries, the most important of which are put in place by the Constitution. Law enforcement must abide by these restrictions or citizens will have a greater reason to fear the police than any criminal element.
Sheriff Nocco says, "The fact that we put safety first, we're not going to apologize for that." Sheriff's spokesman Tobin says the SWAT members actions "ensured the safety of all of those inside the house and deputies executing the search warrant." Carl and Juanita are both over seventy years old. Carl is connected to an oxygen tank to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smashing through the front door, exploding flash grenades and smoke bombs, and the level of violence displayed in the aftermath make it clear that if anyone's safety was a priority, it was not the Starks.
Sheriff Nocco, at the very least, owes the Starks an apology and a new front door. The Starks were told they can file a claim with the sheriff's legal unit, but spokesman Tobin says, "However, the reason our SWAT team was there was due to their grandson utilizing their residence to further his burglary ring." The Starks need to be pursuing legal assistance to ensure a measure of justice since the Sheriff's Department is not displaying any attempt and probably does not desire it. The Starks are related to a criminal and live next-door to a criminal. This does not make the Starks guilty of anything, yet Sheriff Nocco and his SWAT team have already carried out the sentencing.