Father in Española raid describes ‘worst day’, aftermath | Local News
The father of a western New York family who recently posted a YouTube video of their May 18 encounter with police in a harrowing drug task force raid in Española called the ordeal “the worst day of our lives” aside from the loss of loved ones.
They are considering legal action for this incident, Angelo Giuffre said.
“At first we couldn’t get lawyers to return our calls, but now that we’re getting publicity, things have changed,” Giuffre, of Jamestown, NY, wrote in an email Tuesday in response to a series of questions from The New Mexican.
Now, he wrote, “We are in discussions with attorneys and are pursuing all options.”
A February 2 episode of Family Inspire Engine The YouTube series, named after the bus the family traveled on during a month-long tour of the United States, includes clips from the early morning raid. The video, which has been viewed more than 32,000 times, shows law enforcement officers from various agencies storming the family’s broken down shuttle and waking up Giuffre, his wife, Ylsa, and their four children.
The bus was parked in front of H&A Automotive – the target of a search warrant the Multi-Agency Drug Task Force had executed, according to New Mexico State Police.
Giuffre said one of the officers who entered the family’s bus punched him in the face when he asked for time to put on some pants before leaving the vehicle; this is not shown in the video, which combines footage shot by the Giuffres with footage from an officer’s body camera.
However, Taos Police Chief John Wentz admitted that one of his officers was part of the task force and was involved in a “use of force incident”. Wentz said an investigation into the officer’s actions found no wrongdoing and he declined to identify the officer.
He also said the Giuffres’ video “does not accurately portray what happened and attempts to create an impression that does not reflect all of the facts surrounding this incident.”
The Giuffres were nearing the end of their cross-country trip when a bus breakdown forced a several-day stay in northern New Mexico, they said.
After the encounter, “The cops just left and we continued on our way,” Giuffre wrote in the email. “We went by car [Albuquerque] to drop one of our kids off at the airport, we were too scared to sleep on the bus that night so we stayed at a hotel and then got out of New Mexico as fast as we could.”
Giuffre said there was a reason the family waited almost nine months to post the video, despite updating their YouTube page every Sunday and Wednesday.
“We were just too traumatized to even watch the footage sooner than we did,” he wrote. “Ylsa still hasn’t looked at anything.”
For van travelers, unexpected intrusions often start with a noise they quickly learn to fear.
“We’ve been ‘hit’ in the past because the engine overheated late at night in Death Valley and we had no choice but to pull over and pull over in a parking lot that was not designated for camping,” Giuffre wrote. In this case, he added, the officer was friendly and issued a verbal warning.
“This meeting has affected us all in a dramatic way,” he continued. “Our children and we have always had the greatest respect [for] police we interacted with. And a thirst to discover our country. Everything has changed now. the [sight] of officers in black instills a visceral experience and a rush of adrenaline, sometimes even panic attacks. We haven’t been able to travel that far from home since.
When asked if the family had had any contact since then with the officers or services concerned, Giuffre was unequivocal: “No. They scare us in broad daylight.
Giuffre said when the family visited New Mexico a few months earlier, they called it one of their favorite states.
“Most of the citizens we met in the state were salt of the earth people and we still believe that, but we don’t know if we’ll ever have the courage to return,” he wrote.
State Police said in their news release Saturday that the Region 3 Drug Task Force assisted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in serving a search warrant on H&A that morning “for the purpose of to disrupt a drug trafficking organization”.
Officers “observed movement inside a small white bus,” the statement said. “An officer from the Taos Police Department and a deputy from the Taos County Sheriff’s Office entered the bus to attempt to secure the vehicle and determine if any suspects from the investigation were inside.”
The YouTube episode of Les Giuffres, titled “The knock on the door no nomad should ever receive,” shows an officer giving orders: “You. Start walking out. Keep your hands up,” he says .
When Angelo Giuffre protests that he’s not wearing pants or underwear and that he has to cover up, the officer replies, “I don’t care. [expletive].”
Giuffre then said: “I have rights; what do you think I did?”
The officer responds, “I don’t care what you think,” and threatens to drag him out.
The video fades to black, then resumes with an agitated Giuffre shouting, “That man hit me!”
After the initial shock, Angelo and Ylsa Giuffre begin demanding answers from the officers about which agency they were with and what they were doing. The couple learns that the task force had a search warrant for the auto shop, which required officers to identify everyone there.
Angelo Giuffre tells the officers that he is a minister and a former theater owner.
As the episode opens, a short intro says the couple’s theater in western New York has been closed, with no certainty as to when it might reopen. As a result, they decided to cram their kids into the converted 10-passenger van and drive around the country.
The YouTube post says the family’s bus is still not fully repaired. It’s linked to a GoFundMe account that had raised over $13,000 of a $30,000 goal on Tuesday night.