A small-town mayor whose dogs were killed in a drug raid was cleared of any wrongdoing after police had been reluctant to rule out his involvement in drug smuggling or apologize for the violent incident.
Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin High said Friday he called Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife, Trinity Tomsic, on Thursday to say they were no longer suspected in a drug smuggling scheme.
A SWAT team raided the mayor's home July 29 after intercepting a FedEx package shipped to Tomsic that was filled with 32 pounds of marijuana. Officers broke down the door, shot the two dogs and kept Calvo and his mother-in-law bound for nearly two hours.
Police now believe the drug delivery was part of a scheme that sent packages to the homes of unsuspecting recipients. The packages would then be picked up by someone else shortly after delivery. Two suspects have been arrested in the case.
"The Calvo family members were the apparent victims of a local drug ring," High said in a statement. "I called him to express my sorrow and regret for that and for the loss of the family's beloved dogs."
High stopped short of apologizing for how the drug raid was carried out. He said the police department was conducting a review of the narcotics investigation that led to the raid. The county sheriff has said the dogs' deaths were justified, saying officers felt threatened.
Investigators had been tracking the package that arrived on Calvo's front porch since it drew the attention of a drug-sniffing dog in Arizona.
Calvo and Tomsic requested a federal civil rights investigation of the case on Thursday, and the FBI responded by launching a review. The couple says there may be a systemic abuse of search warrant powers and use of force in the county.
"The deputies opened fire and executed our dogs the very second they broke down our front door," Calvo, 37, said at a news conference on his front lawn Thursday. "We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us."
"It was a horrible, horrible incident," Calvo told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Friday, "but I think it's also the kind of thing that happens, and I don't think we would have realized that until it happened to us."
"What's really troubling," Calvo continued, "is they didn't have a proper warrant to do what they did. They actually didn't give us a warrant at all until 71 hours after it happened. And that's really what's disturbing -- despite all the mistakes that were made, they're holding to their guns, saying they did nothing wrong.
"This happened to us. We can't get our dogs back, and we know that. But the reason we asked for federal authorities to investigate this is because this is a systemic problem, and we want to make sure that, while it happened to us and that's a tragedy, we don't want it to happen to anyone else."
Calvo insisted the couple's two black Labradors were gentle creatures and said police apparently killed them "for sport," gunning down one of them as it was running away.
"Our dogs were our children," said the 37-year-old Calvo. "They were the reason we bought this house because it had a big yard for them to run in."
Maryland State Sen. Paul Pinsky, who represents the suburban Washington district, said the case was a good example of frequent police action in minority communities that fails to capture the same level of attention as Calvo's case.