Police Raid Berwyn Heights Mayor's Home, Kill His 2 Dogs
By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008; B01
A police SWAT team raided the home of the mayor in the Prince George's County town of Berwyn Heights on Tuesday, shooting and killing his two dogs, after he brought in a 32-pound package of marijuana that had been delivered to his doorstep, police said.
Mayor Cheye Calvo was not arrested in the raid, which was carried out about 7 p.m. by the Sheriff's Office SWAT team and county police narcotics officers. Prince George's police spokesman Henry Tippett said yesterday that all the residents of the house -- Calvo, his wife and his mother-in-law -- are "persons of interest" in the case.
The package was addressed to Calvo's wife, Trinity Tomsic, said law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.
Tippett said police are working to determine for whom the drugs were meant.
Calvo said yesterday that he did not know how the drugs wound up on his doorstep. He works part time as the mayor and serves as director of expansion for the SEED Foundation, a well-known national nonprofit group that runs urban public boarding schools.
"My government blew through my doors and killed my dogs," Calvo said. "They thought we were drug dealers, and we were treated as such. I don't think they really ever considered that we weren't."
Calvo described a chaotic scene, in which he -- wearing only underwear and socks -- and his mother-in-law were handcuffed and interrogated for hours. They were surrounded by the dogs' carcasses and pools of the dogs' blood, Calvo said.
Spokesmen for the Sheriff's Office and Prince George's police expressed regret yesterday that the mayor's dogs were killed. But they defended the way the raid was carried out, saying it was proper for a case involving such a large amount of drugs.
Sgt. Mario Ellis, a Sheriff's Office spokesman, said the deputies who entered Calvo's home "apparently felt threatened" by the dogs.
"We're not in the habit of going to homes and shooting peoples' dogs," Ellis said. "If we were, there would be a lot more dead dogs around the county."
Calvo, 37, has been mayor of the 3,000-person town near College Park since 2004. His wife is a finance officer for the state, he said.
The investigation that led police to their house in the 8500 block of Edmonston Road began in Arizona, officials said. There, a police dog at a shipping facility identified the package as being filled with marijuana. Prince George's officers posed as deliverymen and brought it to Calvo's home.
Calvo said he came home early from work Tuesday. While walking the dogs, Calvo said, he noticed several black sport-utility vehicles and a woman parked in a car down the street.
"I figured someone was having a party," he recalled.
It was the police. They were watching, waiting for someone to bring the package into the house.
As Calvo returned to the house, he said, he spotted the large package that his mother-in-law had told a deliveryman to leave on the porch. He placed it on a buffet table near the front door and went upstairs to change.
"I brought it inside because I figured it was something we'd gotten for the garden," he said.
Moments later, just after he had undressed, Calvo said, he heard his mother-in-law scream that someone was coming toward the house. He looked out his bedroom window and saw officers in SWAT gear running across the lawn.
"I heard a loud crash and then 'bang, bang, bang,' " he said, recalling the sounds of the police shooting the dogs. "I hit the floor."
As the police came in, Calvo said, they shot his 7-year-old black Labrador retriever, Payton, near the front door and then his 4-year-old dog, Chase, also a black Lab, as the dog ran into a back room. Walking through his house yesterday, Calvo pointed out a bullet hole in the drywall where the younger dog had been shot.
"I understand they have a job to do, but it didn't have to go like that," Calvo said. He said the police could have knocked on his door and asked him about the package. "I've never done drugs in my life. Anyone who knows me knows that I am so adamantly opposed to them."
Police said yesterday that, when they seized the package during the raid, it was unopened.
Berwyn Heights Police Chief Patrick Murphy said county police and the Sheriff's Office had not notified his department of the raid. He said town police could have conducted the search without a SWAT team.
"You can't tell me the chief of police of a municipality wouldn't have been able to knock on the door of the mayor of that municipality, gain his confidence and enter the residence," Murphy said. "It would not have been a necessity to shoot and kill this man's dogs."