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Santa Monica Police Respond To Woman's Article About 19 Officers Swarming Her
The Santa Monica Police Department released a statement, defending their actions in response to a black woman's claims that the actions of 19 officers who showed up outside her home with guns pointed at her were racially motivated.
In the statement released on Wednesday night, Jacqueline A. Seabrooks, Chief of Police of the SMPD, argued that her officers acted appropriately. Fay Wells, who is the vice president of strategy at a multinational corporation, penned a first-person account in The Washington Post on Wednesday about her experience on Sept. 6. She said that she was locked out of her apartment and hired a locksmith to open the door for her. Soon after she was back in her home, she opened the door to find a dog barking, two officers pointing guns at her, with a total of 19 officers outside, Wells wrote. She would later find out that her white neighbor reported a break-in in her apartment with three people, whom he described as Hispanic.
In the 9-1-1 call that the SMPD released to The Washington Post, the neighbor says he sees two men and one woman, all Hispanic, with tools and a suitcase trying to break into the home. He says he has no idea if anyone lives in the apartment. He adds, "I don't think this is some crazy robbery or anything, but I need some cops right here."
Because of factors such as the time of night, the number of possible suspects, and the nature of the call, multiple officers responded directly to the location and to the general area. Although fewer officers were actually dispatched to the call, because of what the neighbor reported to the 9-1-1 operator, two supervisors and fifteen police officers responded. Based on the information provided by the 9-1-1 caller, in smaller communities, like Santa Monica, a response of this type is not uncommon.
In the Washington Post article, Wells says that it didn't seem to matter to the police officers that she explained her side of the story to them, showed them the receipt from her locksmith, that she wasn't Hispanic as the intruders were described, and continuously asked them what was happening. She writes, "What mattered was that I was a woman of color trying to get into her apartment — in an almost entirely white apartment complex in a mostly white city — and a white man who lived in another building called the cops because he’d never seen me before."
The SMPD released an 47-minute audio recording of Wells talking to officers. She says there was a third person there, a friend, who was helping her with the locksmith. By the time police arrived, she was alone in her apartment. Wells questions the officers as to why she opened the door to two officers pointing guns at her, and why it didn't matter to them that she showed them the locksmith receipt. They ask her who's in the apartment now, to which she responds, "For the third time, no one is in my apartment. Why would I lie to you guys?"
"Why are there two people pointing guns at me when I come out of my apartment?" Wells asks. "Not like, 'hey, we wanna talk to you.' Two people pointed guns at me when I was walking out of my apartment. And by the way, I looked out of the window because I was like, what is going on? That is not OK. I didn’t do anything, it’s not cool to have two officers to point guns at me."
In the audio recording, the officers explain that they've had suspects lie to them before and they had to access the situation to make sure they were safe. Wells says that if she were a white person, she wouldn't be faced with the high number of officers and two guns. The officers say that they have the resources in Santa Monica to send more officers, and it could have been the same situation had she been white.
Wells writes that she had to jump through hoops to get from the SMPD the names of the officers who showed up that night. Even then, the facts don't match up. She only received 17 of the 19 names from authorities, and the Washington Post got 17 names that didn't all match up with the list Wells received. She's filed an official complaint with internal affairs.
Since the incident, Wells doesn't feel safe in her home anymore. "Almost daily, I deal with sleeplessness, confusion, anger and fear. I’m frightened when I see large dogs now. I have nightmares of being beaten by white men as they call me the n-word. Every week, I see the man who called 911. He averts his eyes and ignores me."