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2003-05-19

Harlem Woman Dies After Botched Police Drug Raid

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Early Friday morning, New York police raid a Harlem apartment, knock down the door, throw in a stun grenade and handcuff the occupant. She dies of a heart attack two hours later. The police now say they raided the wrong apartment. We talk with the Rev. Al Sharpton and a black police lieutenant.

It was 10 minutes past six on Friday morning. 57-year-old Alberta Spruill was in her sixth floor Harlem apartment on West 143rd Street. And as she did every day for the last 30 years she was preparing to go to work at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

Then her door was kicked in. A stun grenade rocked the apartment. Soon she was handcuffed to her chair. The 12 intruders rifled through her belongings. She complained of chest pains. Within two hours she was dead of a heart attack.

The intruders were not robbers but officers from the New York City police who targeted her apartment as part of its so-called war on drugs.

A court had granted the police a no-knock warrant. But it turns out the police raided the wrong apartment. The information was based on a tip from a confidential drug informant.

A law enforcement source told the Daily News the tipster was about to be dropped from the confidential informant program because he had previously given police flawed leads.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has apologized to Spruill’s family and ordered an investigation into the raid.

Newsday reported today that Spruill is the fifth person since the fall to be caught in a wrongful "no-knock raid." All are black.

  • Lt. Eric Adams, founder and president of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care
  • Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network and 2004 Presidential candidate

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