Fay Wells had accidentally locked herself out of her apartment on September 6th, but she was on her way to a soccer game, and so she had to call a locksmith and wait to get inside her home. But after she finally got into her home, she was surprised when, moments later, 19 police officers showed up at her door, their guns drawn.
A man was standing outside her door with his gun drawn, and he told her to “Come outside with your hands up.” He did not identify himself.
Once she came outside, her hands raised, she asked what was happening, but the officers did not respond. Instead, they asked, “Who’s in there with you? How many of you are there?”
As her neighbors watched, the officers pulled her into the street with her hands behind her back. They went through her apartment, despite the fact that she told them she did not want them in her home. They never told her why they were there, and only later did Wells learn that her neighbor had called to report a potential break-in, though the neighbor had described a Hispanic woman when he made the call.
After Wells was eventually allowed back in her apartment, officers asked why she hadn’t come out shouting “I live here.”
“I told them it didn’t make sense to walk out of my own apartment proclaiming my residence when I didn’t even know what was going on. I also reminded them that they had guns pointed at me. Shouting at anyone with a gun doesn’t seem like a wise decision,” Wells recalled.
As Wells pressed the officers for their names, she was met with indifference.
“I demanded all of their names and was given few. Some officers simply ignored me when I asked, boldly turning and walking away. Afterward, I saw them talking to neighbors, but they ignored me when I approached them again. A sergeant assured me that he’d personally provide me with all names and badge numbers.”
However, the sergeant never emailed the names.
“I got no clear answers from the police that night and am still struggling to get them, despite multiple visits, calls and e-mails to the Santa Monica Police Department requesting the names of the officers, their badge numbers, the audio from my neighbor’s call to 911 and the police report. The sergeant didn’t e-mail me the officers’ names as he promised. I was told that the audio of the call requires a subpoena and that the small army of responders, guns drawn, hadn’t merited an official report. I eventually received a list from the SMPD of 17 officers who came to my apartment that night, but the list does not include the names of two officers who handed me their business cards on the scene. I’ve filed an official complaint with internal affairs,” Wells said.
Now, Wells says that “the trauma of that night still lingers.” She struggles with sleeplessness, and her neighbor who called the cops on her can’t even look her in the eye.
“I’m heartbroken that his careless assessment of me, based on skin color, could endanger my life. I’m heartbroken by the sense of terror I got from people whose job is supposedly to protect me. I’m heartbroken by a system that evades accountability and justifies dangerous behavior. I’m heartbroken that the place I called home no longer feels safe. I’m heartbroken that no matter how many times a story like this is told, it will happen again.”