Police said Thursday that they will investigate whether officers used excessive force and caused unnecessary damage in four Southwest Los Angeles apartments during a gang-related drug raid earlier this week.
Eight people were arrested in the raid, and 25 youths, described by police as known gang members, were taken in Monday night for questioning. Only one of the eight lived in the four apartments targeted in the raid.
American Red Cross officials, after touring the apartments and walking over broken glass, wet clothes and shreds of cut-up furniture, offered the four families emergency food and shelter.
"It's a total disaster, a shocking disaster," said Red Cross inspector Meg Roi, as Onie Palmer showed her a shattered toilet bowl and a television set thrown against a vanity mirror in a bedroom.
In other apartments, the damage was the same. Clothes were strewn on the floor, windows broken, records and stereo equipment smashed, bookcases overturned and neatly painted white plaster walls and ceilings broken open. In one kitchen, a stove was pulled from the wall and knocked on its side, while in a bathroom in the same apartment, a washing machine was upside down in a bathtub.
While Red Cross officials said the site is not a disaster area within the guidelines of the organization's relief program, spokeswoman Barbara Wilks said they could not ignore the plight of the four families.
"I am certain that it's considered disastrous by the families involved," Wilks said. "But it is not something that we are normally called out on."
While Southwest Division Capt. Tom Elfmont agreed that the damage in four apartments in the two houses raided in the 3900 block of Dalton Avenue was severe, he said some of the destruction may have been wrought by gang members entering the buildings after police left.
"I have been out to the location, and there is too much damage," Elfmont said. "What we have to determine is how much damage was caused by police."
Palmer, whose 16-year-old son Samuel was taken in by police for questioning and then released, said her son does not sell drugs and that the home she has lived in since 1984 is not the site of drug sales.
"It was a mistake," she said. "When they couldn't find anything, that's when they tore everything up."
Elfmont said the four apartments targeted in the raid were hit after an investigation of recent drive-by shootings.
"Southwest detectives had been investigating a series of drive-by shootings and homicides, and they developed information that these four locations were centers of a lot of gang activity," he said. "I had received a lot of complaints from neighbors about shooting and gang activity."
"There is no way that the four people who rented those apartments could not have known that what was taking place was narcotics trafficking by known gang members," he added.
Some neighbors, who asked that their names not be used for fear of gang reprisals, said the four raid sites are centers of gang activity in the drug-ridden neighborhood.