On a Wednesday night in early January, about 20 officers wearing tactical vests and carrying assault rifles raided a family’s home in Sweetwater.
Sweetwater police were looking for James Castro, a 40-year-old registered sex offender accused of slamming his car into a cop during a drug sting earlier that day. But Castro wasn’t at home; instead, only his mother, two younger brothers, and pregnant girlfriend were there.
Surveillance footage from the home shows what happened next. One officer can be seen throwing punches at James Castro’s brother Christian. When his mother, Ana Schaublin, tries to intervene, the cop pushes her aside and another officer holds her against the front door.
“They punched me and threw me away,” Schaublin told WPLG the next day. “They’re animals.”
Now preparing to sue, the family has filed a petition asking a Miami-Dade judge to order the City of Sweetwater to release any documents or videos related to the raid.
“The video, it’s egregious,” the family’s attorney, Sebastian Ohanian, says. “What happened, it’s simply egregious.”
Sweetwater’s public information office did not respond to New Times‘ request for comment.
During the raid, the family says, James Castro’s brother Gary, who has schizophrenia, was attacked by police while handcuffed. James Castro’s pregnant girlfriend, Yanet Portales, also was “viciously pushed and attacked,” according to the court petition.
At the end of the takedown operation, police charged Christian Castro with battery on an officer and resisting arrest. Gary Castro was hit with the same charges. The family claims the arrests were unjustified, but both cases remain pending.
Even more troubling is the fact that the police department admits the raid took place without a search warrant. Officers say Schaublin gave consent for them to enter the family’s home. Schaublin disputes that claim.
Ohanian says he’s thankful the raid was caught on the family’s Ring security camera. He calls the footage “critical” to the family’s story.
“It’s generally going to be the cops’ word versus the victims’ word,” he says. “And we know how that turns out.”