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Cops searching for wrong person wreck family’s home during raid, Texas officials say

A Texas police chief is on leave after a SWAT team wrecked a Galveston family’s home during a raid in search of a murder suspect who wasn’t there and turned out to be the wrong guy, officials say.

Erika Rios and her teenage children were awakened in their beds around 2 a.m. on Jan. 22 by a voice on a megaphone booming outside, saying they were Galveston Police, she told The Daily News.

Glass shattered as police fired less-than-lethal rounds through windows, kicked in doors and damaged wiring, Rios told the outlet.

“We were all so confused,” she said, according to The Daily News. “When they dragged me out, I was left with a bruise and scrape on my right thigh.”

Cameras inside the home show members of the family with their hands up as police searched the address.
Cameras inside the home show members of the family with their hands up as police searched the address.

Police were looking for a 17-year-old named Cameron Vargas in connection to the killing of Malik Dunn, a 25-year-old found shot to death two days earlier on Jan. 20, KPRC reported. Vargas is a friend of Rios’ son and had been at the home but left hours earlier, Rios told the station.

“I was scared, screaming,” Rios’ daughter Chelsea Peralez said, according to KPRC. ”I ended up going to my brother, asking what they were doing, and they continuously kept shooting the wooden pellets.”

Vargas was taken into custody on Jan. 23, but charges were dropped on Jan. 25, court documents show.

Investigators cleared Vargas as a suspect, outlets reported.

City officials put Police Chief Doug Balli on 10-day administrative leave in the aftermath of the raid.

The city manager “is conducting an internal investigation into the chief’s conduct. Specifically, city administration is investigating a failure of communication surrounding a search performed in the early morning hours of January 22,” the City of Galveston said in an emailed news release to McClatchy News.

Officials did not elaborate on the exact nature of the “failure of communication.”

Assistant Police Chief Andre Mitchell has stepped in to fill the role in Balli’s absence, officials said.

McClatchy News reached out to Galveston police regarding the raid and subsequent investigation into Balli, but did not receive an immediate response.

“I’ve been left with traumatized kids, no heat in my home and busted windows, all because they were looking for somebody who didn’t even live there, who was also innocent,” Rios told The Daily News. “I’m trying to repair what I can and heal my kids, but it’s hard as a single mother. It has been a whirlwind and it was all so unnecessary.”

The Buzbee Law Firm, which is representing the Rios family, has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1.

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