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Flint family wants a federal investigation of state police raid of their home

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A Flint family wants more than an apology after the Michigan State Police raided their home back in April, based on what police say was later discovered to be false information.

56 year old Renee Dunigan was home with her daughter and three grandchildren on April 21, when the State Police kicked in her door and started searching the house on Garland Street on Flint's northside.

“We’re just there saying ‘Can we call anybody? What is this for?' We did nothing wrong or anything,” Dunigan said, as her eyes began to tear up during a news conference Tuesday.

Dunigan said officers were “terrorizing” her family during the hour long raid.

Dunigan’s daughter, Michelle Colston, said she tried to comfort her young children during the raid. She said this was traumatic for her daughter who feared the police would kill them in their home.

“As a parent that’s one of the biggest failures to feel like,” Colston said. “At the hands of the police who’s supposed to protect us, my daughter is feeling like my mom is right here, and she can’t save me.”

The raid on the home on Flint’s north side was related to a homicide investigation. The search warrant for the home was obtained, in part, on information supplied by a confidential informant.  

But MSP spokeswoman Kimberly Vetter said after searching the home, officers determined “the informant knowingly provided false information to investigators.”

Attorney Bill Goodman represents the family. He called the decision to raid the home “careless and reckless.”

Goodman said a letter has been sent to the U.S. Justice Department seeking a federal investigation.

“The investigation needs to look into the way this warrant was executed. The way in which this family was terrorized. And the way in which they made the decision...to go to this particular house at all,” said Goodman.

Goodman suggested more thorough vetting of the informant’s false information would have prevented the raid from happening. 

The two sides disagree on some of the events of the night of April 21. In particular, whether this was a "no-knock" warrant.

'No-knock" warrants are used to give police the element of surprise over suspected criminals.  

Renee Dunigan said she observed flashing lights outside her window and her steps on her porch. But she said there was no warning before officers broke down her door.

MSP spokeswoman Kimberly Vetter said, “Officers announced their presence at least twice prior to making entry into the residence.”

The Michigan State Police has apologized to the family for the raid. MSP also claims to have offered to work with both the family and their landlord “to remedy the situation, which included paying for repairs to the front door.”

The family’s lawyers said they also offered to pay them $5,000, in exchange for agreeing to sign a non-disclosure agreement. 

Attorney Bill Goodman said the family has accepted neither the financial aid nor the apology.   

He said a civil lawsuit is expected to be filed soon. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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