On September 29, 1999, Mexican immigrant Ismael Mena was shot and killed in a no-knock drug raid on his house. The only problem was police had the wrong house; the target of the raid lived in the house next door, but police officer Joseph Bini wrote the wrong address on the search warrant.
A couple weeks ago, Denver District Judge Shelly Gilman sentenced Bini to a year of probation and 150 hours of community service. Bini had plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct in October.
LeRoy Lemos, a spokesman for the Justice for Mena Committee, was outraged by the sentence. “She’s the worst judge I’ve ever seen in my life not to impose any type of sanction on a man who was derelict in his duty, who through his actions cost an innocent citizen’s life.”
While Lemos is correct and Bini’s sentence should have involved at least some time in jail, Bini’s attorney David Bruno also has a point when he said that “[Bini] made a mistake, but did not create the mistake.” The overarching mistake is a drug war in which no-knock raids by paramilitary police armed to the teeth are now routine.
Until police and prosecutors decide to declare a ceasefire in the drug war, Mena will hardly be the last innocent person killed by overzealous police.
Officer gets probation for role in fatal raid. The Associated Press, December 2, 2000.