Members of a construction crew are alleging they were injured by a grenade thrown by Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies during a raid near their work site.
The injuries were inflicted as BSO SWAT deputies raided a suspected drug den located next door to the home the crew was working on, said one of the men.
BSO is denying the allegation.
“With no warning, they set off a bomb and I ended up blinded and on the ground,” said John Ira Duncan, 62, owner of J&S Construction and Equipment. “We had nothing to do with whatever was going on over there but they saw a group of black guys working so they set off a bomb and pulled guns on us.”
Duncan said he and three of his employees were installing a driveway at rental property he owns in the 700 block of northwest 43rd Court on Thursday, Aug. 19, when the police action took place.
He says the explosion and noise startled him, where he either fell or was knocked from the backhoe tractor he was operating.
“I ended up on the ground with my ears ringing and I couldn’t see,” Duncan said. “My nose was burning and something hit me in the head or I hit my head as I came off the backhoe.”
I thought I had broken a gas line or something,” Duncan said. “I was crawling and yelling for someone to call 911. When I did get my sight back, all I saw was them holding rifles on us.”
BSO acknowledged deputies carried out an operation at a home next door to where the construction crew was working. Headed by BSO, along with local, state and federal law enforcement officers, it was part of a two-day, multi-agency crack down on crime that led to the arrest of 232 suspects in Broward on Aug 18-19. At that particular location, four people were arrested on drug related charges.
A BSO spokeswoman said a stun grenade was used but officers did not throw any grenades in the direction of Duncan and his workers and that no reports were made of anyone being injured.
“Our SWAT team was there serving a search warrant and went into the house. Our people were on the scene and nobody said anything about being injured,” said Dani Moschella, BSO’s Public Information Officer. “They did see people working on the house next door, but had no contact with them.”
However, Duncan’s younger brother, John Ivory Duncan, insisted the incident took place.
“It was all of a sudden and it knocked me down too,” he said. “The police were standing over me with a gun while I was on the ground trying to crawl away. They were yelling for me to stay where I was. I was asking them to call the paramedics because my brother was hurt but they just told me to stay where I was.”
Ivory Duncan said he asked officers if he could switch off the backhoe his brother had been operating when the grenade detonated. Deputies threatened him with arrest if he went near the equipment, he said.
“I wanted to shut off the backhoe so it wouldn’t catch fire, because I was still thinking we had hit a gas line,” he said. “They told me to shut up but I could call the boss and tell them what happen and I told them that was the boss on the lying on the ground.”
A neighbor called paramedics and Ira Duncan was taken to North Broward Medical Center suffering from head trauma, swelling of nose and unspecified injuries to shoulder and back, according to a medical report which he made available to South Florida Times.
Still, the BSO’s Moschella said no reports of injuries were received.
“We have a medic assigned to the SWAT team specifically to treat injuries, just in case, but no one reported any injuries at the time,” Moschella saidd. “The claim that someone was injured came after our deputies had already left the scene.”
“That’s not true,” Ivory Duncan insisted. “I talked to the police and asked them to call 911 for my brother and they told me to be quiet.”
Moschella acknowledged deputies used a stun grenade during the raid but that the non-lethal device was not thrown or deployed in the direction of workers.
“This device wasn’t thrown, it was dropped. It has a sound similar to car backfiring,” Moschella said. “Our deputies were closer to it than anyone else and there were no injuries reported.”
A stun grenade or “flash bang,” as it is also known, is a non-lethal weapon designed to temporarily incapacitate people by disorienting them. The grenades give off flashes of light along with a loud blast which impact fluids in the ear. They can also contain irritants that can affect the skin and nose. They are used to surprise and distract but are not intended or designed to cause injury.
But some experts say in certain circumstances the devices can injure.
“Flash/Stun devices can be dangerous if not used properly, so much so that the [New York City Police Department] has just about stopped using them. They can only be used with permission of a high-ranking supervisor, so in essence they are hardly used,” said Edward “Ed” Mamet, president of New York-based ECJM Consultants, a law enforcement consulting firm with expertise in SWAT tactics and other areas of police work.
Mamet served 39 years with the NYPD, 20 of which were in the detective bureau. He has also appeared on media outlets as an expert witness and law enforcement commentator.
“The main danger is fire and burns to people if the device strikes a person directly or very close nearby,” Memet said in an e-mail. “Fire is a danger if the device lands on or near flammable material. As for concussion injuries, that is not a problem.”
Ira Duncan said he couldn’t remember if he hit his head on the backhoe or whether his injury was caused directly by the grenade. He said he has tried to file a complaint with the BSO’s Office of Professional Standard but without success so far.
“They told me they would get back to me in two to three weeks, which means they don’t want me to file a complaint,” he said.
Elgin Jones may be reached at EJones@SFLTimes.com
Pictured Above: John Ivory Duncan, left, John Ira Duncan, right.