Feds raid Brooklyn home over narcotics probe, but spark fear about ICE raid

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A protester arrested by cops at a raid in Sunset Park, Brooklyn on Oct. 21, 2020.
Screenshot from video courtesy of Jorge Muniz

Police raided a Sunset Park, Brooklyn home Wednesday morning and arrested a man on narcotics charges in what locals initially feared was an ICE raid.

Officers with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service broke into a home on 46th Street by Seventh Avenue at around 7 a.m. this morning to arrest a resident who allegedly transported narcotics through the mail, according to local officials. 

The agents, who say they had a warrant for the resident’s arrest, arrived in unmarked cars and broke down the door of the house before interrogating a Chinese man, who apparently didn’t speak English, according to a local organizer.

“They proceeded to go into the room and interrogate a Chinese man with no interpreter,” said Jorge Muñiz-Reyes with the local activist group Protect Sunset Park. “Some people from the neighborhood said, you know what, whatever kind of police this is, whether it is US Postal Inspector or not, it’s doing something that needs to be checked.”

The commotion drew neighbors and members of Sunset Park’s ICE watch, a group that patrols the neighborhood to protect locals from federal immigration agents. Thinking the agents were with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), protesters gathered around the postal inspector officers to demand that they identify themselves and show their warrant, activists said

“Unfortunately, as the agents were leaving, they refused to show an arrest warrant, they refused to show any of the neighbors anything,” Muñiz-Reyes said.

The US Postal Inspector’s office confirmed it was their agents conducting operations and executing search warrants from a federal judge in Washington state.

“Postal Inspectors are conducting an ongoing law enforcement operation with multiple agencies, executing search and arrest warrants issued by the Western District of Washington (state) in support of an Inspection Service investigation,” Donna Harris, a spokesperson from the Postal Inspection Service, said. “No further details will be provided at this time.  Additional media requests should be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.”

The US Postal Inspector called the local police precinct for backup, and officers from the 72nd Precinct swarmed the scene. A video shows one officer grabbing a megaphone out of the hand of an ICE watch protester identified as Brian G., and a group of police violently handcuffing him.

Police say the protester will be released at noon.

Locals slammed the U.S. Postal Inspector for arriving in unmarked cars and refusing to identify themselves or show the warrant — arguing that the tactics resemble those of ICE. 

“These are patterns that we’ve seen already, and these patterns come from ICE agents,” said Aidee with the grassroots group Mexicanos Unidos, who was at the scene. “This happened two weeks ago. They come at five, six, four in the morning terrorizing folks, people just getting up trying to go to work.”

ICE agents have posed as NYPD officers last week to arrest a man in Inwood early in the morning. Residents of Sunset Park, which houses a large immigrant community, have been on edge after locals recently reported several possible ICE arrests in Red Hook and Fort Greene. 

Muñiz-Reyes urged the agents to increase transparency.

“We know Trump’s agents lie all the time, we just want to see who these people are, what they’re looking for and they refused to do that. NYPD then arrested someone who was simply trying to ask those agents for the warrant.”

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who represents the area, said that federal agents are targeting New Yorkers because of the city’s sanctuary laws, which limit local authorities’ compliance with ICE. 

“ICE yesterday … basically said that if New York City doesn’t remove their sanctuary laws, they’re going to keep escalating what we’re just seeing right now — that federal agencies will come in and do what they want to do without any sense of respect for law, decency, or morality,” he said.

Menchaca, state Senator Zelnor Myrie, and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez are drafting a letter to the federal government with a list of questions about the arrest, Menchaca said.