Raid Española family details on YouTube; police say protocols were followed | Local News
A Western New York couple who took a month-long journey into ‘van life’ with their four children says in a YouTube video that their adventure took a turn for the worse when their shuttle broke down in Española in May , just as they were preparing to return home.
Law enforcement officers broke into the vehicle while they were sleeping, Angelo and Ylsa Giuffre say, terrifying their children and punching Angelo Giuffre in the face.
The couple, from Jamestown, NY, released a nearly 30-minute video on Wednesday that shows much of their morning encounter with a regional drug task force. The video, an episode of the family’s YouTube series documenting their trek across the country, depicts the family’s shock and confusion over why they were targeted by law enforcement.
Ylsa Giuffre demands to know the names and badge numbers of the agents and why an agent hit her husband after he asked permission to put on pants before leaving the shuttle.
Eventually, it becomes clear that as part of a drug-related investigation, the officers were executing a search warrant at the auto shop where the family had parked their broken down shuttle.
The raid on their rolling home was an accident.
The Giuffres declined to comment on Saturday, citing potential litigation over the incident.
New Mexico State Police, who had participated in the Region 3 Drug Task Force multi-agency operation at H&A Automotive on Riverside Drive, issued a press release on Saturday acknowledging the “video YouTube viral”. The task force was helping the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration serve a May 18 search warrant at H&A Automotive “for the purpose of disrupting a drug trafficking organization,” the statement said.
A message left with the company on Saturday went unanswered.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Española Valley Chamber of Commerce could not be reached for comment on the visitation of the family caught up in the law enforcement operation.
The Giuffres’ video, titled “The Knock on the Door No Nomad Should Ever Get”, is a combination of edited footage from their own cameras and police body cameras. It had recorded more than 20,000 views on Saturday.
It starts with Angelo and Ylsa Giuffre talking about being idle in Española after their van broke down. In the text accompanying the video, the family adds that they had received permission to camp outside H&A, where the vehicle was being repaired.
Six minutes into the episode, body camera footage shows an officer breaking into the shuttle through the front door. The silent video, shot from the officer’s point of view, is then projected out the back of the vehicle and onto the frightened faces of the children. The family members ask what’s wrong and they are told to get out.
“You. Start walking out. Keep your hands up,” the unidentified officer orders. When Angelo Giuffre protests that he’s not wearing pants or underwear and has to cover up, the officer responds : ” I do not care. [expletive].”
Angelo Giuffre then said: “I have rights; what do you think I did?”
The officer responds, “I don’t care what you think,” and threatens to drag him out.
The video fades to black, then resumes with an agitated Angelo Giuffre shouting, “That man hit me!”
The officer in question works for the Taos Police Department, according to the state police press release. He adds that the officer informed a sergeant on site that he was involved in a “use of force incident” and that such incidents are being investigated by the agency that employs the officer, and not by the working group.
Officers “observed movement inside a small white bus,” the statement said. “An officer from the Taos Police Department and a deputy from the Taos County Sheriff’s Office entered the bus to attempt to secure the vehicle and determine if any suspects from the investigation were inside.”
Taos Police Chief John Wentz said in a statement that the officer accused of punching Angelo Giuffre followed proper protocols and an investigation found no wrongdoing. He declined to identify the officer.
The Giuffres likely acquired the body camera video footage via a public records request under New Mexico’s Public Records Inspection Act. It was unclear on Saturday whether that was why the video was released nine months after the incident.
During that time, Wentz said in his statement, no one had filed a complaint about the incident with his agency or, to his knowledge, others. He said Giuffres’ video “does not accurately depict what happened and attempts to create an impression that does not reflect all of the facts surrounding this incident.”
Later in the YouTube episode of Les Giuffres, the agents question the children of the family about Ylsa Giuffre’s objections. She repeatedly asks which officer hit her husband.
“Send an ambulance and tell them one of your officers punched someone in the face – who was sleeping,” she said.
After the initial shock, Angelo and Ylsa Giuffre become more insistent outside the shuttle demanding answers from the agents about which agency they were with and what they were doing.
Angelo Giuffre later tells officers that he is a minister and a former theater owner.
An unidentified officer tells the couple that the task force had a search warrant for the property, which required officers to identify everyone there.
An officer also said the raid targeted an operator of the business next to which the family had parked.
The family’s message on Wednesday says the bus is still not fully repaired. He is linked to a GoFundMe account that had raised over $11,000 of a goal of $30,000 on Saturday night.
As the video opens, a short intro says the couple’s theater in western New York was closed, likely during the coronavirus pandemic, with no certainty about when it might reopen. As a result, they decided to cram their kids into the converted 10-passenger van and drive around the country.
Their YouTube channel documents the experience in short episodes, including one posted Jan. 29 that shows a more peaceful day in Española as the family waits for repairs to their van. Kids practice their skateboarding skills at a local skatepark. Ylsa and Angelo Giuffre comment on the town, which Angelo says is “cool here, and not touristy at all”.
The couple say they release new episodes every Wednesday and Sunday, but one appeared on their channel on Saturday titled “Police meet aftermath.”
A moved Ylsa Giuffre reiterates in the video that the family had been woken up with “AR-15s in our face”. Officers never showed the family a search warrant, she said.
She scans the parking lot, where the officers are packing up their gear, and pulls up a piece of paper identifying the Taos officer accused of hitting her husband as Luke Martinez.
“I was more disconcerted by the fact that he was hitting me than by the fact that it hurt,” Angelo Giuffre said of the Taos officer.
“Now it’s starting to hurt,” he adds.
He also explains why he was naked from the waist down when the officers burst into the shuttle: “I’m hot at night, and sometimes I take my underwear off. I was still covered in blankets,” he said. “…You have to show me a warrant if you want the right to see me naked.”