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Men file complaint after RCMP use dog to storm wrong home

Emad Hovaizavi felt "pure terror" when the police dog clamped its mighty jaws on his leg. He felt the animal's teeth crunch through bone before it dragged him out of his apartment.

Out in the corridor, police kicked him in the head and ribs as he lay face down on the floor. Men in black masks and bulletproof vests pointed their guns at Mr. Hovaizavi.

He tried to tell the officers they had the wrong people. He and two men were just drinking tea at his place after work, he told them. Police swore at him and told him to shut up.

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"I was in pure terror," Mr. Hovaizavi said in an affidavit released yesterday by his lawyer, Craig Costantino. Mr. Hovaizavi and the two other men have complained to the RCMP Commission for Public Complaints about the police raid at Mr. Hovaizavi's Surrey, B.C., apartment on Nov. 7, 2008.

They want to know why police burst into Mr. Hovaizavi's unit and sent a vicious dog inside to drag two of the men out.

"I didn't know what was happening; I just felt the crunch of my bone as the dog bit into my right shin just above my ankle and began to drag me out of my apartment," Mr. Hovaizavi said in the written statement. "I screamed. I did not understand what was happening."

Mr. Costantino described the police raid as "shocking, negligent and incredibly reckless."

The RCMP yesterday called the incident "regrettable" and said a police team went to the wrong door that night. Surrey Mounties, backed by members of the Emergency Response Team, arrived at the building with search warrants for other units, but went to Mr. Hovaizavi's apartment by mistake.

"The Surrey RCMP has acknowledged the error and has made every effort to mitigate this situation, working directly with [the]individuals to support them," Corporal Peter Thiessen said yesterday in a statement. The officer added that police apologized to all three men and offered them support from their victims' services department.

Cpl. Thiessen noted that police found weapons and drugs in other units in the building, including a Ruger handgun, cocaine, heroin, a taser, machete and battle axe.

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An internal RCMP investigation on the raid was ordered, Cpl. Thiessen said. It's been completed and some recommendations will be implemented, but he didn't have the results.

However, the men are demanding a public hearing. "They were just in pure terror," Mr. Costantino said. "They had no idea." None of the men would give interviews. Mr. Costantino said they prefer to wait until their complaint is completed.

According to their statements, the three men were handcuffed and loaded into a police wagon, but released shortly afterwards. They went to hospital later that night and were treated for their dog-bite wounds. But they were never told why the raid occurred, or why a dog was used.

Mr. Costantino said the police showed no search warrants, the men had no police records and no previous dealings with police, Mr. Costantino said.

"Is this a policy, to send in a dog into an apartment, having no idea who is in there?" the lawyer asked. Despite the police apology, his clients want the issue probed publicly.

"This is a case where it really could be anybody," he said. "It's still just stunning that ... they broke down the door."

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Two of the men are from Iran, one of whom was making a refugee claim. The third man had fled Somalia years earlier.

The November police raid was described in detail in three separate affidavits. The men still suffer from "anxiety, nightmares and loss of sleep," over the raid, Mr. Costantino said.

Mr. Hovaizavi said the raid "reawakened the experiences that I suffered at the hands of security police in Iran."

In their affidavits, Mohammed Bosir and Seyedmorteza Ghadiriasli said they were invited to Mr. Hovaizavi's house after work that November night.

Not long after they arrived, they said they heard a loud bang and the door was pushed open. Mr. Hovaizavi heard someone yell: "This is the police." The voice ordered the occupants of Unit 206 to come out. The men were in Unit 205. Another voice ordered them to lie down on the floor.

They complied, but soon a dog came running into the apartment. "He was gigantic with a head like a lion," Mr. Bosir's statement said.

The dog grabbed Mr. Hovaizavi by the shin and dragged him outside. The animal returned for Mr. Bosir. "The dog bit me in the leg," he said. "The pain was excruciating."

The third man, Mr. Ghadiriasli, said he was bitten once in the arm.

At the hospital later that night, Mr. Ghadiriasli said an RCMP officer approached and said the raid was a mistake. "He told me that there had been a report of crime in the building but that there had been a mistake. He said that as an RCMP officer, he was not responsible for what had happened."

The RCMP said they will co-operate with the Commission for Public Complaints.

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