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Latin Kings 'gang raid' from 2006 ends in $475,000 lawsuit settlement

6:50 PM, Jun 27, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a nearly half-million dollars to settle a civil rights lawsuit that dates back to 2006.

It started with a huge gang bust bust took place back on August 20, 2006 at the Caribbean American Club at 6211 Martindale Ave. in South Tampa. It was supposed to be a major gang round-up.

Instead it turned into an expensive and embarrassing civil rights lawsuit against local law enforcement.

Neighbors recall how it looked like an armed invasion the day of the raid: armored personnel carriers, and cops everywhere.

"Everybody within the vicinity, within a couple of miles remembers. It was lit up so much," said Susie Skaggs, who witnessed the raid go down.

Neighbor Joe Gomez says he remembers looking up the street and seeing dozens of police officers and deputies swarming the place.

"I guess it was some of the gang members that supposedly were down there that they were trying to catch," recalled Gomez.

At the time, law enforcement proudly announced the arrests of 52 alleged members of the "Latin Kings" street gang. They were meeting here in Tampa for a conference, they said, from all over the state.

Most took plea deals. Others did jail time.

But it turns out the bust was bad. Half of the cases were thrown out after a court-ordered investigation revealed the Tampa Police department's confidential informant -- a former gang member himself -- had bullied or intimidated many of the participants into showing up at the Tampa meeting.

A judge called the investigators' conduct in the case outrageous.

"Shame on them," said Skaggs. "They only derived what they wanted out of everything. The information that they wanted and wanted to work with. So that whatever - when they went in there with clubs a swinging."

Ten of those arrested filed a civil rights lawsuit, and a few weeks ago Tampa PD settled out of court for $260,000.

This week the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office decided to settle as well, for $215,000.

"All parties and litigants in this case mutually agreed, based on the totality of the circumstances, the investigation, and the outcome of the investigation, that it was in everyone's best interest to settle the case now," said Sheriff's Office Spokesman Det. Larry McKinnon.

Under the agreement, the agencies admit no wrongdoing, but the law firm representing those who sued says the amount of the settlement should be substantial enough to teach law enforcement a lesson not to let this sort of thing happen again.

"Yeah, I do not feel good about that part," said Gomez. "I do appreciate them trying to protect us, but I want them to do it in an orderly manner and fashion."

The settlement will be split among those who sued.

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