On his 65th birthday last year, Hells Angels member Edward Proudfoot opened the door of his East Oakland home and saw that they had him surrounded.
Helicopters whirred overhead, officers from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and the Oakland Police Department were stationed outside and on nearby rooftops with guns aimed at the house, and TV news cameras were ready to roll video. Proudfoot's wife, Shelley Milliorn, who had been running errands nearby, was being detained.
The police were there to search Proudfoot's house for two murder suspects connected to a family friend who had visited Proudfoot's home in the last few days. The suspects, who Proudfoot says he does not know, were wanted in connection with the murder of a San Leandro man.
By the end of that night, September 23, images of a handcuffed Proudfoot were all over the local evening news, his house had been searched with nothing found, and his dog Jade had been shot at close range by a member of the Oakland police. Now, months after the incident, Proudfoot and Milliorn say they are still wondering: What exactly happened?
According to Proudfoot, an officer informed him that they'd seen two murder suspects jump the fence of his home and that the pair could be inside his home at that very minute. Would he please allow officers to do an immediate search of his house?
Before Proudfoot signed a document allowing the officers to search the premises, he said he made one request. "One of the first things I asked them, 'Let me take care of my dogs,'" Proudfoot recalled. Both of his dogs, Jade and Bear, were inside the home. "I'll put them away in the bathroom or somewhere so they're out of the way. I told them at least half a dozen times."
But later that night, Jade was shot. According to lead detective Pat Smyth of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, a member of the Oakland police shot the dog. Although he was not present at the scene, Smyth said, "It was the Oakland Police. They were doing a protective sweep of the house of the resident. An aggressive pit bull was shot. There were two pit bulls, one they were able to lasso. The other one they were not, retreated into the house. When they did a protective sweep of the house, the dog charged them aggressively and subsequently it was shot."
Civil rights attorney David Beauvais says the couple is making preparations to file a federal civil case within the next month. Although Beauvais declined to state the grounds for the lawsuit, he mentioned that he was looking into the reasons for the search.
Proudfoot and Milliorn, who say they do not know the murder victim or the two men publicly identified by Smyth and other officers as suspects, Aaron Hammond and Ben Eddleman, have not been charged in connection with the homicide.
And as for the story that either murder suspect had been sighted jumping the fence of Proudfoot's property? Dickson said, "No, we never said anything like that. I've never heard anything like that as a part of this investigation. I would have no idea where that information came from." He added that his officers did not see Hammond or Eddleman in front of the house. In a separate interview, detective Symth agreed that neither suspect had been spotted in front of the home.
Yet Milliorn, like her husband, claims that she was told by police that Hammond and Eddleman had jumped their fence and might be in their house. "They said, 'We told you ... that the two suspects jumped the fence.' I said, 'Well if you want to, give my husband a call and let him know that that he's in there with two homicidal maniacs.'"
Proudfoot's legal advisor, criminal attorney Portia Glassman, who was called to the scene on the night of the search, sees the search as a case of bungled, misplaced showmanship. "They came here full of aggression," she said. "They came here ready for a war." Glassman also represents another Hells Angels member in a criminal case against the Alameda Sherriff's Office in a search of his home that took place a month before the search of Proudfoot's home.
Milliorn added, "They exploited his name and our address and everything on every newspaper and every news channel for two days. It was nothing related to the murder."
As for Jade the pit bull, she was taken to the Pet Emergency Treatment Service in Berkeley. The veterinarian, Dr. Shea Cox, pronounced the dog brain-dead and Milliorn allowed the dog to be put down. She had been beanbagged several times before being shot in the head.
Weeks after the search, Proudfoot's anger is still palpable. "They explained it to me: the suspects that they were looking for were here, and just in case there was a gun, they didn't want to endanger me to come in here while I was getting my dogs," he said on a weekday afternoon at his home, where blood stains of his dog remain in the carpet. "That's just bullshit, you know. I mean, they're just lying."
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