Neighbors second-guess Revere police strategy

The second floor window of 22 Francis St., Revere, where a tear gas can was fired into the house. Item photo by Owen O’Rourke.

By Gayla Cawley

REVERE — Residents of a Francis Street home, the site of a standoff that lasted several hours on Sunday morning, are questioning the necessity of the police response and how it was carried out.

Residents identifying themselves as Muslims from Morocco claimed they were treated unfairly by police and dispute that a 911 call came from their building. Amin Kouhail, 26, thinks a neighbor called police for no reason, and claimed the neighbor has told the man and his housemates that he doesn’t want Muslims living on the street anymore.

On Monday, Revere Police released a recording of the 911 call that prompted their response to the multi-family residence at 22 Francis St. The caller reported at 4:30 a.m. Sunday that he lived at 22 Francis Ave. and there were shots being fired inside his building in Unit 2. The caller further stated that he had to go back into 22 Francis and get his child out. Police reported that attempts were made to call him back, but he did not answer.

In a statement released by Revere Police, officers responding to 22 Francis St. reported an odor of burnt gunpowder. As police attempted to contact the occupants in Unit 2, the lights were turned off and people could be seen moving window curtains to try to shut them out. Police said they made numerous attempts to get the residents out, including knocking on doors and using a loudspeaker, but the occupants refused to come to the door.

Kouhail said police and the SWAT team were pointing guns at them with lasers. He said officers did extensive damage to the house, pointing out a broken window overlooking the backyard where a tear gas grenade was thrown and broken doors with holes punched through them. He said police treated them like they were terrorists.

“They destroyed everything,” Kouhail said. “They treat(ed) us like animals honestly.”

Police said the residents’ refusal to come to the door prompted deployment of the Special Operations Unit, or SWAT team. The building was surrounded. The residents of Apartment 1 and the basement were evacuated, but not taken into custody, and were taken to the Revere Police Station Community Room and provided with water, coffee and food, according to police.

Officers learned that the residence was being used as a rooming house and that Unit 2 had several tenants. Neighbors told police that the basement contained women and children. Three residents of Unit 2 eventually came out upon orders from officers and stated there were other people inside. A fourth person came out upon additional requests, according to the statement.

A Special Operations negotiator told a fifth occupant, who identified himself as Mohsine Boughlal, to call 911. Police said he was convinced by communications personnel to leave the apartment. A sixth person refused to exit, prompting police to introduce a chemical irritant into the man’s bedroom, causing him to leave through the back door.

Boughlal, 38, said he felt discrimination with the response, and added that he felt like he was treated like a criminal or terrorist. When he called 911 during the standoff, he said he was treated nicely over the phone.

Kouhail said he lost his job as a result of the incident because he didn’t go to work.

Marwan Ziwani, 28, lives on the first floor and when he opened his door, he said there was a big gun equipped with a laser pointed at his face. He said he was told to come out with his hands up, and was informed by police that they were there for a shots fired call. But he said he didn’t hear any gunshots. He’s been living in the dwelling for three years without incident.

“I was shocked because I was sleeping,” Ziwani said. “I don’t know what was going on. I was scared.”

Ziwani said he felt he didn’t do anything wrong so he decided that he was going to stay in his room.

Following the standoff, police said the apartment was secured and a search warrant was executed. The search yielded no weapons. No arrests have been made and the incident is under investigation.

Kouhail said police brought doughnuts afterwards, but left it up to the residents to repair the damage in their home.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

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