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Police Apologize for Minister’s Death in Bungled Drug Raid

March 27, 1994 GMT

BOSTON (AP) _ The police commissioner apologized Saturday for the death of a retired minister who collapsed when police broke into the wrong apartment on a drug raid.

Accelyne Williams, 75, died of heart failure 45 minutes after a 13-member SWAT team burst into his apartment Friday afternoon, toting rifles and wearing bulletproof vests and shields.

″I am apologizing not only to the Williams family but to the residents of the Mattapan community and the entire city for this tragedy,″ police Commissioner Paul Evans said. ″The one tragic fact which is clear at this time is that Rev. Accelyne Williams was an innocent victim in the continuing war on drugs.″

Evans said police raided Williams’ second-floor apartment when they were looking for a drug and weapons cache suspected to be on the third floor.

The raid was based on a tip from a informant who had provided information leading to two previous raids in which guns and drugs were seized, but the informant gave the wrong apartment number, Evans said.

Evans met Saturday with Williams’ widow. ″In our conversation this morning, his wife pointed out the irony that her husband had dedicated his life to fighting drugs,″ he said.

Williams’ family has hired a lawyer. ″The family is going to be looking for much more than an apology,″ Evans said.

Preliminary autopsy results indicated Williams died of heart failure.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph Martin said Williams’ death was ″a tragedy. We all know it’s a tragedy.″

A prominent local minister urged people not to feel any ″negative backlash.″

″What I appreciate is the police are standing up and saying, ’We made a mistake,‴ said the Rev. Bruce Wall, pastor of the Dorchester Temple Baptist Church.

Williams struggled with police as they handcuffed him, then collapsed. Police called an ambulance, and Williams was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Edward Eagar Jr., the police department’s commander of special operations, said it is normal procedure to handcuff any civilians who are confronted during a raid. Unless they resist, exceptions are normally made for women, children and the elderly, he said.

Eager said police were still investigating whether Williams had resisted. No drugs or weapons were found in his apartment. Police didn’t raid the other apartment because they would have needed a new warrant with the correct apartment number.

One neighbor, Pamela Vickers, was sympathetic to police: ″If anybody killed this man, the drug dealers killed this man.″