Drug bust turns deadly in Utah

The Salt Lake Tribune

OGDEN, Utah — When SWAT officers dressed in black shattered windows at his house in the middle of the night, William Louis Florez grabbed a handgun, yelling at them to get away.

Florez pointed the gun at an officer outside a bedroom window, and the officer fired. He then turned and lowered the gun toward an officer outside a front window. That officer fired four quick shots.

Florez fell backward onto the ground, his eyes still open and blood pooling behind his neck.

That's how police and witnesses say an operation to serve a no-knock search warrant in a drug investigation turned deadly early Thursday.

"We were running and ducking," said Donna Park Hill, who was in the home. "We didn't know what was happening. We didn't know if it was gang-bangers or what."

Hill and Florez's brother, Joe Florez Apadaca, were with Florez at 1:40 a.m. when SWAT officers from Ogden and Layton arrived to search Florez's house, at 368 28th St., and a house next door. They suspected Florez was dealing drugs with a neighbor and selling guns.

Florez pushed Hill toward a closet when officers arrived. Apadaca remained in the living room and watched the second officer shoot his brother.

Apadaca said Florez aimed at an officer but did not shoot. He said he did not see Florez aim at the first officer who fired. He said he didn't realize the men who shot his brother were police officers until after Florez was dead. He assumed the men were enemies of Florez, possibly gang members.

"It just sounded like a bunch of people trying to get into the house," said Hill, Apadaca's girlfriend.

One Layton and one Ogden officer - whom police have not identified - were placed on administrative leave after the shooting, pending an investigation by a multi-jurisdictional team of Weber County detectives, and internal reviews by the Ogden and Layton police departments.

Neighbor Doyce Ralphs said he awoke to the sound of officers yelling, "We've got a warrant! Get down!" followed by the sound of shattering glass.

Ogden police Lt. Scott Sangberg said it is common for SWAT officers to break windows before entering a house, often to throw a concussion grenade inside to reduce the potential threat inside.

When applying for the no-knock warrant, police rated Florez a 72 on a 100-point threat scale, Sangberg said.

"That's one of the highest [ratings] I've seen in my career," said Ogden police Lt. Tony Fox.

SWAT officers entered a house next door to Florez at the same time and arrested Myra K. Carlisle, 48, on suspicion of distributing drugs.

The searches were part of a two-month investigation by the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, Sangberg said.

Ralphs said he was not surprised to hear Florez and Carlisle were the focus of a drug investigation. He said the constant flow of traffic to and from both houses made him believe drugs were involved, although he never witnessed a drug transaction.

"I had my suspicions," Ralphs said.

In the 1970s and '80s, Florez committed numerous violent crimes, according to Tribune archives.

He barricaded himself in a home and exchanged gunfire with police in 1976. Soon after his parole for those crimes, he returned to prison for hitting his father-in-law over the head with a bottle.

Then, in 1981, he was charged with raping, robbing and cutting a woman, a case he settled by pleading guilty to aggravated assault.

Five years later, Florez fatally stabbed Stephen Myers, 29, twice in the chest after finding the man in bed with his girlfriend. Florez was convicted of capital murder, but the jury decided against the death penalty.

The Utah Supreme Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. Florez pleaded guilty in 1990 to manslaughter and possession of a dangerous weapon and was sent to prison for up to 20 years. At his first parole hearing later that year, Florez told the board he was a changed man and that he had promised his mother before she died that he would go straight and help take care of their family.

He was released from prison a year ago, and, according to the state court system, was not charged with any crime since, although his sister, Mary Lou Lanier, obtained a protective order against him in September.

Carlisle's criminal history since 1996 consists of three misdemeanor convictions, two for theft and one for possession of drug paraphernalia. She was sentenced to fines and probation.

Abadaca acknowledged his brother pointed a gun at officers. But, he said, he wished officers could have found another way to arrest him.

"I think it was kind of messed up the way they approached," Abadaca said. "Apparently, they had been watching him. I'm sure there were plenty of ways of apprehending him without doing it the way they did."

With his brother dead on the floor and about a dozen officers standing outside, Abadaca said, he opened the unlocked front door and let them in.

Copyright 2007 Salt Lake City Tribune

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