Ex-drug dealer: Money, property missing after raid

Holly Fournier and Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — A former drug dealer took the stand Thursday during a federal extortion trial against two Detroit police officers, testifying about alleged missing money and property following a raid at her Southfield apartment.

Renee Williams lived on Park Drive when her home was raided by several Detroit officers on Feb. 27, 2011, she said. Hidden inside the apartment was more than 3 kilograms of cocaine and $140,000 in cash, according to the witness.

Only $55,990 was recorded in a police report filed after the raid and presented Thursday as evidence.

“That was false,” Williams said. Collectable coins and a ring also went missing after the raid, she added.

Williams’ testimony came during the trial against narcotics officers David Hansberry and Bryan Watson, who were indicted in April 2015 by a federal grand jury in Detroit on allegations of fake arrests and stolen drugs, money and property. Also indicted in the case is Kevlin “Omar” Brown, a longtime friend of Hansberry.

If convicted, they face up to 20 years in federal prison. Hansberry, a 16-year veteran, and Watson, who spent 22 years on the police force, were suspended without pay after their indictments were filed last year.

Williams was unable to identify any of the defendants as being present during the 2011 raid and prosecutors did not directly level the accusation Thursday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Buckley instead walked Williams through the evening raid, which allegedly began with officers breaking in unannounced. The woman said she hid in a bathroom with a loaded weapon, which she dropped when officials identified themselves.

However, Williams said several officers located the cocaine and $130,000 in duffel bags under a bed. She was handcuffed as one officer repeatedly asked if she had more money.

“He said he was in charge and could do whatever he wanted to do,” said Williams, adding she could see a wad of cash in the officer’s pants pocket.

Williams was arrested and charged, but her case was thrown out on a technicality, she said. That decision later was reversed and charges were reinstated before the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office ultimately dropped them.

Then, Williams was called to a local FBI office in January 2014 to discuss the officers involved in her raid, she said.

“I was going there to say that the police took (money). I wanted them investigated,” Williams said. “I wanted (the agents) to know the police were crooked.”

Williams admitted during questioning by prosecutors that she initially lied during the meeting.

“I wasn’t truthful at first,” she said. “I told (the agent) that it was (another person’s) cocaine instead of telling him it was mine because I was afraid and scared.”

Williams said she later decided to tell the truth about selling drugs when summoned to testify before a grand jury. She claimed she had nothing to gain by testifying Thursday.

But defense attorneys on cross examination jumped on her admission of untruthfulness, repeatedly referring to her as a “dope dealer” while highlighting her illegal activities.

A number of drug dealers-turned-informants are expected to testify in the case, and defense attorneys already have called their credibility into question.

“Every single witness you’ll see has asked, ‘What’s in it for me?’ ” defense attorney Steve Fishman told jurors during opening statements Wednesday. “We already know they are bad. They carry guns and are dope dealers. The key for this case is are they liars?”

U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy III adjourned court for the day Thursday during Williams testimony. She is expected to return to the stand Friday.

Earlier Thursday, lawyers for both sides appeared to be setting the stage for later testimony by walking two law-enforcement witnesses, Detroit Police Sgt. Tyrone Spencer and Officer Michael Saraino, through detailed descriptions of policies regarding weapons ownership, drug raids, evidence seizure and working with paid confidential informants.

They also repeatedly addressed two drug busts led by Hansberry, examining police reports, seizure records and drug test results. Prosecutors did not directly level allegations of wrong-doing connected to either incident.

Both arrests were linked to seized cocaine sought by federal agents during the investigation into conduct by Hansberry and Watson, according to testimony by Spencer.

The 32-year veteran and former raid commander now works at the department’s narcotic prisoner processing unit, a duty that involves handling evidence seized during raids. He once served on the same narcotics crew as defendant Watson, when both were officers, according to testimony.

The allegations against the defendants came as Detroit police were conducting an internal investigation into widespread wrongdoing in the narcotics section, which prompted Police Chief James Craig to disband the unit and institute new policies within the department.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier