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Tenants scarred after armed men force their way into wrong home, looking for defendant

The men yelled, kicked the door, and slid open a window at 2 a.m. Thursday morning. "My heart was racing," the innocent apartment renter said.
Credit: WBIR

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Editor's Note: This story has been corrected after initially identifying the men involved as "agents." After further review, that appears to be inaccurate.

Imagine waking up to the sound of someone pounding and kicking on your door. That was the reality for two girls in their 20s early Thursday.

"It was 2:30 in the morning and we heard somebody knocking and, of course, you're gonna think it is a neighbor or something," Kalee Huddart said. 

The girls have lived in the apartments off Watauga Avenue in the Fountain City area for over a year. This is the first time somebody knocked in the middle of the night.

"But, then it just turned into like extra-excessive banging and hollering and screaming," Huddart said. "My heart was racing."

That's when Huddart and her partner, Cierra Phillips, went into the main living area and processed the scene. They said two men were knocking and kicking at the door. Another was attempting to get in through the window.

They called the police. 

Huddart said these men were wearing shirts that said 'SWAT 'and 'The Fugitive Task Force.'

It's not clear who the men were.

U.S. Marshal David G. Jolley told WBIR on Friday the men were not members of the service's Smoky Mountains Fugitive Task Force as WBIR first reported. Jolley said task force members do not conduct themselves the way the intruders did early Tuesday.

The task force works in a coordinated way to search for state and federal fugitives typically facing high-profile or major crimes. The local group often helps out-of-state agencies trying to catch an alleged criminal.

"The intent of this joint effort will be to increase public safety through the location and apprehension of state and federal fugitives," the Marshals Service states as the mission.

Among those agencies that participate locally are numerous local sheriff's offices, the Knoxville Police Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Smoky Mountains Fugitive Task Force members typically wear markings identifying them, such as vests with messages such as "US MARSHAL SHERIFF FUGITIVE TASK FORCE."

Jolley said he's directed his staff to try to find out who in fact may have been involved in the confrontation. He said he couldn't reveal more yet about what he suspects or what actions they're taking to identify the armed men.

Huddart told WBIR the armed men at their door were swearing and threatening.

"They were like, 'We see y'all moving. We need y'all to come out here. We're coming in there,' but they were cussing, too," Huddart said.

Cierra did not wish to speak on camera; however, her mother said the scene left her daughter scarred. Christine Collins said Cierra typically doesn't scare easily, but this was an "extreme" circumstance.

"She called me and she was scared to death. She had no idea what was going on," Collins said.

Both girls told 10News that the men slid open a window, and when they opened the door, one of the men pushed his way inside.

 "Once they got through here, they had guns drawn and everything," Huddart said. "And, there's two or three of them, and Ciara kept saying, 'No,  this isn't the right place. You've gotta go because we have a 2-year-old.'"

"They kept screaming, 'Is this apartment seven?' And Cierra said 'No, no, you have the wrong apartment,'" Collins said. "Then, those guys went on down to the right door and broke that window, went in through that window. Got the guy that way. And, never said anything to these girls."

The men redirected their mission in a hurry. The man they were looking for lived two apartments down.

But, they left behind shoe marks and dents on the door, an unhinged window, a cracked door frame, and a damaged lock.

"This was my home and it was invaded by these grown men. And it was scary. I was scared.  I was crying, and I called my mom. I was like — I don't want to live here. I told her last night was like, I want to move out. I want to move out," Huddart said.

The girls said they do plan to press charges for the damages to the apartment.

Through an online court records search at the apartment's address, 10News was able to find a match for that warrant. 

The man whom the warrant was intended for was arrested and booked Thursday afternoon. He was wanted for two misdemeanors — possession of 0.3 grams of heroin and driving with a suspended license.

 

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