Kenya Walton and Yolanda Irving RPD lawsuit Omar Abdullah
Kenya Walton (L) and Yolanda Irving (R) Credit: Cornell Watson / Emancipate NC

Raleigh lawyers have settled yet another civil suit related to former police officer Omar Abdullah’s misconduct and string of wrongful arrests.

In this case, Abdullah executed a search warrant on the wrong house (based on a fabricated drug buy) leaving two Black families traumatized from a “SWAT-style” raid on their homes, according to a news release from the nonprofit Emancipate NC.

The raid was executed in a “no-knock” style, with police surrounding Yolanda Irving, Kenya Walton, and their respective children with automatic weapons; holding them in their homes for hours; and ransacking rooms in search of drugs or money that weren’t there.

In an agreement reached last week, the families will receive $350,000 from the City of Raleigh. The settlement comes after more than a year of litigation and three years after the raid itself.

“It’s been a very long and stressful journey,” Irving said in the news release. “We are still dealing with the trauma caused by this horrible situation, but after a long 3 years, justice was finally served.”

During the 16 months the case was fought in civil court, lawyers representing Raleigh mounted strong resistance. They prevented body camera footage of the raid from being publicly released, tried to get Emancipate NC removed from the case, and shielded Police Chief Estella Patterson from a deposition to answer questions about the department’s policy on no-knock warrants.

Irving, Walton, and their children were also subject to intense depositions, where they were asked racially charged questions such as, “Are you in touch with your birth father at all?” “When was the last time you had a job, if ever?” And “Do you have a particular rap artist you like?”

Emancipate NC ultimately prevailed, however, successfully negotiating a settlement and, critically, putting an end to the use of no-knock warrants in Raleigh. Three months after the lawsuit was filed, the RPD adopted an official policy banning the use of no-knock warrants.

The lawsuit also prompted the RPD to create and enforce “more stringent protections concerning the use of confidential informants in drug operations,” Emancipate NC’s news release states. “Substantial changes” have also been made to the “staffing and operation of the Drugs and Vice Unit, to which Abdullah and the other defendant officers belonged.”

So far, 28 people have received settlements in cases centered around the misconduct of Abdullah and officers with the Drugs and Vice Unit, says Abraham Rubert-Schewel, one of the attorneys fighting on their behalf with law firm Tin Fulton Walker & Owen. The city paid out $2 million in 2021 and will soon pay an additional $350,000 for this most recent settlement. Additionally, a third case is pending.

“The Raleigh informant scandal disrupted the lives of many innocent people and caused unnecessary trauma to our clients and others who were subjected to frightening police raids and arrests through no fault of their own,” said Ian Mance, senior counsel at Emancipate NC, in the news release. “This could not have occurred if not for the indifference of multiple police officers to the civil rights of those they were sworn to protect.”

Hopefully, Raleigh officials have learned their lesson. Policy changes are a step in the right direction, but only if they’re enforced. Transparency remains essential.

In the news release, Schewel said he hopes Raleigh continues to evaluate its policies regarding confidential informants and the execution of search warrants, “to ensure that nothing like this injustice ever happens again.”

Follow Staff Writer Jasmine Gallup on Twitter or send an email to Comment on this story at   

Support independent local journalism

Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.