‘I lost practically everything’: NoHo print shop owner on SWAT raid

By Celine Mendiola

The LAPD declined to comment on a lawsuit filed by Carlos Pena, the owner of a small printing shop in North Hollywood that got destroyed by a SWAT team more than a year ago. Photo by Shutterstock.

Last August, on what would have been an ordinary day of business, Carlos Pena was working on his computer at his printing shop, NoHo Printing & Graphics. Then at half past 1 p.m., Pena heard a commotion from the parking lot.

“I tried to step outside, I opened up the back door … and I see all these U.S. Marshals pointing their guns towards me. And I couldn't understand – I didn't know what was going on,” he recalls.

Seconds later, a fugitive ran inside the shop, hit Pena, and closed the door. In one hour, the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team arrived, and together with the U.S. Marshals, they went inside the shop with heavy artillery and tear gas canisters.

“That's where everything got destroyed. They were kicking doors, even … the toilet,” Pena says.

The siege lasted more than 12 hours. Pena says he wasn’t allowed back into his shop until 1:30 a.m. the next day. Because of the lingering tear gas, Pena says the atmosphere inside the shop was so terrible that “you couldn't even survive there five seconds without a mask.”

“When I saw the shambles of my shop, I just told myself, ‘Why didn’t this guy just [shoot] me?’” he says.

After the incident, Pena says that one of the U.S. Marshals gave him a sheet that allowed him to file a claim against them. He submitted a claim twice, but was denied both times.

Pena has been the owner of NoHo Printing and Graphics for more than 30 years. But within a few hours, he says the raid destroyed much of his hard work.

“I lost about 82% of my clientele. … I lost practically everything. All my equipment, all my income,” he says. 

Pena couldn’t recoup his damages from insurance, either. “For this type of damage that has to do with the government … chasing a suspect, they said that I was supposed to have a type of insurance … policy called ‘terrorism,’” he says. “But it almost cost $1,000, and [as] a small shop … we didn’t know about that. I never … thought that this would happen to me.” 

Despite the hardships, Pena is slowly restarting his business from his garage, with the help of his community. “Some people called me from other print shops, offering me their help. And one of them sold me a machine that was about $7,500 – he sold it to me for $2,000,” he says.

Friends and North Hollywood community members also started a GoFundMe for his business.

Currently, Pena has filed a lawsuit against the LAPD, seeking compensation for the damages of the raid. The LAPD declined to comment on it.