Grandma Killed in Fatal Drug Raid

Deputies say they gathered enough evidence for a warrant after neighbors called into complain that the home was a drug den.

In the aftermath of a fatal drug raid in Pompano Beach, two pictures are emerging of the homeowner shot to death by police when she refused to put down a gun.

Friends and relatives say Brenda Van Zwieten, a 52-year old who loved being a grandmother, was affectionately called "mom" by many who knew her for using her home as a neighborhood hangout in an effort to keep kids off the street and away from drugs. They say the incident was a setup, and that Van Zwieten had a prescription for pills found in her home.

The Broward Sheriff's Office says Van Zwieten owned a drug house, where they found heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, and marijuana plants after arresting three people who exited the house in possession of drugs -- calling it a blemish in an otherwise nice neighborhood.

What's not disputed is that, though deputies announced themselves before entering and though her boyfriend, 47-year-old Gary Nunnemacher, surrendered himself without incident, Van Zwieten did not heed police when they entered her room shorty after midnight Saturday morning.

Van Zwieten armed herself with a .357 Magnum handgun, pointed it at SWAT team officers, and refused to put it down. She died at the scene.

"When you approach a police officer with a loaded weapon and don't put the weapon down, there's going to be consequences," sheriff's spokesman Mike Jachles said. "It's unfortunate, but I'd rather be talking about a dead suspect than a dead cop."

Van Zwieten's brother, Bill George, said his sister had recently received threats and was afraid of break-ins.

"It was an unlawful shooting," he said. "She's 98 pounds. She was just trying to protect herself. I would come out of my room with a gun too."

Nunnemacher was charged with possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana; Chaylenne Pallazzo, 21, and Patrick Banks, 18, both of Pompano Beach, and Jorge Lopez, 23, who is homeless, were arrested earlier after leaving the house with narcotics. Deputies confirmed the drugs were purchased at the home.

Officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, routine procedure after shootings. The incident will be investigated by both BSO Homicide and Internal Affairs detectives.

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