A Brooklyn family has filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department (NYPD) accusing them of seizing the cremated remains of one of their members during a raid, after claiming it to be drugs.

The incident took place February 2018, when law enforcement agents burst into the Bushwick apartment of 65-year-old Lucia Santiago, after receiving reports of one of her grandsons being involved in a gun sale.

“When I opened my eyes I saw… six or seven police [officers] in my room,” she told New York Post. “They told me, ‘Get out of the bed!’”

According to the lawsuit, Santiago, along with her son and grandson, was handcuffed, as the police searched her residence for any traces of “guns and drugs.” During the search, they discovered “personal memorial urns” which contained the burnt ashes of Lucia’s husband, Miguel, who died of natural causes in 2016 at the age of 72.

Although the family members pleaded with the officers, trying to convince them the contents sealed in an airtight capsule inside one of the urns were just ashes, they refused to believe them. Claiming that the container had heroin inside it, the officers seized all the urns from the apartment as evidence. “I said, ‘That’s the ashes of my husband,’” Lucia claimed she told one police officer. “‘No,’ he told me, ‘That’s drugs.’”

Following the raid, Lucia, one of her sons and two grandsons were charged with possession of a controlled substance and ammunition. The family members denied the charges against them claiming the only ammunition in the house were some old bullets Miguel had kept.

Although the charges against the Santiago family members were dismissed later, the ashes were never returned. The family believed the contents of the urn were trashed by the police. Nelson Santiago, Lucia's son, said the “evidence they don’t use is discarded. We don’t know where my dad is at. We’re going on a year.”

Chris Flanigan said the message of his Instagram story in question was "misconstrued." Representative image showing an NYPD patrol vehicle. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

NYPD told the New York Post that they raided Santiagos’ home as part of a legal search warrant, although they failed to confirm whether the substance found inside the urns were heroin. The department added that if any drugs were seized during the raid, they cannot be returned to the owners “because they cannot be legally possessed.”

As such, people demanding a return of their possessions seized by the police can file an application for a release from the district attorney’s office and once approved, can claim the same from the city’s property clerk.

Lucia claimed she watched the officer manhandle her husband’s remains, which brought her “unbearable pain.” Nelson said after his father’s death, the family had divvied up Miguel’s ashes and stored them in the vials, which they would sometimes wear around their necks in the form of necklaces. “He wanted for his grandkids to have a piece of him, and his children, me and my mother, nephew and son,” he said.

It was not clear when the lawsuit was filed. The New York City Law Department is yet to review the complaint.