Tag Archives: militarized police

No More No-Knocks, they are Killing Innocent People

Maryland Man Killed by Police During High Risk Warrant
No More No-Knocks, they are Killing Innocent People

USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Here we go again. Another innocent killed by police serving a “No-Knock” warrant in the middle of the night, and another person arrested for shooting at unidentified, un-uniformed, home invaders.

This time it happened in Louisville, Kentucky. Although it is only now attracting national attention, the tragedy took place back on March 12, when 26-year old Breonna Taylor was shot 8 times by 3 plain-clothes police officers who had just kicked in her front door. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, says he believed the intruders were home-invaders and he fired one shot as the attackers came through the door.

Walker was arrested and indicted on charges of Attempted Murder of a Police Officer. At last report, those charges have been dropped pending the outcome of investigations by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office and the FBI. If those investigations don’t come out with favorable findings for Walker, he could find himself before another grand jury facing the same or revised charges.

By twisted coincidence, the police raid on the home of Breonna Taylor occurred less than 24 hours after a similar “No-Knock” raid in suburban Maryland where 21-year-old Duncan Lemp was killed and his pregnant girlfriend wounded. As in the Kentucky raid, the stories of the police involved and the witnesses present, don’t agree. Montgomery County, Maryland Police say their officers announced themselves and that the victim/suspect refused to follow police commands before being shot.

Lemp’s girlfriend says police began firing through a bedroom window while she and Lemp were asleep in bed!

That raid was based on an “anonymous tip” that Lemp was in illegal possession of firearms. Lemp had a juvenile record that stipulated that he was not to purchase or possess firearms in Maryland until he had attained the age of 30. Three rifles and two handguns were found in the home that Lemp shared with his parents and younger brother.

Police statements regarding the raid seem to be carefully worded to allow somewhat flexible interpretations, not unlike Bill Clinton’s statements about what “is” means. For instance, police have said that Lemp refused to obey police commands and that upon entry into the bedroom, a rifle was “recovered,” but they don’t actually say that Lemp was threatening officers with the rifle, or that he was even holding it, just that it was in the same room. These ambiguous statements, and the claims of Lemp’s family, have prompted the family’s attorneys to call for the release of the body-cam videos from the officers involved in the raid. So far, Montgomery County, MD police have refused to release any video of the incident.

That refusal to release video has come under additional fire recently, after another officer-involved shooting by the same department resulted in the release of the body-cam video within 24 hours. Skeptics suggest that the reason that video was released, was because it strongly supported the officer’s contention that he had no choice but to fire in that situation. Could it be that video from the Lemp assault is being withheld because it doesn’t support officers’ claims? Are we next going to be told that none of the officers involved were wearing body cameras, or that those that were, either forgot to turn them on or had some technical issue that caused them not to work, as happened in the Erik Scott case in Las Vegas in 2010?

Back in Kentucky

Police in Kentucky say that there was no video of the assault on Breonna Taylor’s apartment, and that’s believable, though inexcusable. In that case, there were only 3 officers involved in the raid, all in plainclothes. Of course, that raises all sorts of other questions, such as why there were only 3 officers involved, why all were out of uniform, and why there isn’t some policy requiring that cameras be used during any warrant service where there’s time and opportunity to do so?

That’s just one suggestion for policies and regulations that states could implement to reduce the problems associated with “dynamic entries” and other aggressive SWAT tactics used by police:

Require that the warrant service be recorded from beginning to end, preferably with a body-cam on every participant.

Another reform intended to reduce these problems, is a law that requires police agencies to submit biannual reports on the use and activities of their SWAT teams, including reporting when, where, why, and how these officers and tactics are deployed, along with data on suspects apprehended, evidence acquired, and any injuries or serious property damage sustained in the process.

Another Texas Police Department Implements Viridian Gun Cameras
Gun Cameras: Require that the warrant service be recorded from beginning to end, preferably with a body-cam on every participant.

This law was pushed through the Maryland Legislature back in 2009 by the former Mayor of Berwin Heights, a suburb of Washington, DC. The mayor’s arguments for the law were especially compelling since, a few years earlier, he and his mother-in-law had been held at gunpoint, handcuffed face-down on his kitchen floor, in a pool of blood from his two Labrador Retrievers that officers had killed when they raided his home. The raid was based on a package containing marijuana being delivered to the mayor’s address. It turned out that the package was shipped by a smuggling operation and was supposed to be stolen by one of their operatives from the carport where the UPS driver had left it. They hadn’t planned on the mayor’s mother-in-law visiting and taking the package inside before their operative could acquire the package.

This type of law has only been adopted by two states, Maryland and Utah, and obviously it didn’t prevent the March raid on the Lemp residence, so what else could be done to prevent these tragedies?

For starters, judges need to be more demanding and cautious in their issuance of warrants and perhaps face consequences for signing off on a warrant based on a flimsy affidavit.

Of course, judges don’t want to be seen as micro-managing the police or having to face any consequences, but they must take responsibility for the outcomes of warrants they sign. In cases like the death of Breonna Taylor, not only should the officers who executed the raid, and the supervisor who signed off on it, be held accountable, but so should the judge who approved the warrant. At the very least a judge’s involvement in issuing a questionable warrant should be made public knowledge, especially around election season for elected judges.

Ultimately, “No-Knock” or “Knock-Knock-Bang” warrants should only be issued in very specific and extreme circumstances to save lives. Kicking in doors, setting off flash-bang grenades, rappelling down from the roof and crashing through windows, shooting dogs, using armored vehicles to pull off window bars, and all of these other movie-style tactics, simply don’t belong in our neighborhoods. Like the BATF raid on the Branch Davidian Church in Waco, Texas, there’s almost always a better way, such as capturing the suspect while he’s checking the mail or pumping gas, calling on the phone and asking for a meeting, or simply knocking on the door and showing a warrant.

If the evidence being sought is small enough to be flushed down the toilet during the service of a warrant, then it’s probably not enough to warrant putting police officers at risk to try and procure it with a dynamic raid. If the suspect is so dangerous that a SWAT raid might be warranted then it would probably make more sense to try and catch him away from his home turf, rather than trying to take him from his “castle.”

Examples of warrant service going bad are far too common and almost completely preventable. There have been far too many victims created by the tactics themselves.

People like Cory Maye, who served 10 years on Death Row for shooting at strangers kicking down his door, and Jose Guerena, a former Marine and combat vet, who jumped from his bed when he heard pounding and explosions, and was shot dozens of times because he was holding a gun in his own home. Or Cheye Calvo, the Mayor of Berwin Heights Maryland, mentioned above, or Katheryn Johnston, a 92-year old woman who was shot to death after she fired a shot at a group of home invaders crashing through her front door. It turned out that they were corrupt narcotics officers trying to shake-down a drug dealer, but they got the wrong address.

All were innocent victims of aggressive police raids that I’ve written about in the past. Statistically, these tragedies are rare, considering that SWAT teams or tactics are employed something like 40,000 times a year in this country, but even though only a small percentage of those end up in the news as bungled operations, many more result in unnecessary death and destruction, and even more result in trashed homes, trashed lives, and deep scars among some members of the community, widening rifts that departments should be working hard to close.

It’s well past time for the public, politicians, and police unions to join together to address these tactics that unnecessarily jeopardize the police and the public.

Dangerous Duty

Dangerous Duty:  “Duty to Inform” in Illinois CCW Bill

By Chris Knox

A debate over a “Duty to Inform” (DTI) clause in a proposed concealed carry law is currently raging in Illinois, pitting Chicago gun owners against “downstate” (i.e. not Cook County) folks.  It’s a family fight, and outsiders are rarely welcome in such squabbles.  Outsiders in the present case would include this Arizona-based columnist.  Some key sources in both Illinois and within the NRA either flatly refused to speak to me or just went silent when I started asking questions.  Opponents of the DTI language, mostly based in Chicago, are furious, fearing that the bad provisions of the law will expose them to cops who will automatically swing into tactical mode at the sight of a civilian gun.  Proponents of the language – those who would speak with me – acknowledge the issues, but feel that getting the bill through is worth the problematic language.

As most readers know, Illinois was the last state to recognize some semblance of the right to carry a defensive weapon.  In December of 2012 the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the concealed carry ban violated the Second Amendment.  The court gave Illinois 180 days to implement a concealed carry system.  Not surprisingly, opponents of the Second Amendment hope to minimally comply with the order, and will throw obstacles in front of anyone daring to exercise the right to bear arms.  By making it dangerous to carry in certain districts, Duty to Inform is one such obstacle.  

The bill most likely to pass is HB 997, introduced by Rep. Brandon Phelps whose district lies in the southern tip if Illinois.  The actual source of the DTI language in the bill is murky.  Rep. Phelps has stated that the language came from the NRA.  Calls to the NRA were not returned, but at least one trusted source tells me that the NRA denied drafting the language.  It seems to have appeared at least two years ago when the Illinois legislature last flirted with a concealed-carry law.  At that time NRA contract lobbyist Todd Vandermyde had offered the language to neutralize the then-vociferous opposition by the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs to any sort of concealed-carry bill.  

As the main strategist for the legislation, Mr. Vandermyde apparently feels that the chiefs’ support, or at least lack of opposition, still hinges on DTI and that neutralizing them is key to passing the bill.  I say “apparently” because Mr. Vandermyde refused to speak with me saying I was not being helpful, and hung up.  A video shows him before a committee hearing saying that the language was included after “four years of negotiations with the police chiefs and the sheriffs.”  

The DTI language was a tactic to dilute opposition from law enforcement.  In reality, DTI will not contribute anything to officer safety.  Cops know that every traffic stop must be treated as a potentially lethal situation.  Likewise, a responsible citizen knows that it’s not a good idea to surprise a cop.  The risk of DTI is that it creates an excuse, or can be misused if an encounter with police turns bad, as was a case in Canton, Ohio that turned into a minor YouTube sensation.  Making a traffic stop, the Ohio officer was so aggressively “in charge” as he conducted a (probably illegal) search of a vehicle, that the driver could not get out that he had a CCW permit and that he was carrying.

The experience of other states with DTI, particularly Ohio, shows that DTI with criminal penalties creates dangers for anyone who carries.  Other states have DTI, but most do not have onerous penalties attached.  Under the proposed Illinois language, failure to inform would be a serious misdemeanor, as in Ohio, with penalties that could include loss of gun rights.

Whether the DTI language – and the support of the police chiefs – is still needed for the bill to pass is a judgment call.  Mr. Vandermyde and others outside Chicago feel that the legislation needs to pass as it is and that problems with the bill can be addressed once it has passed.  Chicago and Cook County residents fear that DTI will put them at the mercy of swaggering cops who go into felony stop mode if they see a gun.  Chicago Police Chief Gary McCarthy went right up to the line of saying that anyone with a gun would be assumed to be a bad guy.  The implications are chilling.

I claim no expertise in the ways of the Illinois legislature, and certainly can’t count the votes.  Nonetheless, it is a new day in Illinois.  In addition to the court order, attitudes are changing, particularly among African-Americans in Chicago.  Can the bill pass without the dangerous language?  I don’t know.  Should the DTI language be a poison pill?  Probably not.  But if the DTI language can’t come out before the bill goes to the floor, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.  Hopefully the proof of the need for fixing the law won’t be a concealed carry permit holder in jail, or worse, dead.

Department of Education SWAT?

No-Knock Warrants from the Department of Education?

By Jeff Knox

It’s 6 AM and a groggy Ken Wright is getting ready to start the day. Thinking about jumping in the shower, getting the coffee on, and wake the kids… Suddenly noise from outside draws his attention and he looks out the window. He sees dozens of black-clad, armored men swarming on his lawn and now someone is pounding on the front door. As he starts down the stairs in his boxer shorts the front door shatters and the heavily armed men charge into the house pointing guns and shouting orders. They grab Wright, drag him from the home, throw him down in the front lawn and roughly handcuff him as the neighbors look on in horror. Wright is placed into a police cruiser and then sees the black-clad figures with their guns and body armor dragging his three children aged 3, 9, and 11 out of the house screaming and crying. They too are locked in the police cruiser where Wright can at least talk to them and try to calm them down. The search of the house goes on for six hours as Wright and the children sit helplessly in the hot police cruiser wondering what it’s all about.

Is it the FBI raiding a suspected terrorist cell? The DEA busting a major cocaine smuggling ring? A local SWAT team searching for a murdered wife? No, it’s a team of agents from the U.S. Department of Education Office of the Inspector General (EDOIG) looking for evidence of student loan fraud.

The Department of Education? With guns, armor, and battering rams?

Continue reading Department of Education SWAT?