April 29, 2007
“3 Atlanta Police Officers Charged in Drug Raid Death of 92-Year-Old Woman”
I used the title of this article as the title of this post because the only other apropos phrase I could think of was What. The. Fuck. Here’s what happened during the drug raid referred to above:
The charges followed a Nov. 21 “no-knock” drug raid on the home of Kathryn Johnston, 92. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her.
Fulton County prosecutor Peter Johnson said that the officers involved in Johnston’s death fired 39 shots, striking her five or six times, including a fatal blow to the chest.
He said Johnston fired only once through her door and didn’t hit any of the officers. That means the officers who were wounded likely were hit by their own colleagues, he said.
Okay, first of all, the officers fired 39 shots and only hit five or six times, and managed to hit some of their colleagues in the process. I don’t know a whole lot about real-life police work (as opposed to the fictionalized versions on TV and in the movies), nor do I know much about guns, but isn’t that kinda, well, crappy? And while I understand that cops are compelled to shoot once they’ve been fired upon, once they started shooting back, did it really take them until Johnston was dead to figure out the situation? (I know that because of adrenaline and whatnot the answer to that question is most likely “yes.” I still find it worrisome, though, and I can’t help but think of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, and wonder.) Furthermore, I understand the basic idea behind a “no-knock” rule (the idea being that you don’t want suspects flushing evidence while you’re waiting patiently for someone to answer your knock), but doesn’t that kind of go against the Fourth Amendment? And what kind of information did the officers have that made them trust their (alleged) informant’s word when I imagine it would have been fairly easy to acquire the knowledge that they were going to be bursting into the home of a 92-year-old woman? (That’s not to say that it’s impossible that a drug deal could happen in an elderly person’s home, as elderly people often have children and grandchildren who visit on a regular basis, but one would think one might take precautions accordingly if one had the aforementioned knowledge.) On the plus side, that seems to have been a point of consideration for the Atlanta Police Department:
Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington asked the FBI to lead a multi-agency probe. He also announced policy changes to require the department to drug-test its nearly 1,800 officers and require top supervisors to sign off on narcotics operations and no-knock warrants.
To get the warrant, officers told a magistrate judge that an undercover informant had told them Johnston’s home had surveillance cameras monitored carefully by a drug dealer named Sam.
After the shooting, a man claiming to be the informant told a television station that he had never purchased drugs there, leading Pennington to admit he was uncertain whether the suspected drug dealer actually existed.
So, problems galore with this situation. Here’s another:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette Sam-Buchanan said Thursday that although the officers found no drugs in Johnston’s home, Smith planted three bags of marijuana in the home as part of a cover story.
I don’t even know what to say about that besides “ugh.”
Can you imagine living to be 92 and then dying this way? I know we all have to go someday, but no matter which way you look at it, this sucks.
[h/t to Crooks and Liars]