Thursday, October 23, 2008

Drop that cell phone or we'll shoot

There are times when cops really ought to be kicking in doors.

A hostage-taker threatening the lives of innocents unless he gets what he wants?

Go for it.

A terrorist tinkering with poison gas in his basement workshop for the greater glory of whatever?

Hey, let me loan you a sledge hammer.

An elderly man whose grandson unknowingly bought a hot cell phone?

Not so much. But that was exactly the cause of a raid in Orlando, Florida, as reported by WFTV:

The family claim police barged in with tear gas and pointed a gun at the grandfather's head. Victoria Omega rushed to her parent's home after she heard what happened.

"I get a call from them saying my father is in handcuffs and the first thing that goes through my mind is, 'What took place, what happened?' My parents are churchgoing people. What happened?" she said.

Orlando police executed a search warrant. Officers broke through the front door of Henry Marshall's home and pointed a gun at his head. Cops tore down every door and shattered windows.

A cell phone store robbery lead police to his home, because they were after Marshall's 20-year-old grandson Quinton Marshall.

"I look up and there were about three or four SWAT team members with a gun to my face and they were all through the house," he said.

You know what adds insult to injury? The guy the cops were looking for, Quinton Marshall, hasn't lived at that address for six years. And when Quinton heard about the raid, "He showed up to the scene, turned in the phone and the police left."

All is well that ends well, right?

Not really. You see, violent raids are stressful events. They can do things like induce heart attacks, such as the one that killed the Rev. Accelyne Williams after a misfired raid in Boston.

Violent raids are also, you know, violent. Sometimes people assume that bad guys are at the door and fight back. Then they get killed by police, like 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, in Atlanta.

And sometimes the people defending their homes have faster reactions than the raiders and take a cop down, like Ryan Frederick, in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Frederick faces trial for his act of self-defense. That's not uncommon, since police are loathe to admit that a mere civilian could be justified in taking down one of their own. It's rare that authorities refrain from pressing charges, as Minneapolis officials did after police exchanged fire with Vang Khang during an ill-considered raid on the Hmong immigrant's home. Authorities there settled for awarding medals to the raiding officers.

Overall, according to the Cato Institute, which maintains an interactive map tracking botched police raids, at least 43 innocent people have died in the United States during violent raids. In addition, 25 police officers have been killed or injured.

Henry Marshall is lucky. He and his family, including an infant who was in the home at the time, are uninjured. So are all of the raiding police officers. Police will probably even replace the doors they knocked down, which has become a semi-official acknowledgement of regret by errant law-enforcement agencies.

But there was no need to begin for police to kick down the door of a house where a suspect in the purchase of a stolen cell phone didn't even live. The stakes are too high for this kind of tactic to be the go-to technique for enforcing every law that's on the books.



Anonymous M.S said...

Pay no attention... just the continued militarization of Officer Friendly.
I saw a DPS bike cop on I-10 the other day and actually noticed that he was wearing a regular khaki uniform; as oppossed to the "tacti-cool" black jump suit with matching steel toed jump boots.
And they wonder why the general public doesn't seem to trust them anymore...

October 23, 2008 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just don't understand how we got to a point where using a SWAT team went from trying to diffuse situations where there is an imminent threat to life, to using it for ordinary routine warrants. What has happened to this country?

October 24, 2008 8:01 AM  

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