Thursday, February 5, 2009

Civilians who shoot cops treated just a tad more harshly than cops who shoot civilians

In Chesapeake, Virginia, Ryan Frederick was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a burglar who was breaking down his door. It could have been worse; Frederick faced capital murder charges in the case, since the burglar was Jarrod Shivers, a police detective who was participating in a misfired marijuana raid on Frederick's home. But it also could have been better. Frederick could have received the same slap on the wrist that police officers usually get for killing innocent people during SWAT raids gone wrong.

The case has been mired in controversy since the beginning. The raid was apparently sparked by a report from a freelance burglar who had earlier broken into Frederick's residence during the course of his work as a police informant who served as Fourth Amendment-evading eyes and ears for local law-enforcement.

That burglar reported seeing marijuana plants growing in Frederick's home. In fact, while the resident apparently did grow a few illegal plants at one time for his own use, the crop the burglar spotted appears to have been an unrelated and perfectly legal plant -- at least, police found only a small baggie of grass when they raided the place.

And raid they did. Ryan Frederick was in bed when he heard his door being knocked down. Fearing a return of the earlier burglars, he retrieved a gun and opened fire on his assailants, killing Shivers. During the trial, Frederick's neighbors testified that police made no audible announcement of their law-enforcement status, giving the man inside no warning of who he faced.

For his act of self defense, Frederick was convicted of voluntary manslaughter by a jury, which rejected stiffer charges, but also recommended a maximum sentence of ten years.

It's impossible to treat this incident outside the context of similar violent, paramilitary raids, which have resulted in dead people, dead pets, terrorized familes and growing divisions between good people and the law-enforcement officers who use such tactics. In the past few days, I've heard from Anita Culosi, whose son Salvatore, an optometrist, was gunned down by police in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the course of a SWAT raid over alleged sports gambing. I've also heard from Cheye Calvo, Mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, whose two dogs were killed during a misfired SWAT raid on his home.

Both Culosi and Calvo are pursuing justice in their respective cases, as well as reforms to ensure that nobody else has to go through what they've suffered.

Which brings us back to Ryan Frederick. Frederick was lucky; unlike Salvatore Culosi, he survived the ordeal. But whereas Officer Deval Bullock was suspended for three weeks without pay for killing Culosi -- a penalty many of his fellow officers found too harsh -- Frederick will likely spend years in prison for killing Shivers.

Treat people as if they're the equals of police officers? What a radical idea.

Here's a more radical idea: Curtail the use of D-Day-style SWAT raids for the enforcement of laws against nonviolent activity.



Blogger akaGaGa said...

Thanks for staying on top of these SWAT teams, JD. I think that whole issue is one of the most important - and infuriating - facing our country.

As long as you have Calvo's ear, I have a question. I thought he was going to push for some type of federal investigation of all this, but I haven't heard any more.

February 5, 2009 4:30 PM  
Anonymous M.S. Phoenix said...

My God, where did they find the people to sit on a jury who would return that kind of verdict.

February 6, 2009 5:18 AM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

Hey folks,

The last I heard, the FBI is actively investigating the case. We'll have to wait on them for the results.

As for the jurors ...

I wish I had an answer.

February 6, 2009 6:27 AM  
Anonymous MacK said...

We will really see when they find the BART cop innocent of all charges, because he was actually trying to only torture...I mean taze his subdued victim, not shoot him in the back.

February 6, 2009 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you think this story is sad... this is just a partial list of victims, its page 1 of 3! for the complete list go here

February 6, 2009 1:49 PM  
Blogger Mully410 said...

Nice job, J.D. I hate hearing stories like this but somebody had to tell them. Here in Minnesota the Swatties drove a payloader into some old lady's house a few years back. It was another drug raid on the wrong house. Last year, a home owner shot some cops with a shotgun when they did another no knock warrant. I don't believe he was charged but then again, the cop didn't die.

February 6, 2009 8:46 PM  
Blogger UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 2/9/2009, at The Unreligious Right

February 9, 2009 3:58 AM  

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