Archive for May, 2008

Taser tribulation

Friday, May 30th, 2008
I was going to post yet another taser death article today, but I kinda can’t stand looking at the fine details of the subject right now. Instead, some commentary and some links. Despite that the taser’s manufacturer, Taser International, claims with all sorts of paid experts and government shills to back them up that the device isn’t [...]

Rejecting Authority at Police State Checkpoint #2

Thursday, May 29th, 2008
Terry Bressi doesn’t like living in a police state any more than most. He’s a bit different, though, in his consistent defiance of it. Subscribe to his YouTube channel here. Hat tip to Jim Rongstad. Related:

Morning Links

Thursday, May 29th, 2008
  • A federal lawsuit alleges that police in Westchester, New York found a sex tape involving a 15-year-old girl during a drug raid. According to the suit, they then forced the girl to watch the tape while harassing her, then brought the tape back to the police station for a department-wide screening.
  • Fired Washington Post reporter puts a message in his last article. Check the first letter of each paragraph.
  • Mike Huckabee joins the ranks of Republicans who oddly blame libertarianism for the GOP’s problems. Again, the GOP hasn’t been remotely libertarian in 15 years. That’s why they’re losing elections. They aren’t remotely limited government, anymore.
  • The Virginian-Pilot runs a pretty strong editorial raising questions about the state’s case against Ryan Frederick. New bit of information from the editorial: The Chesapeake PD has apparently completed its internal investigation of the raid. Naturally, they won’t be releasing the results to the public.
  • Mississippi’s Innocence Project is investigating about 80 cases of forensics fraud in that state, 60-70 involving Dr. Steven Hayne. The national Innocence Project is investigating even more.
  • On a lighter note,

  • Mouthy to cops in BC? You’re in for a whupping.

    Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
    Don’t go getting all mouthy with the state’s goons now. Least of all in British Columbia, where the RCMP just last year killed a distraught immigrant with taser shocks less than one minute after engaging with him. At least in this case the charges against the victim are being dropped, and I saw speculation in [...]

    Failing Upward: New Frontiers in Scalia’s “New Professionalism”

    Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

    If you’ll remember, shortly after the Kathryn Johnston raid, Assistant Atlanta Police Chief Alan Dreher sprang into action to defend the actions of the police officers. Less than 24 hours after the raid, Dreher assured us that there was nothing to see, here. The police had made a controlled buy at Johnston’s home. They arrived at her house in a marked car, and came in in marked uniforms. Johnston shot at the officers, Dreher said. He later added that Johnston “should have recognized” the men breaking into her home as police officers. The cops returned fire only in self-defense, he said. Dreher even suggested that it was a police officer, not an informant, who bought the drugs from Johnston (as it turns out, no one did, the controlled buy was a lie).

    Police defenders and critics of mine were quick to jump on Dreher’s statements to show that I and others were “jumping the gun” in questioning the raid. After all, if the police said they did a buy, they did a buy. If the police say they announced, then they announced. If the police infer that this 92-year-old woman was a dope dealing criminal who got what she deserved, well, then she sure as hell got what she deserved.

    Well, we all now know that just about everything Dreher said was wrong. Dreher was presiding over a corrupt narcotics unit that routinely lied on search warrant affidavits, harassed and intimidated informants, covered up mistakes, and was subject to damaging arrest and raid quotas that encouraged shortcuts and circumventing the checks in place to ensure the protection of civil rights. It was Dreher who spoke too soon, propagating the lie told to him by his officers that Johnston was some sort of dope-slinging, gun-toting granny.

    Dreher was acting as spokesman just after the raid because Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington was out of town. When Pennington returned, he quickly dispensed with Dreher’s clannish, old-school, blue-wall-of-silence approach. Pennington was more forthcoming, and quickly announced he’d be conducting a thorough internal investigation. Within days, Pennington turned the investigation over to federal authorities. We now know that Johnston was innocent, that there was no drug buy, and that Johnston didn’t even get off a shot. The cops were wounded by fragments from their own bullets. When they found out they had made a mistake, the narcotics team handcuffed Johnston and left her to bleed to death in her own home while they planted marijuana in her basement.

    I bring all of this up because in a police environment driven by all the professional standards and accountability Justice Scalia assured us in Hudson v. Michigan dominate police departments across the country, you’d think that Dreher would have been fired. At minimum, as APD’s chief of operations, Dreher presided over an astonishingly rogue and unaccountable narcotics department that put who knows how many innocent people in jail, and subjected who knows how many people to mistaken and botched drug raids. He was either oblivious to all of the corruption, or he was complicit in it. Neither speaks well of him as a police manager or a leader. Dreher then helped disseminate an ass-covering version of the Kathryn Johnston raid that proved to be wrong in just about every way possible. Dreher’s early press statements were not only rash and wrong-headed defenses of his officers, in the process he also sullied the name of the innocent woman his officers had just killed.

    But as you might have guessed by now, Dreher didn’t lose his job. It’s even worse than that. Dreher is now one of four finalists for the police chief position in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. That’s right. He’s up for a promotion. And this isn’t even the first time. He was also a finalist for police chief in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    All hail the new professionalism.

    UPDATE: Dreher didn’t get the job. That’s good news.

    Here We Go Again

    Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

    Yesterday, I briefly noted a drug raid in Connecticut in which police killed 33-year-old Gonzalo Guizan, an unarmed man they say charged at them as the raid transpired. Guizan was a guest at the home at the time of the raid. More information’s coming out, now, and it’s looking ugly. The police say they’re still looking to see if there were drugs in the home. They were apparently looking for two small pipes and a small tin of crack, none of which was found. Thus far, there have been no charges resulting from the raid.

    The police make reference to a shooting at the house a few weeks ago, but oddly, those shots were fired at the house, not from it. In any case, again, the fact that an unarmed man is dead is a fairly good indicator that perhaps this show of force wasn’t the best way to handle a search for a couple of pipes and a small tin of crack.

    The article itself linked above is rather one-sided, citing three criminal justice professors who take a “nothing to see here” position, who attest to the importance of using overwhelming force while serving drug warrants, and who talk about the “disadvantage” police face when they bust in unannounced to a house with a battering ram, flash grenades, body armor, and weapons. All three professors quoted in the article are former police officers.

    The police department has thus far refused to release the names of the officers who fired the fatal shots. They also won’t release the affidavits leading up to the search warrants, or the personnel files of the two officers the unarmed man charged during the raid.

    Is it just me, or have there been an unusually high number of botched raids in the news of late?

    More on Ryan Frederick’s Preliminary Hearing

    Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

    So quite a bit of interesting information came out at yesterday’s Ryan Frederick hearing. First, four months after the raid, special prosecutor Paul Ebert now says he plans to file felony drug charges against Frederick. On what evidence? Who knows. Ebert didn’t elaborate. All the police found in the raid was a small amount of marijuana. To my knowledge, they still haven’t disclosed how much, though the initial charge (nolle prossed today) was a misdemeanor.

    The police account of the raid as portrayed in the Virginian-Pilot today also differs pretty drastically from other accounts. A few items from the hearing worth noting:

  • The police say sixteen officers were present for the raid, and that they were divided into two units, one at the front door to the house, and one unit that was prepared to enter the detached garage. This differs sharply from what Frederick’s neighbors told me. One woman told me she came outside after she heard shots, and saw one car and two officers at Frederick’s home. It was only later that other officers arrived.
  • Pay close attention to this one: According to a reporter I spoke with this evening who attended the hearing, Detective Kelly Roberts testified that the police announced themselves four times, waiting four seconds between announcements. After the fourth announcement (presumably, about sixteen seconds), they detected movement in the house. Roberts says a light “changed.” It was at this point that they announced “Eight ball! Eight Ball!” a code signaling that the raid had been compromised. At that cue (pardon the billiards pun), they took down the door with the battering ram.Think about the implication, here. The police come to Frederick’s home to serve a knock and announce search warrant. He’s asleep in his bed. Sixteen seconds after the first knock, it isn’t the fact that he hasn’t yet come to the door that triggers the violent, forced entry, it’s that there is a “change” in the light. It’s the light that makes them conclude the raid had been compromised. Not the flush of a toilet, or the cock of a shotgun. A light. How do they know that light isn’t someone coming to answer the door, possibly to allow the police to come in for a peaceful search?

    What this means is that, as I’ve written before, there’s no real difference between a no-knock and a knock and announce warrant. Once the warrant has been issued, your door is coming down.

    This raises the question of what exactly you’re supposed to do when someone knocks on your door, and announces that they’re the police, and that they have a search warrant. Don’t come to the door, and they’re going to break it down and come after you. Come to the door to verify it’s really the police (and as anyone who reads this site regularly knows, that’s by no means a given)–and to let them in if it is–and your very movement toward the door can, also, be a trigger to break the door down and storm your home. Arm yourself and wait for them to come in? You’re practically begging them to shoot you. I guess your only option is stand somewhere in your own house with your hands in the air, and hope none of the raiding officers mistakes your t-shirt for a gun, or possibly trips or mistakenly fires and accidentally kills you. Be prepared to be thrown to the ground, stepped on, handcuffed, and have the barrel of a gun pointed at the back of your head.

    This is just one of many conundrums posed by the proliferation of paramilitary-style police raids. The people on the receiving end of the raids in positions where it’s nearly impossible to even know what the right response is, much less be in a position to make it. Not to mention that, at the same time, they’re being subjected to trauma that makes any sort of clear-headedness or careful consideration of their options pretty much impossible.

  • Roberts also testified that none of the police officers fired a shot. What, then, are we to make of the .223 casing police recovered from Frederick’s home? The police recovered only a .380 pistol from Frederick’s home. I haven’t been able to get the Chesapeake Police Department to tell me what type of gun the SWAT and narcotics teams carry, but many carry the sort of a gun that would fire a .223. So far, neither the police nor Paul Ebert have offered an explanation for the casing
  • Frederick’s attorney James Broccoletti made a good point, too. According to Roberts’ own testimony, Frederick fired only after the battering ram breached the lower panel of Frederick’s door. This is a pretty good indication that Frederick’s mindset was one of self defense (never mind his clean record, and praise from neighbors, friends, and prior employers). If this were a premeditated attempt to kill a cop (which no one who knows Frederick says he’s capable of ), and if Frederick knew these were police officers due to their alleged repeated announcements, why would he wait until they had broken down his door to begin firing? And why would he give up after firing just two rounds? Those seem like the acts of someone who’s scared and uncertain, not someone hellbent on killing himself a cop.
  • The prosecution says Det. Shivers was in the front yard when he was shot. I’ll confess to some ignorance about guns, here, so correct me if I’m wrong. But the few knowledgeable people I’ve queried say it’s doubtful that a bullet from a .380 pistol could go through a door and then, according to the autopsy, also go through Shivers’ arm, and then penetrate Shivers’ chest.Frederick has told friends and family that he fired when he saw the bottom part of his door had been breached, and that someone was reaching up through the hole to grasp at the door knob. This seems more plausible, and more consistent with the autopsy. If Shivers was reaching through a hole in the door when Frederick fired at him, it’s not difficult to see how a bullet would have first struck Shivers’ arm, then his chest. It seems less likely that the bullet would have traveled through Shivers living room, through his front door, into his yard, then through both Shivers’ arm and chest.
  • As noted above, Prosecutor Ebert has said that he may file felony drug charges against Frederick at a later date. I find this dubious, given that it’s been four months since the raid, and the only illicit substance thus far recovered was the misdemeanor amount of marijuana.I see a few possibilities, here. Ebert could try to tie the gun to the pot possession and get Frederick for using a gun in commission of drug crime. I’m not sure how that sticks, given that Frederick wasn’t smoking or selling the drug when the raid went down. Ebert could also try to say the gardening equipment was evidence of a grow operation, even though the police found no actual marijuana plants. Given that Frederick’s neighbors have said he was an avid amateur gardener, I would think it would be pretty easy for him to show the equipment had a legitimate purpose.

    The third possibility is that Ebert’s sitting on some new evidence that he hasn’t yet released. If you’ll remember, Chesapeake police announced several weeks ago that they had seized Frederick’s phone records. Perhaps they’re preparing to trot out a few people who will claim to have bought drugs from Frederick. Maybe Frederick did sell some marijuana here and there, though everyone I’ve talked to insists he was a no more than a recreational, small-time pot smoker. Remember too that it’s pretty easy to get an informant to say whatever you want him to, particularly if you’re willing to help him wriggle out of other charges.

    In all, today’s hearing offered up a bit more of the information that the police department has been sitting on for four months, but it raised quite a few more questions than answers. The case now goes to the grand jury, which is almost certain to indict Frederick on whatever charges Ebert asks from them.

  • Cops on the hunt: Do you know where your children are?

    Tuesday, May 27th, 2008
    The news lemurs at are going to be following this one closely. The thug in question has already been stripped of his uniform, though no doubt we’re going to see a clown suit defense brought in. Innocent until proven guilty and all that… From The Journal News: Prosecutor: Bubaris spoke of ‘hunting’ A former Mount Kisco police officer [...]

    Ryan Frederick Update

    Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

    Frederick’s preliminary hearing just ended.

    He was formally charged with first degree murder and with the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. So yeah. They really are going to go through with this.

    The misdemeanor marijuana possession charge was nolle prossed. Which means the reason the police tried to ram their way into Frederick’s house in the first place is now pretty much moot. They didn’t even find enough marijuana to merit a charge. Now they’re trying to make him pay for the consequences of their mistake.

    Another Day, Another Drug Raid Death

    Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

    Over the weekend, police in Connecticut broke through windows and deployed flash grenades while conducting a drug rain on a home in Connecticut. Gonazalo Guizan, 33, who was visiting and didn’t live at the house, charged at the raiding officers, unarmed. The police shot him dead.

    Early reports don’t say much about Guizan, though in this comment thread, friends and family say he wasn’t a drug dealer, wasn’t violent, and wasn’t a criminal. I suppose it’s possible that an unarmed man would knowingly charge a team of raiding police officers. But I think the far more likely explanation is that he thought the place was being robbed.

    We don’t yet have details as to why the police felt it necessary to shoot Guizan, other than that he charged at them. I suspect the shooting itself will be ruled justified, as it probably should be. The question is why the paramilitary tactics were necessary in the first place, and whether yet another person has now paid with his life for the very reasonable mistake of confusing invading police officers with invading criminals.

    The owner of the house was charged with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Which means there weren’t enough drugs in the place to charge him with distribution. He was released on $10,000 bond.

    MORE: When I say the shooting “probably should be” justified, I’m not excusing it. I’m saying that it’s hard to see how criminal charges could be filed against the officer who fire the shot. All he needs to show is that he reasonably feared for his life. If someone is charging at you in the midst of a confrontational drug raid, that’s not a hard point to prove. My point is that the fault lies with the policy of using these tactics to police drug crimes in the first place.