Wednesday, May 05, 2010

This moment brought to you by the War on Drugs

Warning: Strong language.

As the Fark headline said, "Smoking pot is child endangerment. Storming a home with guns, then firing bullets into the family pets as a child looks on is a safety procedure."

This video is horrifying. But every US citizen needs to watch it. If it doesn't leave you shaking, angry, and ready to cry and smash something, then maybe we should see if you want a bunch of cops dressed and armed like soldiers storming YOUR house, spraying gunfire around YOUR kid, terrorizing YOUR family, and killing YOUR dog in order to arrest you for a freaking misdemeanor.

HT: Video of SWAT Raid on Missouri Family


Yeah, drug dealers dregs of society yada yada yada.... Rum runners etc. Sound familiar? Sound like, maybe Prohibition? The war on drugs is worse than the drugs. There is NO amount of dope that kid could smoke in a lifetime that would do 1% of the damage those cops did "protecting" him, from something that's frankly less inherently risky to him than if his parents had been chugging perfectly legal booze. It was a freaking MISDEMEANOR, people! On a par with having an overdue library book or shoplifting a pack of gum.

Read the CATO Institute report on these appalling paramilitary raids, carried out against citizens whose only crime is often a MISDEMEANOR, if they've even committed a crime at all:

These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they're sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.

Check out the CATO Institute's interactive map of botched drug raids. A few examples:

On August 2, 1996, police storm the home of 62-year-old Salvator Hernandez on a drug raid. The raid is part of a broader raid that morning involving 47 police officers and federal agents.

Hernandez, who is nearly deaf, is making breakfast for himself and his friend, 54-year old Bortolo Pineda.

According to police, as they entered the home, Hernandez took the knife he was using to make breakfast and "lunged" at them with a "menacing" look on his face. According to Pineda, Hernandez didn't hear the police shouts, and had turned to get some sausage from the refrigerator. Police opened fire, and hit Hernandez in the chest five times, killing him.

Hernandez was a farmworker described by friends and his employer as a "good man," and a "good worker." He had no criminal record, and in fact had been a police officer in Mexico before coming to America. He was a grandfather of 21 and a great-grandfather of one. There were no drugs on his person or in his system.

Just days later, a grand jury would clear the raiding officers of all charges, ruling that they had reason to believe their lives were in danger.

Salem police pointedly refused to apologize for Hernandez's death.

New York:

Buffalo police raided the apartment of the family of Terrell and Schavon Pennyamon looking for heroin. During the raid, one officer struck Terrell-an epileptic U.S. Air Force veteran-in the head with the butt of a shotgun and other officers pointed their weapons at the couple's eight children. Terrell suffered a dislocated arm after he was yanked up by police during the raid and also had glass lodged in his foot from broken window glass. Schavon was at work as a certified nursing assistant before being called home after the raid.

The police realized their mistake and raided the apartment upstairs from the Pennyamons and have since apologized for raiding the wrong apartment.

New York again:

On May 16, 2003, a dozen New York City police officers storm an apartment building in Harlem on a no-knock warrant. They're acting on a tip from a confidential informant, who told them a convicted felon was dealing drugs and guns from the sixth floor.

There is no felon. The only resident in the building is Alberta Spruill, described by friends as a "devout churchgoer." Before entering the apartment, police deploy a flashbang grenade. The blinding, deafening explosion stuns the 57 year-old city worker, who then slips into cardiac arrest. She dies two hours later.

A police investigation would later find that the drug dealer the raid team was looking for had been arrested days earlier. He couldn't possibly have been at Spruill's apartment because he was in custody. The officers who conducted the raid did no investigation to corroborate the informant's tip. A police source told the New York Daily News that the informant in the Spruill case had offered police tips on several occasions, none of which had led to an arrest. His record was so poor, in fact, that he was due to be dropped from the city's informant list.


Policemen posing as delivery drivers delivered a package containing nearly four pounds of marijuana to the home of Berwyn Heights mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife Trinity Tomsic. After Mr. Calvo brought the package addressed to his wife into the home, the Prince George's County SWAT team initiated a raid into the home using no-knock entry.

Upon entering the home, the officers shot and killed Calvo's two black Labrador retrievers. Calvo, dressed only in his underwear and socks, and his mother-in-law were handcuffed and interrogated for hours-a short distance from the dogs' corpses.

The SWAT team had been issued a standard warrant-not a "no-knock" or "dynamic" warrant that allows for the initial tactics used in the raid.

Subsequently, on August 6, 2008, the Prince George's County police announced that they arrested two men in connection with a delivery scheme to deliver drugs to homes of unsuspecting recipients. The package addressed to Tomsic was among those tied to the men.

Let's move on to Texas:

19-year-old Tony Martinez, nephew of the man named in the warrant, is asleep on the couch at the time of the raid. Martinez was never suspected of any crime. When Martinez rises from the couch as police break into the home, deputy Derek Hill shoots Martinez in the chest, killing him. Martinez is unarmed.

A grand jury later declined to indict Hill in the shooting. The shooting occurred less than a mile from the spot of a botched drug raid that cost Deputy Keith Ruiz his life. Hill was also on that raid. The same Travis County paramilitary unit would later erroneously raid a woman's home after mistaking ragweed for marijuana plants.


Early in the morning on September 13, 2000, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the Stanislaus County, California drug enforcement agency conduct raids on 14 homes in and around Modesto, California after a 19-month investigation.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the DEA and FBI asked that local SWAT teams enter each home unannounced to secure the area ahead of federal agents, who would then come to serve the warrants and search for evidence. Federal agents warn the SWAT teams that the targets of the warrants, including Alberto Sepulveda's father Moises, should be considered armed and dangerous.

After police forcibly enter the Sepulveda home, Alberto, his father, his mother, his sister, and his brother are ordered to lie face down on the floor with arms outstretched. Half a minute after the raid begins, the shotgun officer David Hawn has trained on Alberto's head discharges, instantly killing the eleven-year-old boy.

No drugs or weapons are found in the home.


Police in Lexington, Tennessee force entry into the home of Stacie Renae Walker on a drug raid in August 1999. The raid is based on a tip from a "concerned citizen," who claims to have seen methamphetamine and marijuana inside.

Once inside, Deputy Tim Crowe, who has been on the police force for only a week, shoots Renae in the back of the head, killing her. Police would later say Crowe's gun fired when he "tripped."

Police found no drugs or weapons in the home, and later conceded that the entire raid was "a terrible mistake."

North Carolina:

On September 4, 1998, police in Charlotte, North Carolina deploy a flashbang grenade and carry out a no-knock warrant for cocaine distribution on a tip from an informant. By the end of the raid, police have put four bullets in 56-year-old Charles Irwin Potts, killing him.

Potts was not the target of the raid. He had visited the house to play cards. Police say Potts drew his gun (which he carried legally) and pointed it at them as they entered. The three men in the house who saw the raid disagree, and say the gun never left Potts' holster. Police found no cocaine, and made no arrests as a result of the raid.

The men inside the house at the time of the raid thought they were being invaded by criminals. "Only thing I heard was a big boom," said Robert Junior Hardin, the original target of the raid. "The lights went off and then they came back on . . . everybody reacted. We thought the house was being robbed."

Back to Texas:

Six police from Houston's anti-gang task raid the home of Pedro Oregon Navarro. Officers storm his bedroom, where Navarro awakes, startled and frightened, and reaches for his gun. Police open fire and shoot Navarro twelve times, killing him. His gun was never fired. Police found no drugs or evidence of drug use or sale in Navarro's home.

Police obtained Navarro's address after pulling over a car of three men, one of whom they arrested for public intoxication. Already on probation, the suspect offered a "tip" on a nearby drug dealer in exchange for his release. Police agreed to the bargain, and obtained Navarro's address from the suspect.


After a tip from an informant stating that he was selling drugs from his home, a Miami SWAT team bursts into the home of 73-year-old retired salesman Richard Brown, and immediately begins firing.

By the end of the raid, they'd pumped 123 rounds into Brown and his apartment, killing him at the scene. Brown's 14-year-old great-granddaughter was also home at the time of the raid, and cowered in the bathroom during the gunfire.

Police found no drugs in Brown's home.


Accelyne Williams, a 75-year-old retired minister, dies of a heart attack after 13 members of a heavily-armed Boston SWAT team storm his apartment in body armor and black masks.

One police source tells the Boston Herald of the raid, "Everything was done right, except it was the wrong apartment." Police later discover that an informant had given them incorrect information that a "Jamaican drug posse operated out of the building," and failed to specify which apartment to target.


In March 1992, police in Everett, Washington storm the home of Robin Pratt on a no-knock warrant. They are looking for her husband, who would later be released when the allegations in the warrant turned out to be false.

Though police had a key to the apartment, they instead choose to throw a 50-pound battering ram through the apartment's sliding-glass door. Glass shards land inches away from the couple's six-year-old daughter and five-year-old niece. One officer encounters Robin Pratt on the way to her bedroom. Hearing other SWAT team members yell "Get down!" Pratt falls to her knees. She then raises her head briefly to say, "Please don't hurt my children." At that point, Deputy Anthony Aston fires his weapon, putting a bullet in her neck, killing her.

Officers next entered the bedroom, where Dep. Aston then put the tip of his MP-5 assault submachine gun against Larry Pratt's head. When Pratt asked if he could move, another officer said that if he did, he'd have his head blown off.

Texas again:

84-year-old Annie Rae Dixon, a bedridden paraplegic, is shot and killed after police officers from the nearby town of Kilgore break into her Tyler, Texas home.

They have the wrong address.


In 1989, police in Minneapolis, Minnesota conduct a drug raid at the home of elderly African-American couple Lloyd Smalley and Lillian Weiss after a bad tip from an informant.

The flashbang grenades police use in the raid set the home on fire. Police are certain no one is inside, and so at first make no attempt at rescue. Smalley and Weiss die of smoke inhalation. Police had raided the wrong house.

Ten years later, the same police department would make a similar mistake. The deployment of a flashbang during a drug raid on a triplex would cause the entire building to catch fire, ruining the two homes surrounding the target of the raid.

Back to Washington:

In February 1988, police in Seattle, Washington conduct a late-night drug raid on the home of 41-year old Erdman Bascomb after an informant tells them there's cocaine inside.

Police knock on Bascomb's door, wait just a few seconds, then force the door open with a battering ram. Officer Bob Lisoski confronts Bascomb in the darkened apartment, mistakenly believes Bascomb to be holding a gun, and shoots him dead. Bascomb was holding only the remote control for his television.

Police found no drugs or weapons in Bascomb's home. In 1995, a federal jury found no wrongdoing on the part of Seattle police, and awarded Bascomb's family no damages.

Why are we waging such a draconian war on our own citizens? Because we're so scared of what they might do if they ingest drugs that we're going to prosecute them in advance for crimes they might commit. The key word there being MIGHT. And those things (robbery, burglar, etc) are already illegal. You prosecute people for crimes they DO commit, not for crimes you think they MIGHT commit later.

Think of some of the people we'd be throwing in the pokey if we made drug laws retroactive:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning did opium, people, as did Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Benjamin Franklin, John Keats, Florence Nightengale, Pablo Picasso, Sir Walter Scott. Salvidor Dali, and Alexander Dumas. Victor Hugo did hashish. Sigmund Freud, Robert Lewis Stephenson, and William Wilberforce used cocaine. Bill Gates and Aldous Huxley dropped acid. And in addition to all the actors, artists, and musicians who toked down, so did Carl Sagan. While I'd not hold up ingesting strange substances as a good idea, in the vast majority of cases, the drugs themselves do less damage than the penalties society imposes. And even less damage than the War on Drugs does.


Lauren said...

Don't forget to include our last three presidents (at least) on the list of those who have done drugs.

Personally, I've never so much as smoked weed, but I think the "war on drugs" is ridiculous.

Lilliput said...

On this we 100% agree!

L. said...

Agreeing with you again here. See, it happens!

Christina Dunigan said...

Frankly, if weed was legal, I'd be toking down several times a year. I'd far rather live next door to stoners than to drunks.