Florida Man Killed in SWAT Raid Over Small-Time Marijuana Sales

A Tampa, Florida, man was shot and killed by members of a SWAT team executing a search warrant over small-time marijuana sales on May 27. Jason Westcott, 29, becomes the 25th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

[Editor's Note: This case illustrates why we call on readers to let us know if they come across a report of a drug war-related death. Although we run Google searches to find such incidents, this one didn't pop up on the radar until the Tampa Bay Times ran a thorough investigative piece -- a rarity with such incidents -- on it this week. Absent that report, we would have missed it. So, please, feel free to send your tips and links our way.]

According to the Tampa Bay Times article, a Tampa Police SWAT team executing a warrant for marijuana sales knocked on the door of the home shared by Westcott and his roommate on the evening of the 27th, but both men were sleeping. When no one answered, police entered through the unlocked front door.

The roommate, who was sleeping on a couch, was taken into custody without incident, but Westcott, who had been sleeping in a bedroom, picked up a weapon upon hearing the intruders and moved toward the bathroom, from where he could see his surveillance monitor. Upon encountering Westcott in the hallway between the bedroom and the bathroom, two SWAT officers opened fire, shooting him five times with a semiautomatic shotgun and a handgun.

Police claim Westcott pointed his weapon at them. He never fired it. Instead, hit once in the arm and twice in the side, he collapsed on the bathroom floor. He received medical attention from a SWAT medic on scene, then was transported to a local hospital, where he died.

Ironically, the only previous contact Westcott had had with Tampa police was several months earlier, when he contacted them to say he was worried that a man who had been at his house planned to rob him and had threatened to kill him. According to people close to Westcott, investigating officers told him: "If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill." Tampa police now deny they ever said anything like that.

The Times investigative piece also looked into the police drug investigation that precipitated the fatal raid. They found that despite police statements that they began looking at Westcott because of complaints from neighbors, the investigation actually began when a snitch reported that he was selling marijuana.

Over a period of months, that same snitch made several small marijuana purchases from Westcott, in amounts ranging from $20 to $60. The grand total of marijuana purchased by the snitch was less than $200. When the raid actually went down, police found a grand total of 0.2 grams of weed.

Westcott's roommate said the pair were habitual pot smokers, but that they never kept more than 12 grams in the house at a time to avoid felony charges. And he said that the pair engaged in a bit of social dealing, nothing more.

"We would just sell a blunt here and there to our friends or whatever. It was no crazy thing," he said. "There weren't people coming in and out of our house every day," he said. "It wasn't paying any bills. We were still broke... going to work every day."

Police initially said an undercover officer had made the drug buys, but later admitted it was the snitch who had done so. The roommate said if police had made the buys themselves, they would have realized that they were not facing violent drug traffickers, and Westcott might still be alive.

"Nobody can believe that this happened to Jason. They can't understand how this could happen to Jason," said Westcott's mother, Patti Silliman of New Port Richey. "No one can figure this out."

But the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office has already determined that the two police officers who shot at Westcott -- Cpl. Eric Wasierski and Officer Edwin Perez -- were justified in the use of deadly force. And Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor defended both the drug investigation and actions of the officers involved.

"Mr. Westcott lost his life because he aimed a loaded firearm at police officers. You can take the entire marijuana issue out of the picture," Castor said. "If there's an indication that there is armed trafficking going on -- someone selling narcotics while they are armed or have the ability to use a firearm -- then the tactical response team will do the initial entry."

The Tampa Bay Times investigative report is worth reading in its entirety. One could only wish that every drug war death got the same treatment. If that were the case, we might end up with a lot less of them.

Tampa, FL
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Justified Shooting?

I don't know if you reported the April 4 shooting death of an unarmed drug suspect but on the Friday of fourth of July weekend (to bury the story) it was reported the shooting was justified.

http://00http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site05/story.php?articleno=10214&page=1#.U71lKqt-yw4

Oops!

The April 4 shooting happened in Brattleboro VT.

Oops!

The April 4 shooting happened in Brattleboro VT.

Oops!

The April 4 shooting happened in Brattleboro VT.

Oops!

The April 4 shooting happened in Brattleboro VT.

These weren't real cops, they were pigs

SWAT raids over such a small amount of weed? That needs to be banned, like yesterday. I don't wish law enforcement any harm, but they weren't acting as law enforcement when they pulled this stunt, they were acting as pigs. Paramilitary tactics over a little weed? They need to grow up.

Why do you need a SWAT team

Why do you need a SWAT team for small scale pot sale.    We need to remove immunity to the police or they will continue   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV7u91A3KGQ

WTF

What the general public does not understand is that the police were going on  what a snitch had to say who was either being paid or was working to get thier own charges reduced.The police have already lied and will continue to do so to try and justify thier error. That young man died because they were too lazy,incompetent and unprofessional; to do thier own investigation. However you slice up the pie he was killed for a small amount of marijuana that any seasoned LEO would have ignored.I hope his family gets the closure they need and the police department and officers involved are criminally charged. this is a classic case of an innocent man being murdered for at most a misdemeanor. 

The first thing I noticed is

The first thing I noticed is that the police lied at least twice about aspects of this case, then "corrected" themselves. That means a lot. SWAT probably didn't even properly identify themselves when they went in. That would explain the deceased grabbing a gun and moving between rooms, since they have it on record that he called the police with a concern about being robbed. As far as the police likely lying about not telling him "If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.", check with the NSA. They have a record of that conversation. And of course the officers who killed this man were exonerated. They pretty much always are, no matter how unjustified the shooting is.

Legalize it

This type of thing happens too often. All over a little weed. It really is a shitty world we live in. I hate to sound so negative but when you hear stories like this... it really is a shame. It's disgusting. If S.W.A.T. has nothing better to do than raid homes with .2 grams of weed, maybe some need laid off. Maybe... just maybe we have too many law enforcement employees running around with automatic weapons.

Shoot them

I strongly disagree with police spokespersons indicating that the police had a right to shoot him because he allegedly pointed a gun at them.  According to this philosophy, if you smoke pot, the government can legally kill you.  They broke into his house, they were intruders, they had no right to be there, they murdered him and got away with it.  This is an action by our government, waging war against American citizens, taking actions equivalent to that of a terrorist group.  Those government officials that perpetrated this crime, as well as those that masterminded it, should be treated as terrorists due to their anti-American actions.  If they want to speak anti-Americanism, that's okay in the land of the free.  But when they take lethal action against Americans, we need to take serious corrective action to the course of our current government.

How much did us taxpayers pay

How much did us taxpayers pay to kill this man over 0.2 grams of pot ? sad story that our police want to do this, hope the real criminals hear about this and don't smoke or sell any pot

life

bottom line on this story is another life has been lost, this isn't the time to say who is to blame or why was it handled this way but why did it happen. Swat team to take down a twenty dollar social seller, sounds like someone has a whole bunch of lethal toys and just itching to try them out. My advise is go after the ones who will fight you back not the ones you startle in the middle of the night for two grams. Good job guys, wonder how much of our taxes that adventure cost besides the lost of someone's life. Your sending the wrong message, two states legal, 23 medical legal, half the country undecided about it, yet you send a swat team after a dime bag seller in the middle of the night. I just wonder just how you would act if I busted into your house in the middle of the night with weapons drawn. All over a plant.

way

I grew up in Tampa, and I can't imagine that the young officers and deputies I once knew, who are by now ranking members of the TPD and HCSD could ever have become capable of growing a callous over their humanity in that way. toni

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