SWAT/Paramilitarization

RSS Feed for this category

Medical Marijuana Update

So much is going on in the world of medical marijuana that we cannot adequately cover it all through news briefs and the occasional feature article. The news briefs and feature articles will, of course, continue, but we now include a weekly medical marijuana update at least noting all those stories we are unable to cover more comprehensively. Here's the second one:

National

Last Friday, responding to questioning from Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated the Justice Department's support for its 2009 Ogden memo, which said the use and sale of medical marijuana in states where it is legal should be a low priority for federal prosecutors.

"What we said in the memo we still intend, which is that given the limited resources that we have, and if there are states that have medical marijuana provisions... if in fact people are not using the policy decision that we have made to use marijuana in a way that's not consistent with the state statute, we will not use our limited resources in that way," Holder said. "Where a state has taken a position, has passed a law and people are acting in conformity with the law -- not abusing the law -- that would not be a priority with the limited resources of our Justice Department," Holder said.

Arizona

Last Friday, a former nurse fired from Verde Valley Community Hospice because she is a medical marijuana user filed a lawsuit seeking damages in Maricopa County Superior Court. Arizona's medical marijuana law contains an anti-discrimination provision that says an employer may not make decisions on hiring, firing or discipline based on the person's status as a registered medical marijuana patient. The law even says that a positive drug test for marijuana from someone who is a registered user cannot be used against that employee unless the person either used, possessed or was impaired at the worksite. This case will be the first test of that law.

On Monday, a US district court judge harshly criticized the state's medical marijuana lawsuit, saying Arizona had to pick a side in the conflict over state and federal law. Judge Susan Bolton did not dismiss the case, saying she would issue a ruling later, but she told state attorneys she would throw it out unless the state decides whether or not to support its own law. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) filed the lawsuit in May, stalling the state's medical marijuana dispensary permit process.

On Wednesday, responding to the court's criticism, Gov. Brewer decided the state will argue that federal law preempts the state medical marijuana law and ask Judge Bolton to rule the state cannot regulate and permit medical marijuana dispensaries.

California

On December 7, the Live Oak City Council voted to ban residents from growing their own medical marijuana. The council cited "an unbearable stench and fear of violence." A final vote on the ban is set for next week, and the ban would take effect 30 days after that, on January 20.

On December 8, the La Puente City Council voted to order one dispensary shut down and gave another until February to show that it has not recouped costs of opening. The city banned medical marijuana dispensaries last year, but allowed some to continue operating temporarily during an amortization period while they attempt to recoup their investment costs.

On December 8, a Pomona police SWAT team raided the Natural Remedies dispensary. Police had a search warrant. A Rialto man was arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale. Police seized a pound of weed, cash, and weapons.

Last Friday, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana announced it would close its doors as of this weekend. MAMM, the state's oldest dispensary, had been targeted by federal prosecutors. Another Marin County collective, Medi-Cone, shut down last week because of scrutiny by federal authorities.

On Tuesday, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated parts of the county and narrowly passed a second law hours later regulating pot growth for county residents. The cultivation ordinance bans growing inside residences, but allows it in detached accessory structures and sets limits for outdoor growing regardless of how many patients live at a residence.

On Tuesday, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to support the idea of lifting federal marijuana prohibition for states that have marijuana laws in place. "Inconsistencies in local, state and federal law create challenges within our public safety system network and criminal justice system. There are a record number of ballot initiatives in the coming election cycle calling for the legalization of marijuana. Mendocino County supports the regulation, legalization, and taxation of marijuana," the supervisors said.

On Tuesday, the Lake County Board of Supervisors voted to close all dispensaries in the county's jurisdiction. The board had approved an ordinance allowing up to five dispensaries in August, but that ordinance was overturned after advocates began a referendum petition to undo it. Supervisors then voted to rescind the ordinance, making dispensaries illegal in the county. The 10 dispensaries in the county will have 30 days to shut down.

On Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved a temporary moratorium on new dispensaries. The board cited uncertainty about whether local governments can regulate dispensaries in the wake of the Pack vs. Long Beach case, in which the court held that federal law preempted Long Beach's right to regulate marijuana. The moratorium will not affect the county's three existing dispensaries.

On Tuesday, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to authorize its attorneys to sue any dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county unless they close immediately. The county has banned dispensaries from operating in unincorporated areas of the county since 2006. Nonetheless, county officials estimate that at least 36 dispensaries are open in violation of the ban.

Colorado

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) will not join fellow governors Lincoln Chafee (I) of Rhode Island, Christine Gregoire (D) of Washington, and Peter Shumlin (D) of Vermont in petitioning the federal government to reschedule marijuana, but the state of Colorado will independently seek rescheduling. Colorado's medical marijuana law requires the Colorado Department of Revenue to make the same request of the feds by no later than January 2012. State officials said that will be done.

The number of registered medical marijuana patients has declined dramatically from its peak of more than 128,000 in June. As of the end of October, the state's registry showed only 88,000 patients. It's unclear what the decline means. Some patients could be dropping out temporarily because registration costs will drop next year, but the state has at least 4,200 applications on hold because of problems with doctors' signatures, and 30,000 applications were in the system as of the end of last month.

Michigan

Last Friday, state and local police raided three medical marijuana dispensaries in Tuscola, Sanilac and St. Clair counties Friday for alleged involvement in the the illegal trafficking of marijuana. They included the Blue Water Compassion Center and a private residence in Kimball Township, as well as Blue Water Compassion Centers in Denmark Township in Tuscola County and Worth Township in Sanilac County. Police confiscated marijuana and marijuana-laced tinctures, topical oils, capsules, and medicated edibles. Patient files, money and toys donated to Toys for Tots also were taken, but no arrests were made. The three centers are owned by Jim and Debra Amsdill. Combined, the centers have about 26 staff and roughly 3,500 members.

New Jersey

Last Friday, the state Agriculture Development Committee ruled that medical marijuana may be grown and processed on preserved farms. Preserved farms are areas designated only for agricultural usage. The committee's move came after residents of Upper Freehold implored it not to recognize medical marijuana as an agricultural crop allowed on preserved farmland. They also criticized the process that allowed a federally outlawed drug to be grown and distributed here in the first place. The Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center has expressed interest in at least five properties in Upper Freehold as sites for growing medical marijuana, and some of them are preserved farms.

Sheriff Will Pay You $100 to Wear a Wire and Ask People to Sell You Drugs

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/undercoverbuy.jpg
Stupid silver-bullet strategies to win the war on drugs are as common as the reckless zealots who dream them up, but rarely does one find an example so deeply absurd and irresponsible as this.

Sheriff Price believes there are still many dealers on the streets. He is now asking for the public's help to catch them.

"Basically what we need from the public to help combat this, is we need some informants. Without community involvement, there is no way we can combat these drugs. We have to have community involvement," said Sheriff Price.

The sheriff will pay people up to $100 to tell him who is dealing drugs and then possibly help with undercover work.

"If you know someone that sells drugs and you feel like you can put a stop to it by wearing a wire, at least come in. It doesn't cost you anything to come in and talk to us and we'll explain the process to you," said Sheriff Price.  [WKYT.com]

It’s fun and easy! Just use common sense. If someone tries to blow your head off, duck. If they set your house on fire, stop, drop and roll. After all, if teams of highly-trained, heavily-armed narco-cops can pull off these kinds of operations, what's your excuse? Certainly, you aren't afraid of a few ill-tempered drug dealers.

"Don't let people scare you. A lot of people are afraid they will get burnt out or beat up. I've done this for 25 years and got nobody hurt yet," said Sheriff Price.

Really, one can scarcely find words to describe the sickening irony of police suddenly claiming that drug enforcement is so safe a civilian could do it. 

Frightened police officers routinely panic and unload their weapons on innocent people and pets when entering the homes of drug suspects. When that happens, we're reminded by them that this work is dangerous, that drug dealers are bloodthirsty killers, and that it's necessary we arm our police to the teeth and forgive any fatal errors they may make with their machine guns, because failing to do so could result police being shot at or bitten by dogs when they smash down people's doors looking for drugs.

Meanwhile, police want to pay random people $100 each to approach these same deadly criminals with no training or protective gear? The whole thing just makes a mockery of everything police ever said about the dangers of drug enforcement, and yet it does so for the purpose of persuading naive people to do something that really is incredibly risky. Drug informants are routinely identified and targeted for harassment and even death. The murder of Rachel Hoffman, who was arrested for marijuana and agreed to wear a wire, is a well-known example, but Google finds many more

The whole idea is just idiotic on its face, and in ways that I would have thought obvious. The drug war isn't some action comedy on afternoon cable, and when you start screwing around with slippery BS like this, anything and everything could go horribly wrong. The fact that the war on drugs creates a temptation to enforce the law this way is a good example of why we'd be better off without it.

US Reps, CA AG Chide Feds on Medical Marijuana

The unhappy reaction to the renewed federal offensive against medical marijuana growers and distributors continues to spread, with several members of Congress and California's attorney general among the latest to voice their displeasure.

Since the Sacramento press conference last month where California's four US Attorneys announced a crackdown on the medical marijuana using heavy-handed raids on businesses in exemplary compliance with state and local laws and a wave of letters to dispensary landlords threaten property seizure or even criminal prosecution if they don't throw out their medical marijuana tenants, reaction among medical marijuana supporters, including elected officials, has been growing.

On Friday, nine members of Congress, led by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), sent a letter to President Obama expressing "concern with the recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law." The other congressional signers were Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Pete Stark (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Bob Filner (D-CA).

Citing "aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least seven states," as well as threats directed at landlords and elected officials, the solons told the president such actions "directly interfere with California's 15-year-old medical cannabis law by eliminating safe access to medication for the state's thousands of medical marijuana patients."

The nine US representatives called on the president to reschedule marijuana as either a Schedule II or Schedule III drug with recognized medicinal uses, either by administrative action or by supporting legislation to achieve that end. A bill that would do just that, H.R. 1983, the States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, has already been filed, they helpfully pointed out.

A week before the congressional letter, California Attorney General Kamala Harris added her voice to the choir of the concerned. "Californians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill," she noted in a statement.

"While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California," the state's highest elected law enforcement officer said. "I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice’s stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on ‘significant traffickers of illegal drugs.'"

In mid-October, state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), stalwart friends of marijuana law reform, were among the first to speak out against the federal crackdown, followed shortly by fellow San Franciscan state Sen. Leland Yee (D).

"Medical marijuana dispensaries are helping our economy, creating jobs, and most importantly, providing a necessary service for suffering patients," Lee said in a statement. "There are real issues and real problems that the US Attorney's Office should be focused on rather than using their limited resources to prosecute legitimate businesses or newspapers. Shutting down state-authorized dispensaries will cost California billions of dollars and unfairly harm thousands of lives."

In the face of widespread criticism, the US Attorneys have attempted to insulate their boss from the political heat, with a spokesperson making pains to tell the Huffington Post they had coordinated only with the Justice Department, not the Obama administration. But it is ultimately President Obama who is in charge, and who will pay whatever political price is to be paid.

DEA Raids California, Colorado Medical Marijuana Operations

Putting some law enforcement muscle behind this month's words of warning from federal prosecutors that a new crackdown on medical marijuana distribution was getting underway, DEA agents late last week raided a model regulated medical marijuana grow in Northern California, a medical marijuana dispensary in Southern California, and a medical marijuana grow in Colorado.

"The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick," claimed Laura Duffy, the San Diego-based US Attorney at the October 8 Sacramento press conference. "It's a pervasive, for-profit industry that violates federal law."

But the operation raided Thursday, Northstone Organics in Mendocino County, has been touted as a model medical marijuana grow. It holds a Mendocino County sheriff's permit to grow the 99 pot plants seized and destroyed by the feds, pays an estimated $8,500 annually in fees to remain compliant, and has even had sheriff's deputies testify favorably about it in a state court case where Northstone drivers delivering medicine to patients were arrested in Sonoma County.

Northstone Organics founder and owner Matt Cohen told the Ukiah Daily News Friday that heavily-armed agents raided his home and property early Thursday morning, destroying plants and hauling off evidence, but not charging him with a crime.

"They destroyed our home and eradicated everything," Cohen said. "They came in, guns blazing. They calmed down and were pleasant at the end, but they came in with machine guns."

Cohen said the smash and grab raiders included six DEA agents, a state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agent, and a Mendocino County sheriff's deputy, "who didn't know what he was walking into here."

Northstone is a strict cooperative, growing the plants it distributes to members in the area, as well as in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is fully compliant with California's medical marijuana laws.

"If we're not legal, nobody's legal," Cohen said. "We actually are a legitimate not-for-profit corporation. We worked with the county to get where we are, and there are illegal growers all around us. We fell under what the US Justice Department said was the threshold for prosecution."

The message the feds are sending? "Go back underground, I guess; make our community a less safe place to be," Cohen said.

The Northstone Organics raid was "shameful and despicable," said Dale Gieringer of Cal NORML, which reported the raid as it was still going on Thursday morning. "The DEA is doing nothing but encouraging lawlessness and disobedience to the law, said Gieringer."This is a victory for the Mexican cartels."

A day earlier and several hundred miles to the south, DEA agents and Pomona police raided the Green Cross USA dispensary, seizing marijuana, marijuana edibles, and records. But unlike the Northstone Organics raid, the raid on Green Cross appears to have been instigated by local authorities, who called in the feds to help.

Pomona Police Capt. Paul Capraro told the Daily Bulletin that the dispensary owner and landlord had received threat letters from the US Attorney's office. The letters said "if they didn't close down they would be subject to criminal prosecution, civil prosecution, and property seizure," he said.

Pomona banned dispensaries with a March 2008 ordinance, and had cited the dispensary in March for operating without a business permit. The owner, Jeffrey Maul, was convicted of operating without a business license, but is appealing that conviction.

The joint city-DEA action sends a message to other dispensaries in Pomona, Capraro said. "Our message is simple, that dispensaries are not lawful businesses in Pomona."

But it's not just a local case, said DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen. "We seized contraband, but also gathered evidence for the ongoing investigation," she said, adding that arrests could be forthcoming and that the city and the DEA had worked together for months on the case.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, what originated as a local law enforcement raid against a medical marijuana grower who contracted to grow as part of a larger grow at Cherry Top Farms in Denver morphed during the day into a joint local-state-federal raid replete with carloads of DEA agents and US Attorney representatives.

"We are 100% compliant" with state medical marijuana laws, a Cherry Top Farms manager told Westword after the raid. "But when the feds walk in, they can do whatever the hell they want." Local police had issues with the contract grower who was the original target of the raid, the manager said. "They came to take care of him, but when they got here, they were unable to turn a blind eye, and they did a lot of damage," he complained.

When the first officers showed up late Thursday morning, "it was the Denver Police Department, and then it was the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Then there were the feds. When they got here, they decided they needed a search warrant for us, too," the manager explained. "They lined us all up and questioned us and took our phones and [state mandated ID] badges. Then they gave some of the option to leave, after they handed over their IDs. But a few of chose to stay, and we were forced to wait in a two-parking space area, probably 10 feet by 10 feet, from 11:00am to 11:00pm. They did let us go to the bathroom, but you definitely had to ask permission to take a piss."

The raiders cleaned out Cherry Top, the manager said. "They took all of our live plants, all of our medicine, all of our extracts, and all of our baked goods," plus at least one more thing. "We have these cute t-shirts, little tank-top titty shirts, and one of the female officers put one on and was dancing around. I said to one of the agents at the door, 'I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but that doesn't seem to be very professional.' And he said, 'It's been a long day. We're just trying to have some fun.'"

The t-shirt has vanished, the manager said. "It's not here. She took it."

After last week's threats from prosecutors in Sacramento, it now appears that the feds are backing up those threats with actions. The medical marijuana wars are heating up again.

Victims of Deadly Tucson SWAT Raid Begin Legal Action

The attorney for the family of Jose Guerena, the ex-Marine gunned down in his own home as a Pima County SWAT team burst in, has filed a notice of claim. Such a legal maneuver lays the groundwork for a damage-seeking lawsuit.

Jose Guerena survived tours of duty in Iran and Afghanistan, but not his encounter with a Tucson, AZ SWAT team.
Earlier reports said that the lawsuit will seek $20 million in damages from the Pima County Sheriff's Office, several Pima County municipalities, and the SWAT team members. It will claim that the SWAT team used excessive force and was negligent in the raid.

Guerena, who shared the home with his wife and young son, died after SWAT team members fired 71 rounds at him as they burst through his door and confronted him in his underwear in a hallway holding a weapon. The fatal May 5 raid was part of a series of raids that day in what police said was the investigation of a drug rip-off gang.

But no drugs, cash, or illegal items were found at Guerena's home, and, to date, no one has been arrested for anything in relation to that investigation or those raids. The officers involved in the raid have already been exonerated of any wrongdoing by local officials.

On Friday, Guerena family attorney Chris Scileppi told Fox 11 News that a newly released sheriff's department video showing Vanessa Guerena being pulled from the house and 4-year-old Joel Guerena running to safety after his father had been shot demonstrated just how horrific Guerena's death at the hands of police had been.

"They just give a snapshot of the horror that his wife his small child went through as they crawled past their dying husband and dying father," said Scileppi.

Two days earlier, Scileppi filed the 15-page claim outlining what it calls reckless actions by the SWAT team.  "They were negligent and grossly negligent in how they performed this the execution of this warrant in killing Mr. Guerena," said Scileppi. The $20 million figure would "accommodate the children's loss of their father," he said. "No amount of money can replace Mr. Guerena to his wife, to his children, to his family."

The two sides have 60 days from last week to reach an agreement on the claim, or a lawsuit will be filed. Comments from Mike Storie, an attorney for Pima County SWAT team suggest, that agreement is unlikely and this matter will end up in the courts.

The $20 million figure was "obscene," he told Fox 11. "I would be absolutely shocked if anybody settles this case and did not fight it vigorously and if asked, I would say it would be a ridiculous result," said Storie. "I think a dollar is excessive. Any type of settlement for any type of award would be unwarranted in this case."

Jose Guerena was the 25th person to be killed this year in domestic law enforcement operations. This year's toll of drug war killings is currently at 32.

Tucson, AZ
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We've got sticky-fingered SWAT cops, we've got perverted probation officers, we've got smack-slinging uniformed police officers, we've got strung out, pill-stealing cops, and, of course, we've got crooked jail guards. Let's get to it:

Drug prohibition's filthy lucre tempts law enforcement (image via wikimedia.org}
In Waycross, Georgia, a Ware County prison guard was arrested last Friday after he set off a metal detector upon arriving at work and was found carrying contraband cell phones and marijuana. Theodis Martin, 25, is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of more than an ounce of marijuana, bringing prohibited articles to the prison without the warden's permission, possession of prohibited items inside the guard line and trading with inmates without the consent of the warden. Although he was fired from his job the same night, he is still at the Ware County Jail.

In Kansas City, Kansas, three Kansas City Police SWAT team members pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges they stole cash and other property from homes while serving search warrants, including one that was part of a federal sting operation. Officers Jeffrey Bell, Darryl Forrest, and Dusting Stillings are accused of stealing video game equipment during searches at several homes last year. Complaints from residents led to the sting, which led to additional charges the crooked trio stole video game equipment, other electronics, and $640 in cash in that incident. Bell and Forrest were charged with conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights and theft. Sillings was charged with conspiracy against rights and theft. They each face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the conspiracy charge. The other two charges carry a maximum one-year prison term and a $100,000 fine.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was indicted Tuesday along with four other people on drug and gun charges. Officer Daniel Redd and the others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin. According to court documents, the other drug ringleader obtained heroin from Africa and distributed it to Redd and others. Redd is also accused of distributing heroin to others, including incidents that took place in the Northwest District Police Station parking lot while Redd was in uniform. He is also charged with carrying a firearm while engaged in drug trafficking, which carries a mandatory minimum five-year federal prison sentence.

In Provo, Utah, a former Provo police officer was sentenced last Friday to probation for stealing prescription medications from a home where he had previously responded to a call. Tony Brewer, 33, was arrested after a Provo family said he went to their home to investigate a 911 call, then returned several times and stole Lortab pills. A family surveillance camera caught him in the act. Brewer's attorney said he got hooked on pain pills after a police training injury. He has since undergone drug treatment. He was charged possession of a controlled substance and theft, but the theft charge was dropped as part of the plea deal. He has to do six months of probation and pay a $623 fine.

In Portland, Oregon, a former federal probation officer was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing five women under his supervision between April 2005 and June 2009. Mark John Walker, 52, had pleaded guilty in April to charges he violated the civil rights of his victims by sexually abusing them. As part of his plea agreement, he admitted forcing one woman to have sex with him and fondling four other women. Several of the women were drug defendants on probation.

SWAT Reporting Bill Filed In Michigan

A bill that would impose reporting requirements on law enforcement SWAT teams has been introduced in the Michigan House. The bill, House Bill 4857, would require those specialized paramilitary units to file a report when they forcibly enter a home, discharge a weapon, or injure or kill a suspect.

At least one Michigan legislator wants to know how often SWAT teams are deployed. (image via wikimedia.org)
The sponsor, Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) told the instate Livingston Daily he introduced the bill in part because of concerns stemming from a May 2010 Detroit police SWAT raid in which police shot and killed 7-year-old Aiyanna Jones. He said he was most concerned about the lack of information from SWAT teams, which use automatic weapons and grenades, as well as kicking down doors.

"These are areas where a little transparency wouldn't hurt," McMillin said. "I think it will raise some awareness of where reporters and other interested citizens may have additional questions. These are not your typical traffic stops," he added.

As introduced, the bill would apply to SWAT teams within the Michigan State Police, county sheriff's departments, and municipal police departments. That formulation is leading some law enforcement officials to say that it would not apply to interagency drug task forces, such as the LAWNET task force that raided the Marshall Alternatives medical marijuana dispensary in Fowlerville earlier this year.

Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte, who presides over LAWNET, said the reporting bill wouldn't apply to task force actions and attacked the measure as a "political" effort to deal with isolated instances.

"We've got enough laws -- so from that aspect, I disagree with what he wants to do," he said "The state can't come down and tell me how to run my department," Bezotte added. "What they end up doing is causing more problems than we originally had," he added.

Drug units deserve special consideration, Bezotte added. "It's not to try to get away with anything. I think if you've worked with a drug unit, you would understand you don't want anyone knowing who you are, especially if you're doing undercover buys," he added. "I would side with the drug units on that one in terms of secrecy."

But that interpretation didn't fly with attorney Denise Pollicella, who represents Marshall Alternatives. "It absolutely would apply to LAWNET," she said."I know, personally, of three different occasions and three different raids where they did not list all of the property and cash that they took on their inventory," Pollicella added.

The bill was a necessary "accountability measure," she said. "I think that if the public actually realized how prevalent these raids are, and how unnecessary the extreme force is and how traumatizing it is for the victims, there would be significantly more outrage," she said.

McMillin said he wasn't sure whether multiagency drug task force SWAT teams would be covered by the bill as written. He said the bill could become more agency-specific as it moves through the legislative process. It is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, with a hearing set for July 27.

The only other state to impose reporting requirements on SWAT teams is Maryland. That law passed only after a Prince Georges County SWAT team made the mistake of practicing its usual tactics on the mayor or Berwyn Heights, who was both innocent of any wrongdoing and in a position to be able to right the wrong inflicted on him.

MI
United States

40th Anniversary Drug War Continues, SWAT Raid Music Video, More Wire

The 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's declaration of the drug war continues. First, footage from LEAP's press conference, followed by their march from the National Press Club to the Office of National Drug Control Policy office to hand-deliver their report to drug czar Kerlikowske:



Comedian/Activist Randy Credico has made a startling discovery, with his first release from the "Nixon: The Lost Tapes" collection. In Credico's (parody) excerpt, Nixon says he was duped into calling for a drug war and says he regrets it:



We link Reason again, this time with their new music video, No Knock Raid. Don't watch it if you're about to try to get to sleep:



If you haven't already, check out my post last week about Reason's current magazine issue, "Criminal Injustice."

The Wire is back in the news too. Last weekend we noted that Attorney General Eric Holder really wants another season of the show, but David Simon says they'll only do it if he ends drug prohibition. On Thursday Holder said okay!

Unfortunately he was only joking -- and the drug war is no joking matter. Still, I interpret it as reflecting implicit respect for the anti-drug war viewpoint -- we'll take it.

Tucson SWAT Team Cleared in Killing of Ex-Marine

The Pima County Sheriff's Department SWAT team that gunned down a former Marine in his Tucson home during a raid in which no drugs were found was cleared Tuesday of any wrongdoing in the incident. The victim, Jose Guerena, 26, died in a hail of bullets in his underwear in a hallway of his home as he responded gun in hand to his wife's report of armed intruders.

Jose Guerena
SWAT team members coming through his front door fired at least 70 rounds at Guerena, striking him at least 21 times. Guerena never fired a shot. The SWAT team prevented emergency medical teams from treating him for more than an hour. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at a local hospital.

Pima County Chief Criminal Deputy Attorney David Berkman said in a report issued Tuesday that the SWAT team members were justified in using deadly force because Guerena pointed his weapon at them.

"A close examination of the rifle revealed it appeared to have been damaged by being fired upon from such an angle that it must have been pointed toward officers," Berkman wrote. "The officers were mistaken in believing Mr. Guerena fired at them. However, when Mr. Guerena raised the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle in their direction, they needed to take immediate action to stop the deadly threat against them."

The report did not delve into how the SWAT team could mistakenly think it was being shot at, nor did it address the fact that no one has been arrested in the series of raids that took place the day Guerena was killed. Police found weapons and body armor in the ex-Marine's home, but those are legal items. The report also did not note the role that the choice to use SWAT when entering the home played in creating the situation.

In statements to investigators after the raid, SWAT team members said the raid on Guerena's home was part of a probe into "possible drug running, home invasions, and potential homicides."

But the only actual -- as opposed to potential -- killing has now been ruled not a homicide. Jose Guerena died at the intersection of Second Amendment rights and paramilitary policing. He isn't the first, and he certainly won't be the last.

Tucson, AZ
United States

No Drugs in Home of Ex-Marine Killed By SWAT Team

No drugs were found in the home of a Tucson man shot and killed May 5 by a Pima County Sheriff's Office SWAT team, the Arizona Star reported Friday. Former Marine Jose Guerena, 26, was killed by SWAT team members after confronting them with a rifle in his hand as they broke into his home to serve a search warrant related to a complex drug investigation.

Jose Guerena survived two tours in Iraq, but not his encounter with a Pima County SWAT team.
Guerena's was one of four homes searched by SWAT teams in the investigation that day. Police said they found about $95,000 in cash, an unspecified amount of marijuana, and firearms during the raids, but nothing especially incriminating was found at Guerena's house.

Police said items seized at Guerena's house included a pistol, paperwork, tax returns, insurance papers, bank statements, and a bank card. They also found body armor in a hallway closet and US Border Patrol hat in the garage. Owning weapons, body armor, and Border Patrol hats is not illegal.

No arrests were made at any of the homes searched. Guerena had no criminal record.

Guerena's wife, Vanessa, and their four-year-old son were in the home when it was raided. Vanessa Guerena has said she saw armed men moving around her house and woke her husband, who was sleeping after working all night at his job in a mine. She and the child hid in a closet while Guerena went to confront the intruders.

Police originally said Guerena fired at officers before they returned fire. They had to revise that statement when it was revealed that the safety on Guerena's gun had not been switched off.

Tucson, AZ
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School

StopTheDrugWar Video Archive