Undercover Work

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Undercover Narc Kills Drug Suspect in Shootout

[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

A 22-year-old Florida man was killed and one of his companions and an undercover police officer were wounded in a drug deal gone bad in Putnam County Wednesday. Rodrigo Espinoza of Pomona Park becomes the 23rd person killed in domestic drug law operations so far this year.

According to police accounts, two undercover police officers had arranged to buy cocaine and weapons from Espinoza and two other men. When the police arrived at the isolated meeting place demanded by the trio, the officers exited their car.

"Almost immediately when these three arrived they produced handguns and gunfire was exchanged," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Keith Kameg. "As far as the motive, we're looking into numerous possibilities about what they were doing."

One of the undercover officers, St. Augustine Beach detective David Tiller, was shot in the leg during the confrontation and was recovering at a DeLand hospital. The other, who was described only as a US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms agent, was uninjured.

One of Espinoza's crew, 19-year-old Avery Corbitt, was shot and wounded in the neck and was hospitalized. He is charged with trafficking cocaine, although no cocaine was found at the scene. The other member of the trio, Espinoza's 17-year-old brother Emmanuel, fled the scene but was captured hours later. He is charged with aggravated assault and cocaine trafficking.

The undercover agents were working on temporary assignment to the Tri-County Drug Task Force, which is composed of officers from Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler counties and federal agencies under the supervision of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Pomona Park, FL
United States

New York Man Dies in Small-Time Drug Bust

[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

Uniondale, New York, where a man died after swallowing drugs in a bid to avoid arrest. (Image via Wikipedia)
A Long Island man who allegedly fled police after they saw him involved in a possible drug deal died early Sunday morning after swallowing what appeared to be crack or powder cocaine and going into cardiac arrest. He becomes the 21st person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to police, officers approached Benjamin Jackson, 43, after observing the possible drug deal. He fled, hiding in bushes near his home. Undercover officers heard a crunching noise and saw Jackson "spitting out what appeared to be crack or cocaine," then arrested and handcuffed him, police said.

Officers called for an ambulance, but said Jackson's heart stopped before it arrived. The officers performed CPR and regained a pulse, but Jackson died at Nassau University Medical Center an hour and a half after he was arrested.

A medical examiner's report is pending.

Uniondale, NY
United States

Jacksonville Narc Kills Armed Drug Suspect

[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is going to try to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

Herbert Earl Harris
A Jacksonville, Florida, undercover narcotics officer shot and killed an armed drug suspect at an apartment complex last Thursday afternoon. Herbert Harris, 29, becomes the 17th person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations this year.

According to police, the shooting occurred as heavily-armed police attempted to serve a drug search warrant and a fugitive arrest warrant on Harris. No one answered the door at the apartment, so police forced their way into the unit and encountered Harris. When Harris pulled a 9mm handgun, an unidentified officer fired five times, hitting him twice and killing him. Police said Harris did not fire his weapon.

"You hate when these things turn out this way, but it happens," Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Chief John Harley said. "This is a dangerous business."

In addition to the drug warrant, Harris was wanted for violation of probation on a felony assault charge in Ohio. Police found small quantities of cocaine and marijuana in the apartment. Other occupants of the apartment admitted to police that Harris was selling pot and cocaine from the apartment.

Jacksonville, FL
United States

More Undercover Drug Cases Dropped Amid Growing SFPD Scandal

San Francisco, CA
United States
Eight more criminal cases were dropped by prosecutors in connection with a looming scandal involving an undercover police unit accused of conducting illegal drug raids and falsifying police reports. The cases in San Francisco Superior Court involved the same officers previously accused of entering residential hotel rooms without warrants or consent and then allegedly lying about their actions on police reports. One officer was accused of falsely arresting a man for drug possession.
The San Francisco Examiner (CA)

West Virginia Police Kill Man Trying to Escape Drug Bust

Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is going to try to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

This year's sixth drug law enforcement killing occurred Friday afternoon in Charleston, West Virginia, when officers from the Kanawha County Metro Drug Unit shot and killed a Detroit man after his car hit an officer as he attempted to flee a drug arrest. Police identified the dead man as Stiney Richards, 38.

Drug war takes a life in Charleston (Image via Wikimedia)
According to Charleston Police, undercover officers with the Metro Drug Unit made a large crack cocaine purchase from Richards, whom they said had a criminal record that included drug and weapons offenses. When they attempted to arrest Richards, he jumped in his car and attempted to flee, hitting one plainclothes officer as he did so. The officer was not seriously injured.

Other officers opened fire, or, as WSAZ-TV strangely put it, "fired back," mortally wounding Richards, who managed to drive a few blocks before crashing his car. Police have not said that Richards shot at them, or even that he was armed.

"Because the incident took place in Charleston our detectives are investigating," Lt. S.A. Cooper said. "The officers who actually discharged their weapons do not work for the Charleston Police Department but there were officers from numerous agencies at the scene."

Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants will review the case after police file a report, but he was already hinting at what the outcome of his review will be. "This shooting is like any other shooting in Kanawha County -- I have to look at the evidence and make a determination whether that shooting was justified or not," Plants said. "But these are people who put their lives on the line every day, perfect strangers yet willing to sacrifice their lives. In today's age, violence against a police officer is not that uncommon."

The Metro Drug Unit is a federally funded drug task force that has been in existence since the 1980s. It includes officers from the Charleston, South Charleston, Dunbar, St. Albans, and Nitro police departments, as well as the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department and agents from the DEA.

The killing of Richards was the second violent incident for the Metro Drug Unit in little more than a week. On January 28, a Charleston police detective was shot in the hand when an occupant of a house being raided on a drug search warrant opened fire, shooting through a closed door. Residents of the house had been the victims of a home invasion robbery days earlier.

Charleston, WV
United States

Louisiana Cop Kills Man in Drug Deal Gone Bad

Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is going to try to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

A Louisiana man became the third person to die so far this year during a drug law enforcement operation. Eric Williams, 18, was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon by an undercover narcotics officer in Port Allen in what police said was a drug buy that turned into an armed robbery attempt.

According to West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes, undercover narcotics agents were making buys in "known drug areas" when a woman and her boyfriend set up a deal. The narc was waiting in a motel room waiting for the woman to arrive so he could purchase $50 worth of Lortab. When the woman entered the motel room, she closed the door, but opened it again, and a masked man entered.

"Came through the door immediately shoved her down and started having a gun at the agent. The agent kicked him, gave him money he was asking for and started shooting," said Cazes, adding that Williams was trying to fire a loaded .45. "The only reason the agent's still alive is the bad guy, the gun he had was on safety."

Cazes said the agent shot Williams four times. The shooting is under investigation by the state police, but the sheriff said his agent did nothing wrong.

The woman and her boyfriend were jailed on $1 million bonds on charges of being a principal to armed robbery by use of a firearm.

Port Allen, LA
United States

Cops Used Fake Patient IDs to Buy Medical Pot; Was It Entrapment?

United States
Oakland County Sheriff's deputies used phony Michigan medical marijuana cards -- created on a county computer -- to trick state-approved medical marijuana providers into selling the drug to the police. Days after the drug buys, county narcotics agents raided two medical marijuana dispensaries. Defense attorneys for more than two dozen people arrested in the raids are crying foul, saying their clients were trapped into lawbreaking while trying to stay within the state law.
Detroit Free Press (MI)

Lethal Sting: How the War on Drugs Killed a College Student

Tallahassee, FL
United States
The Tallahassee Police Department isn't getting any medals; they're the targets of a massive lawsuit. And Rachel Hoffman is dead, shot with the very gun the cops sent her to buy.
The Huffington Post (CA)

North Carolina Sheriffs Want to Know What Drugs You're Taking

United States
The North Carolina State Sheriffs' Association is seeking access to state computer records that identify which residents have prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substances. Patient advocates say opening up people's medicine cabinets to law enforcement would deal a devastating blow to privacy rights.

Jury Finds Officer "Justified" in Trevon Cole Shooting

Las Vegas, NV
United States
As predicted, a Las Vegas coroner's inquest into the Trevon Cole shooting found the police officer's actions justified. Only one police officer has been found at fault in a shooting in the procedure's 30 year history. Officer Yant by contrast has shot peole three times, twice fatally.
Las Vegas Review-Journal

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