2011 Drug War Killings

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Trucker Shoots Self Before Roadside Pot Bust

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

A truck driver pulled over by a Texas state trooper apparently shot and killed himself before police found a load of marijuana in his truck's sleeper. The man, identified as Mason Burks of Springfield, Missouri, becomes the 42nd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety
, Burks was driving north on US Highway 59 near Lufkin when he was stopped for a commercial inspection by Trooper Mike McClain. US 59 begins on the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas.

When McClain stepped up to the truck window, he heard a gunshot. McClain retreated and called for back-up.

When backup arrived, police found Burks, 46, dead of a gunshot wound to the chest. Troopers then found 603 pounds of pot in the sleeper of the truck cab.

Lufkin, TX
United States

Pennsylvania Drug Suspect Dead After Swallowing Baggie

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

A New Kensington, Pennsylvania, man being pursued by police died Saturday after he was seen swallowing a plastic bag suspected of containing illegal drugs. Curtis Patterson, 40, becomes the 41st person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Authorities told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Patterson had been pursued by police from various departments earlier in the evening and when he was finally stopped, police witnessed him swallowing the plastic bag. The contents of the baggie have yet to undergo lab analysis, but police say they suspect it is illegal drugs.

The Allegheny County medical examiner said the baggie obstructed Patterson's trachea, and he died of asphyxiation at 3:05am. The death is being ruled accidental.

The last six drug war deaths this year include two others who died after swallowing drugs, two who drowned trying to flee drug busts, and one man who stepped in front of a speeding semi-truck during a roadside drug bust.

Pittsburgh, PA
United States

Illinois Arrestee Swallows Drugs, Dies

In North Aurora, Illinois, man arrested by Chicago Police on drug charges last Wednesday night died after apparently swallowing the drugs while in custody. Kevin Davis, 47, becomes the 40th person to die in US domestic drug law operations so far this year.

Citing police sources, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Davis was arrested by police at 7:38pm. When he subsequently collapsed, he was taken to Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9:28pm.

Harrison Area detectives were investigating. Which drugs Davis ingested is not known.

Davis's death come little more than a month after the city of Chicago paid $1.3 million to the family of another man who died in police custody after being arrested and swallowing drugs. The city settled after a police videotape showed officers neglected to aid the man as he struggled for life in the back of a paddy wagon.

Chicago, IL
United States

Alleged Rhode Island Marijuana Dealer Drowns Fleeing Cops

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

The Merrimack River at Lowell, Massachusetts (wikimedia.org)
A Coventry, Rhode Island man arrested on marijuana distribution charges by Lowell, Massachusetts, police died Friday when he jumped into the Merrimack River wearing handcuffs and drowned while attempting to flee. Luke Hammond, 23, becomes the 39th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Boston Herald, Hammond had been pulled over and arrested Friday evening on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and driving without a license. While officers waited for a police van to take him to jail, Hammond, who was already handcuffed, broke free and sprinted about 100 yards before leaping into the river.

Lowell Fire Department scuba divers found Hammond's body in the water about 45 minutes after he jumped in the river. He was taken to Lowell General Hospital where he was pronounced dead. 

"When he was found, he only had one hand in the cuffs," said Capt. Randall Humphrey, a Lowell Police Department spokesman. "He was in custody (at the time of his escape). He had been handcuffed and somehow was able to get one of his hands out. I would say he jumped into the river intentionally. I don't think he tripped and fell in," Humphrey said.

Lowell, MA
United States

Miami Man Drowns Fleeing Drug Bust

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

Margate Canal, Miami (wikimedia.org)
A Miami man drowned Saturday night attempting to flee a drug bust. Winston Gaskin, 23, becomes the 38th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to NBC-TV Miami, citing police sources, police responded to a call about narcotics activity at a convenience store on Northwest 19th Street. When an officer engaged attempted to engage Gaskin at the scene, he took off running and jumped into a canal. He only made it about half way across before he began struggling, then went under.

"The suspect swam for a little bit," before encountering trouble, said police spokeswoman Constance Stanley. "At that time, officers called paramedics and they assisted in pulling him out of the canal, performing CPR until paramedics arrived."

Gaskin was transported to Florida Medical Center in critical condition and was pronounced dead shortly before midnight.

"The police later found out that Mr. Gaskin did have an arrest warrant out for cocaine possession," Stanley said, "so that could be the reason that he fled."

Miami, FL
United States

Two More Drug War Deaths

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

The Las Vegas Metro Police K-9 unit is part of the state and federal Interdiction Team (Image: LVMPD)
In separate incidents this week, two more people have died during drug-related encounters with law enforcement. The two people, both as yet unnamed, become the 36th and 37th persons to die during US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

In Las Vegas, police reported that a man who had been caught transporting several pounds of methamphetamine was killed Tuesday night after he ran from police while handcuffed and jumped in front of a tractor-trailer truck on Interstate 15. He was killed instantly.

[Editor's note: The Las Vegas victim was later identified as Andrey Cordero Rojas, 29.The second victim has yet to be named.]

Police had found 12 pounds of meth they valued at $300,000 in a hidden compartment in the man's vehicle after he was pulled over by the Interdiction Team, a multiagency task force composed of state and federal agents.

They said the man had been cooperating when he suddenly ran onto the highway's passing lane and stopped in front of the oncoming truck. "We're not sure what he was thinking," a police spokesman said.

In the second incident, in Chester, Pennsylvania, police reported that an as yet unidentified 41-year-old Delaware County man who ingested a "white chalk substance" after officers approached his car died of apparent cocaine poisoning.

Police said they were patrolling the neighborhood when they noticed "suspicious activity" in the car. The man in the car locked the doors, then began eating the substance and washing it down with "gulps" of water. He unlocked the doors after he was done ingesting the substance and was transported to a local hospital where he died.

NYPD Undercover Cop Kills Man Intervening in Drug Arrest

An NYPD undercover narcotics officer shot and killed a man who attempted to intervene during a street drug arrest Tuesday afternoon. John Collado, Sr., 43, becomes the 35th person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the third in the past week.

According to police, the unidentified narc was trying to arrest a 23-year-old man selling drugs near the intersection of Post Avenue and Dyckman Street, when Collado intervened, putting the officer in a choke hold before the officer fired once, striking Collado in the abdomen. He died in a local hospital hours later.

In another report, police said the officer was breaking up a drug deal between Collado and the young man. "As the officer tried to arrest one of the suspects... the other suspect put the officer in a chokehold," that report said.

But Collado's son, John Collado, Jr., told New York City media outlets that his father was not involved in a drug deal. Instead, said Collado, Jr., he and his father were just walking by when they saw someone they knew being assaulted by an unidentified person.

"My dad's not a moron," he said. "If he would have identified himself as a cop, my dad would have stopped. He got shot in the stomach, trying to stop an unidentified cop in a scuffle with a civilian, a kid I grew up with, my dad's neighbor. He went to break it up, the cops shot him in the stomach, and he's in trauma," he said Tuesday. "They won't let me know anything that's going on."

NYPD said that the officer identified himself.

New York, NY
United States

Trapped Trooper Kills Minnesota Woman Fleeing Drug Bust

Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to domestic 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.]

Minnesota State Patrol cruiser (image via Wikimedia)
A Minnesota woman was shot and killed by a state trooper Saturday as she dragged him with her vehicle while attempting to flee a traffic stop that would have resulted in a drug bust. The woman, Debra Doree, 48, becomes the 34th person to be killed in domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the State Patrol,  the incident began as a routine traffic stop on I-94 Saturday afternoon when the unnamed trooper pulled Doree over for an "equipment violation." The trooper noticed a large amount of "a white crystalline substance" during their interaction and was investigating when Doree jumped back into her vehicle and tried to flee. The trooper's arm got tangled in the steering wheel as she drove off, and she dragged the trooper approximately 30 yards before he was able to unholster his weapon and shoot her. The trooper received minor injuries.

The white substance was later confirmed to be "a very substantial amount of narcotics," said State Patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske. It is not clear what the substance was.

Doree had no criminal record in Minnesota, but her husband, Scott Doree, 53, has numerous convictions, including several for possession of methamphetamine and marijuana.

The unnamed trooper has been put on paid leave pending an investigation of the incident by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is charged with investigating officer-involved killings in the state.

St. Paul, MN
United States

Man With Gun Killed in Kentucky Drug Raid

[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to domestic 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.]

[Editor's Note: After we published this article, we were contacted by a woman identifying herself as the sister of the victim. See her comments at the end of the article.]

police training in Kentucky
A Jeffersonville, Kentucky, man was shot and killed in his home by undercover police during a drug raid Thursday. Terry Pruitt, 45, becomes the 33rd person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to police, members of the Buffalo Trace Narcotics Task Force were conducting a drug bust in the home when Pruitt pulled a gun and a member of the unit shot and killed him. In another version of events, police said Pruitt shot at an officer before the officer returned fire.

But a Kentucky State Police spokesman told WKYT-TV only that Pruitt had pointed a weapon at police. "The individual inside the residence took an offensive posture and pointed a gun at one of the officers and then the officer reciprocated," said Trooper Endre Samu. Samu said that Pruitt had been hiding under a bed, then got up and threatened one of the undercover agents.

The raid took place shortly before 5:00pm. There is no indication whether officers had announced their presence or if the raid was a "no-knock" raid.

Pruitt's girlfriend, Laura Johnson, 52, who lived in the house with him was detained at the scene and later charged with an unspecified drug trafficking offense. She was being held at the Montgomery County Jail.

Neighbor Angela Martin said she was "in shock" over the killing. "I'm still kind of in shock over it because he didn't seem like the type to be involved in that.  He was a great neighbor.  He came over and mowed my grass when my mower was down.  He was real friendly, real clean-cut guy, real neighborly," Martin said. "It's a horrible story that ended bad, and I just hate seeing something like this happen. That's somebody's son, somebody's father, somebody's grandson, you know, and it's just a horrible way for him to go out," said Martin.

The killing will be investigated by the Kentucky State Police.

In an email to Drug War Chronicle, a woman describing herself as Pruitt's sister, Barbara Seebach questioned the police version of events."His girlfriend says he was in bed asleep, and I believe her," she wrote. "I know he wouldn't fit under the bed, and if he was raising up from the side, why couldn't they have grabbed him before he got up? It doesn't make any sense, and I think someone needs to sit down with the family and tell the truth."

In a second email, Seebach described what led to the bust. "I know that Laura was charged with trafficking four pills," she wrote. "She sold four pills to someone she thought was a friend, and the next thing you know the cops were at her door. So, is that a set-up, or what?"



 

Jeffersonville, KY
United States

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

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