2011 Drug War Killings

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NYPD Narc Shoots, Kills Armed Bronx Teen

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.]

An undercover NYPD narcotics officer shot and killed a Bronx teenager last Thursday during a drug buy that went awry. The as yet unnamed teenager becomes the 32nd person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year. [Editor's Note: The New York Times later identified the teenager as Nelson Reeves, age 17.]

Police sources told the New York Daily News that the 17-year-old "lured" an undercover officer into the lobby of a Prospect Avenue apartment building in Crotona to sell him crack cocaine, then tried to shake the narc down for more cash. The teen then pulled out a .25-caliber pistol and shot at the officer at close range. The officer returned fire, mortally wounding the teen.

The teen, who lived in the apartment building, was rushed to the Lincoln Medical Center and was later pronounced dead. The officer was not injured.

Residents told the Daily News the block is plagued by illegal drug dealing and related violence. One woman told the newspaper she heard the gun fire, but didn't pay much heed.

"I heard, but didn't even pay attention. It's nothing new around here," said one of the women, who asked to remain anonymous. "Drugs, guns, gangs -- this block is bad."

New York, NY
United States

Chicago Man Killed in Drug Bust Gone Bad

[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.]

Cook County Sheriff's deputies shot and killed a Chicago man last Thursday after an attempted drug bust in a suburban County Club Hills strip mall parking lot resulted in a gun fight and car chase that also left four deputies injured. Nyarko Johnson, 38, becomes the 31st person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

The aftermath of an undercover drug operation that spun "out of control," according to police.
According to accounts from the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, undercover narcotics detectives got into an "altercation" with Johnson, who was the target of a drug investigation, and the operation spun "out of control." The Sun-Times cited Cooke County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson saying Johnson fled the scene in his vehicle and attempted to strike one of the officers with the car.

Johnson, who was armed, was shot as he "attempted to injure our officers," Paterson said. Johnson continued driving his vehicle through parking lots and struck a police vehicle, causing it to flip over, injuring at least two officers. All of the injured deputies have since been treated and released.

Witnesses said the police vehicle had been chasing and bumping the back bumper of Johnson vehicle and gun shots were being exchanged. After Johnson's vehicle came to a halt, it was swarmed by officers with guns drawn. He had been hit multiple times by gun fire and died hours later at a local hospital.

The Sun-Times later reported that Johnson had an extensive arrest record, including a 1991 felony possession of a controlled substance rap to which he pleaded guilty and got probation; a 2001 trial for two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, in which he was acquitted; a 2003 guilty plea to resisting police, which got him three days in jail; a 2008 guilty plea to aggravated assault that got him a year's probation; and a 2009 arrest for with possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of a controlled substance and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in which the charges were dropped. Police also said he had recently pleaded guilty in federal court to narcotics conspiracy and was to surrender to serve a five-year prison sentence at the time he was killed.

Three other men were arrested at the scene and charged with possession of a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance (cocaine). Police said more charges may be pending.

The killing will be investigated by the Illinois State Police.

Chicago, IL
United States

Virginia Police Kill Old Man in Pill Raid

[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.]

Police in Hampton, Virginia, executing a search warrant for prescription pain pills shot and killed a 69-year-old homeowner after he fired on them inside the house. William Cooper becomes the 30th person killed in US domestic law enforcement operations so far this year.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hampton-police-badge.jpg
According to the Daily Press Hampton News, police sought a search warrant after a confidential informant told them Cooper had sold methadone, Percocet, and "several other unknown prescription pills" from his home. Police executed the warrant just after 10:00am Saturday, forcing his front door open and entering the residence.

Hampton Police spokesman Jason Price said police identified themselves when they arrived at the house. "We did knock and announce our presence," he said. "It was not a no-knock search warrant."

A common police practice in executing warrants is to announce their presence with loud knocks on the doors and shouts of "Police!" or similar phrases, then wait a matter of seconds before breaking down the door, effectively making them knock and announce raids in technical legal terms only. Neighbors reported the police had forced their way in, and the door was visibly broken.

Price said there was an exchange of gunfire, with Cooper shooting first and the officers firing back. Cooper was pronounced dead at a local hospital an hour later.

Police announced Tuesday
they had seized four prescription pain pill bottles -- three of them empty -- and a number of weapons in the retiree's home. They consisted of one empty bottle of Oxycontin and three bottles of Oxycodone-acetaminophen (Percocet), with one containing pills. They also seized 16 other pill bottles, including ones containing drugs used for treating the symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Police also seized Cooper's wallet, $903 in cash, and his 2000 Lexus, as well as a vehicle title and "financial documents." They alleged the 11-year-old car was connected to the drug sales.

"We did locate evidence that supports the charge of distribution of illegal narcotics," police spokesman Jason Price said Tuesday. Police did not say whether Cooper had prescriptions for the pain pills.

But friends of Cooper said he used a cane, suffered from knee and back pain, and took lots of pain medications. Cooper complained that the drugs he was taking "weren't enough" for the pain, said Richard Zacharias, 58, a retired NASA employee who was renting a trailer home from Cooper. He also said that Cooper had poor eyesight because of cataracts and often slept late. Those factors might have caused him not to realize it was police in his home at 10:00am, Zacharias said.

But Price said police would continue to identify themselves as they moved through the home. "It's very obvious that we're the police," he said.

"It doesn’t smell right," Zacharias protested. "He wasn't real big, he wasn't real threatening." The police killed Cooper "in his own house, and that doesn't sit right with me," he said. "People around here sleep with a gun beside their bed because of all the home invasions we've had. The guy was a nice guy. The guy was a good guy."

The two so far unnamed police shooters are now on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation. But Hampton Police Chief Charles Jordan Jr. didn't see any need to wait for that. "The investigation thus far supports the actions of the officers," Jordan said Saturday. "They were met with deadly force and had no alternative other than to return fire."

Hampton, VA
United States

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

Two Border Patrol Agents Die Chasing Marijuana Smugglers

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/BPclark_5femb.jpg
Two US Border Patrol agents were killed May 12 when the vehicle in which they were chasing suspected pot smugglers collided with a high-speed freight train near Gila Bend, Arizona. They become the 28th and 29th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

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Agents Hector Clark and Edward Rojas, Jr. were on assignment with a border task force when, around 6 am, they got a call about marijuana smugglers heading for Interstate 8. They raced toward the scene on a road parallel to the railroad tracks, where a 4,600-ton freight train going more than 60 mph was slightly behind them, heading in the same direction. Suddenly, the agents turned onto a private rail crossing, where the train broadsided their vehicle, pushing it more than a half-mile down the tracks before the train could stop.


The accident occurred in an area known as a place where smugglers trekking north on foot could meet up with vehicles. Later that day, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office announced that eight suspects had been arrested 400 or 500 yards from the site, but that they had not been directly linked to the group Clark and Rosas were going after. Three hundred pounds of pot was seized.

Gila Bend, AZ
United States

Tucson SWAT Team Kills Armed Homeowner in Drug Raid

[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.]

The Pima County SWAT team is under the spotlight. (Image courtesy Pima County Sheriff's Office)
In a mid-morning drug raid May 5, a Pima County SWAT team executing a search warrant shot and killed a 26-year-old Afghan and Iraq war veteran after he confronted the intruders with a weapon in his hand. Jose Guerena become the 27th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year. (Actually, he was the 25th, but the Pima County Sheriff's office has been so dilatory in releasing information that we logged two more drug war deaths before we were able add this one to the list.)

According to the initial police account, when SWAT officers broke down the door of Guerena's home, which he shared with his wife and young child, he confronted them and opened fire. "The adult male had a long rifle, opened fire on the SWAT team. The SWAT team returned fire and the male is pronounced deceased. The woman and the child are unharmed," said Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Ogan.

Six days later, police admitted that while Guerena, a former Marine, was holding an AR-15 assault rifle, the safety was on and he had not fired it. They also admitted that SWAT officers fired 71 rounds at Guerena in seven seconds. It was also later reported that even though Guerena's wife called 911 as soon as he was shot and that EMTs arrived two minutes later, deputies never allowed them to treat Guerena, citing security concerns. (Recall that in the Jared Loughner mass killing in Tucson earlier this year, EMTs were allowed to treat the wounded in a matter of minutes despite the chaos of that scene.)

In an interview with KGUN9-TV, Guerena's wife, Vanessa, explained that her husband had worked the night shift at his job at a mine and been asleep only a couple of hours when the raiders arrived. When she saw armed men in her house pointing guns at her, she said, "Please don't shoot, I have a baby... and I yell 'Jose! Jose! Wake up!'"

The SWAT team didn't identify itself before breaking in her door and entering her home, Guerena said. "You're saying [they] only yelled SWAT after the shootout?" KGUN9asked. "Oh, yes! Yes," said Guerena.

Her husband grabbed a gun to protect himself from what he thought were home invaders, she said.

Police said Guerena's home was one of four targeted in simultaneous raids and that a large amount of cash was found in one of them. It wasn't Guerena's. All they have said about what they found there was that it was "evidence pertinent to the case."

But at a Wednesday memorial service for the veteran of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, an attorney retained by his family, Christopher Scileppi, told FOX11-TV that Guerena was not part of any drug conspiracy. "What I do know is that they collected phones, computers the family has conveyed to me that they're confident that there is nothing that will be of inculpatory incriminating information," said Scileppi.

No lawsuit has yet been filed, but Scileppi is laying the groundwork. "We'll be sending our investigators out to find out what the neighbors saw, what mutual observers saw because this was obviously a big deal certainly to the Pima County sheriff's office," he said.

Tucson, AZ
United States

Chicago Man Dies During Attempted Drug Arrest

[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 resident of Chicago's West Side died Wednesday night after allegedly swallowing drugs as police officers tried to arrest him. Paris Turner, 26, becomes the 26th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to police, officers saw Turner "acting suspiciously" in "an area known for drug trafficking." When they attempted to take him into custody, he resisted arrest and swallowed a clear plastic bag, then took off running. He collapsed in the street.

He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine cause of death.

Another report
cited "sources" (read: the cops) who said it appeared he died of an overdose.

One officer suffered minor injuries in the incident and was treated and released at a local hospital.

Chicago, IL
United States

LA Narcs Kill Homeless Person Holding Knife

[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.]

LAPD: "To protect and serve" (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Undercover LAPD narcotics detectives shot and killed an apparently homeless man at Fifth and Spring streets Tuesday afternoon. The man, as yet unnamed, becomes the 25th person to be killed so far this year in US domestic drug law enforcement operations.

According to police, the narcs were walking down the street when they saw a man who appeared to be "cutting up possible narcotics." The officers then "tried to make contact" with the man, and as they approached him, he turned, with the knife in his hand pointing at officers.

They then shot him. The man, who was in his mid-30s, was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

According to one news account headline, Undercover LAPD Detective Shoots, Kills Man Who Allegedly Tried to Rob Him, the man tried to rob the detectives. But nothing printed in any news account so far, including the brief article under that headline, supports that headline.

Pennsylvania SWAT Team Kills Meth Cooker in Drug Raid

[[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 member of a Pennsylvania state police SWAT team shot and killed a Wayne Township man during an early morning drug raid Wednesday. Jeffrey Wolfe, 56, becomes the 24th person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Jeffrey Wolfe was shot and killed in a dawn drug raid in Pennsylvania after police said he pointed a gun at them in his bedroom.
According to police, members of the state police Special Emergency Response Team were executing a search warrant for a meth lab. They identified themselves as police, then entered the house and encountered Wolfe in a bedroom, where he pointed a loaded pump-action shotgun at them. One of the team members then opened fire on Wolfe, striking him twice in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A woman who police have not identified was also in the home. She was not injured, and police said she is part of the ongoing investigation.

An affidavit of probable cause attached to the warrant said a confidential informant had made three controlled meth buys from Wolfe in recent weeks. The SERT team was called on to execute the warrant because of the "paranoia associated with a long-time user of methamphetamine," and the presence of guns and an active meth lab. Police said using the SERT team was the "prudent" thing to do.

Troopers found an operational meth lab, chemicals, and another weapon at the scene, as well as video surveillance equipment. Police said Wolfe had a monitor in his bedroom to see who was approaching the house, but they didn't say it it was turned on.

The unnamed state trooper who shot Wolfe has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the killing. That will be handled by the Schuykill County district attorney's office.

Summit Station, PA
United States

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