2011 Drug War Killings

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Ft. Worth Man is Year's 12th Drug Law Enforcement Fatality

A Fort Worth, Texas, police shot officer and killed a local man as he attempted to elude arrest after police doing narcotics investigations pulled him over in his vehicle Monday night. The victim, 32-year-old Charal "Ra Ra" Thomas, is the 12th person killed so far this year in US drug law enforcement operations.

According to a police statement, undercover officers had reports that Thomas may have been involved in drug trafficking and had been conducting surveillance in the Rosedale Park area when they requested that a patrol officer identified as J. Romer pull him over for an outstanding warrant. Thomas was driving an SUV with his three children in the back seat.

"The driver stated that he was not going to jail and locked the door," the statement said. "The officer reached into the half-opened window and attempted to unlock the door to extract the driver. While reaching in the window, the driver rolled up the window trapping the officer's arm, while simultaneously accelerating towards the freeway."

Police said Officer Romer yelled for Thomas to stop numerous times, but Thomas continued accelerating.

"The officer was able to place his feet on the driver's side running board, unholster his service weapon and order the driver to stop," the statement said. When Thomas failed to stop, Romer opened fire. "The officer believed that, at the speed they were now traveling, he would have been run over and killed if he did not immediately stop the driver," the statement said.

Officer Romer was uninjured, as were Thomas's three children, who were interviewed and then released to relatives.

The killing sparked a protest by Stop Six neighborhood residents, who said the shooting was unjustified and that they wanted a federal investigation. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that dozens of people gathered in Eastover Park to protest what they called excessive use of force.

"Word has to get out concerning what's happening in the black community," said the Rev. Randolph Shaheed, who helped organize Tuesday's protest. "We're not trying to be radical as it relates to violence. We're out here trying to be radical as it relates to change. Change has to come."

Earlier Tuesday, residents of the Stop Six community gathered at Eastover Park to protest the shooting, alleging excessive force was used against Thomas, who had only one leg due to a shotgun wound he reportedly received when he was 12. Some complained that police officers frequently and unfairly target black residents in the neighborhood.

"We've been getting drugged through our own community for years now," said Kendrick Moore, who said that police frequently targeted neighborhood residents. "We're grown. Now we've got some power behind us, whether the police department knows it or not, and we're fixing to take action... This was wrong."

The Fort Worth Police are "just another form of militia; they're just an organized gang," said Terrance Montgomery. "This man was killed with three children in the car," Montgomery said. "I ask people all over the world, if your father, your mother or your brother was killed with children in the car, how would you respond?"

Thomas had two previous convictions for possession of a controlled substance, one for delivery of a controlled substance, and one for possession of marijuana.

Fort Worth, TX
United States

NY Drug Bust Yields Year's 11th Drug War Killing

[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.]

(wivb.com/dpp/news/erie/Officer-shoots-kills-drug-deal-suspect)
A man in Lackawanna, New York, has become the 11th person killed in US drug law enforcement operations this year. He was shot and killed during a confrontation with undercover officers attempting to arrest four alleged drug dealers in a gas station parking lot early Thursday evening.

According to police Friday, 10 undercover officers, six from the Erie County Sheriff's Office and four from the Lackawanna Police, converged on the parking lot to make the arrests when one of the suspects drove his van into a police car, hitting two Lackawanna officers between the vehicles. One unidentified officer then opened fire on the suspect, killing him at the scene.

But an earlier version of the story, again relying on police sources, painted a slightly different picture. According to that first account, an officer shot and killed a suspect and "an officer was then crushed between the suspect's vehicle and a police vehicle, but the suspect wasn't driving."

In a later version of the story, police said four suspects pulled up in a mini-van to sell drugs, but before the deal was consummated, "the driver attempted to hit the undercover officers with the van. Fearing for their lives," police opened fire, killing Rashad Bradford, 29, who was sitting in the back seat.

Two injured officers were briefly hospitalized, but have since been released.

Police said crack cocaine was seized at the scene. Three other men were arrested on drug charges.

Lackawanna, NY
United States

Massachusetts Man 10th Killed in Drug War This Year

[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.]

(video from necn.com/pages/landing?blockID=415731)
A Fitchburg, Massachusetts man became the 10th person to die in US drug law enforcement operations this year after being shot by a state trooper in Ashby Tuesday afternoon. The victim, Roger Padilla, 21, was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the Massachusetts State Police, the state trooper "was in fear for his life" when he fatally shot Padilla as Padilla drove toward him after a brief car chase. The unidentified trooper was conducting surveillance as part of a drug investigation when he tried to pull over the silver Nissan Maxima Padilla was driving.

"The Maxima refused to stop for the trooper, leading the trooper on a brief pursuit up Pine Road to the end of the road, which ends in a cul-de-sac," said State Police spokesman David Procopio. "At that cul-de-sac, the trooper exited his vehicle and repeatedly commanded the driver in the suspect vehicle to exit his own vehicle. The suspect ignored repeated commands to exit his vehicle."

The driver began driving his car toward the trooper, according to Procopio. The trooper, fearing for his life, fired his weapon, striking the victim, Procopio said. The trooper was in an unmarked black SUV and was alone.

"The trooper was alone in this location. The trooper is engaged in a drug investigation and the suspect was engaged in activity that the trooper considered part of that investigation," Procopio said.

Drugs were found at the scene, Procopio said.

Ashby, MA
United States

Deputy US Marshal, Crack Suspect Killed in WVA Shootout

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.]

Derek Hotsinpiller, killed in the line of duty
A Deputy US  Marshal and a fugitive alleged crack cocaine dealer were killed in a shootout in Elkins, West Virginia, Wednesday. Two other US Marshals were shot and wounded in the incident. The deaths are the eighth and ninth killings in US drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to West Virginia State Police, US Marshals and State Police troopers went to the home of Charles Edward Smith to serve a federal warrant for failure to appear on drug possession and firearms charges. Police announced themselves, then broke down the door and entered the home. Smith then opened fire with a shotgun, fatally wounding 24-year-old Deputy US Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller. A marshal and a trooper then opened fire, killing Smith.

Hotsinpiller is the first Deputy US Marshal killed by gunfire since the Ruby Ridge, Idaho, stand-off in 1992.

Smith was the subject of a 2006 federal arrest warrant after being indicted for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm in a 2005 arrest. Those charges stemmed from an attempt to sell three grams of crack cocaine.

This month, an informant told law enforcement Smith was at the Elkins address, and marshals doing surveillance spotted him outside the home. Marshals applied for a search warrant for the address, and their attempt to execute it led to Wednesday's deadly confrontation.

Police said they seized $354 in cash, a number of coins, a Rolex wristwatch, a set of digital scales, various crack pipes, a black knife, and eight firearms from Smith when he was arrested in 2005. There was no word on what, if anything, was seized Wednesday.

Elkins, WV
United States

Gun-Carrying Metro Denver Man Killed by Undercover Narc

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 metro Denver man became this year's seventh US drug war fatality when he was shot and killed by a plain clothes Aurora Police narcotics officer last Thursday evening. He was identified as Richard Arreola, 25, of Thornton.

According to police, undercover narcs were conducting surveillance on Arreola, whom they said was the subject of a drug investigation. Arreola arrived at a house on Macon Street, and at some point, approached one of the officers while carrying a "long gun" and a revolver. The officer radioed in that he was being approached by Arreola, then reported "shots fired" and that Arreola had been shot.

"He was pronounced dead on scene," said Aurora Police spokeswoman Cassidee Carlson. "The officer was not injured."

Carlson said Arreola had been under investigation for illegal drug sales for a couple of weeks. She said it was unclear at this point why Arreola had approached the officer or whether he had fired any shots at the officer.

Arreola's brother Ruben Montano told the Denver Post the next day he had no idea why police were investigating him and that Arreola had gone to the Macon Street address where his mother lived to pick up his three-year-old daughter. He said he saw his brother leave the apartment and then heard seven gun shots.

"I went to go find him," Montano said. "Then I saw my brother shot for no reason."

Arreola was the owner of Neviah Wireless in Aurora. His criminal history consisted of a handful of Denver traffic offenses, a misdemeanor pot possession charge, and a gambling offense for which he served 18 days in jail and a year of probation in Gilpin County in 2007.

The police shooter has not been identified. He has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

Aurora, CO
United States

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

Two Florida Brothers Killed in Drug Operation

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.]

Two South Florida brothers became the fourth and fifth persons to be killed in drug law enforcement operations this year when they were shot to death by police the night of February 1 at an apartment complex in Miramar. Police told WVSN-TV they opened fire when brothers Herson and Hedson Hilaire struck an officer with their vehicle while attempting to flee a drug raid.

Herson Hilaire
It is not known whether the police were uniformed or undercover. Police did not say the brothers were armed.

"The officer was struck by the vehicle," explained Miramar Police spokesperson Tania Rues. "He went over the hood of the vehicle. He was transported to the hospital. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries."

A later report from NBC Miami said that "the officer's injuries were minor and didn't require medical attention."

According to unnamed "sources" (read: the cops), four officers with the Safe Streets program observed "the suspected cocaine traffickers" inside a unit at the complex cutting several kilos of cocaine. The brothers grew spooked, ran to their car, and drove into one of the officers, prompting the other officers to open fire.

[Editor's Note: It is unclear why the brothers, who were allegedly involved in felonious activities, would do so in such a manner as to be visible from outside the apartment.]

The NBC Miami report said nothing about the brothers being inside a unit, only that officers "approached the Hilaire brothers, who were in a car outside the complex."

Police records showed that the driver, Herson Hilaire, 28, had been previously arrested on cocaine trafficking and distribution charges. Older brother Hedson apparently had no criminal record. He was in the front passenger seat.

The apartment unit did not belong to the Hilaires, but to an unnamed tenant who was not home at the time of the incident. That tenant was questioned by police and released.

The tenant told WSVN-TV News that the brothers were helping him move and that they were good people. "Two of the best people I know," he said. "Loyal, they're not violent people, they're not confrontational. They're real good people. Herson is an aeronautical engineer," he said. "He was down here on vacation. They were at my residence helping me move out, helping me clean up, so I can be out of there. There were no narcotics involved. This is the past. They were being rehabilitated."

Police have not released the amount of type of drugs found, but spokeswoman Rues said, "It was a narcotics investigation. Officers did view narcotics in their possession, and narcotics and paraphernalia was found at the home. I will say this: It was more than the amount that would appear to be for personal consumption."

The four officers involved in the shooting have not been named, but have been reassigned pending the outcome of a routine investigation into police-involved shooting.

Miramar, FL
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.]

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/port-allen-wafb.jpg
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

Texas Man Allegedly Kills Self During Drug Raid

Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is going to try to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement this year. We didn't have to wait long, did we? We covered the year's first drug war death last week. 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.]

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/corpus-christi-shooting.jpg
The year's second death during a drug law enforcement operation occurred Tuesday night in Corpus Christi, Texas, where police said an as yet unidentified man shot himself to death as they searched a house suspected of drug activity. The dead man was identified only as a 20-year-old Hispanic male "deceased from a possible gunshot wound."

According to the Corpus Christi Police account, patrol officers investigating drug activity at the address received permission from one of the inhabitants to enter the house and search. As an officer entered a bedroom, he heard a single gunshot from a closet or bathroom. The officer found seven men and one woman in the bedroom and ushered them out, but another shot was heard as they left, as well as a male voice yelling he had a hostage. The officer attempted to talk to the man, but heard only a third gunshot.

A SWAT team was called in and surrounded the house, but attempts to negotiate with the man inside were met with silence. SWAT officers then entered the residence and found the dead man, the police report said.

There was no word on any drug arrests and no mention of any evidence seized, other than a handgun police said was found beside the dead man's body. They said it was stolen. The seven people detained by police were released back to the same address.

The death did not sit well with someone in the community. Police returned to the same address early Wednesday morning to find the house covered with anti-police graffiti. One message called police murderers, while another referred to them with an expletive. Graffiti visible in a photo shown by a local TV news station said "You take ours, we take yours" and "We love you, homie."

Corpus Christi Police said Wednesday some of the messages seemed to be a direct threat. "We take this very seriously and we will be following up on that," said Lt. G. Ermis.

Corpus Christi, TX
United States

FOX Covers Latest Botched Drug Raid Killing

Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano is on point yet again with this coverage of the recent killing of grandfather Eurie Stamps.


Unfortunately, tragedies like this one are all too common, and it's honestly hard to summon the same level of outrage after watching the same horrific fact pattern unfold again and again. Nevertheless, it's at least encouraging to see Freedom Watch emerge as a high profile venue for exposing the drug war's reckless brutality to the light of day. Radley Balko also deserves credit for his hard work on this issue, though it must suck to be the go-to guy for a media quote whenever an innocent person gets shot dead by the cops. How depressing.

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