2012 Drug War Killings

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Puerto Rico Narcotics Officer Ambushed, Killed

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/officer-victor-soto-velez.jpg
Victor Soto-Velez
An off-duty Puerto Rican police officer was shot and killed last Tuesday night in what local news reports are calling an ambush related to his work as a drug agent. Officer Victor Soto-Velez, 37, becomes the 29th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the newspaper Primera Hora, Soto-Velez was driving his Ford Explorer on a highway in Camuy when he was ambushed. He was able to provide information about his assailants before he died.

As police investigated, they encountered a burning vehicle in the vicinity that matched the description of the attackers' vehicle provided by Soto-Velez.

Local police told Primera Hora that almost as soon as the shooting occurred, they received information that the attack had been directed specifically at Soto-Velez, who been an agent of Puerto Rican Police Division of Drugs in Arecibo.

Soto-Velez, a 13-year veteran of the force, left behind two daughters, aged 11 and 19.

No suspects have been arrested so far.

Camuy, PR
United States

NYPD Police Officer Indicted in Ramarley Graham Killing

Ramarley Graham
A New York City police officer has been indicted on manslaughter charges in the Bronx shooting death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham. Graham, a young black man, was shot and killed in the bathroom of his own home after a team of NYPD narcotics officers followed him home, broke in, and confronted him.

When he was killed in February, Graham was the eighth person to die in drug law enforcement activities so far this year. That number is now up to 28. The indictment of NYPD Officer Richard Haste is the first of any officer in any of those deaths.

Although the indictment has not been officially unsealed, the New York Times reported that a grand jury has indicted Haste, 30, on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter. More charges could be pending.

Graham was shot and killed after he and a pair of friends caught the attention of narcotics officers who had staked out a bodega on White Plains Road. They radioed their colleagues and said they believed he had a gun in his waistband as he walked toward his home. Officer Haste dashed to the scene, broke into Graham's apartment, and shot and killed him in his bathroom.

No weapon was found, but police did say they found marijuana in a plastic baggie in the toilet bowl, suggesting Graham may have been trying to get rid of the evidence to avoid becoming another New York City pot bust statistic.

The shooting has provoked anger in the community and led to numerous calls for justice for Graham and other victims of overzealous policing in the city. It has also focused attention on the aggressive tactics of the NYPD's Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, teams of officers who surreptitiously surveil the streets looking for drug deals before bursting in to bust dealers and customers.

The Graham shooting has focused attention on the aggressive tactics of the Police Department’s Street Narcotics Enforcement Units -- teams of six or seven officers who hide on rooftops or in parked cars as they scan the streetscape for drug transactions before swooping in to arrest dealers and customers. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered a review of the units' tactics, but the results of that review have not been released.

The last time NYPD officers were indicted for killing a resident was when three of them riddled Sean Bell's body with bullets as he attended his pre-wedding party in 2007. Those officers were eventually found not guilty.

New York, NY
United States

Jacksonville Cop Kills Unarmed Drug Suspect

A Jacksonville, Florida, police officer shot and killed an unarmed drug suspect during a traffic stop early last Wednesday morning when the man reached down inside his car. Davinian Darnell Williams, 36, becomes the 28th person to die in domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Davinian Darnell Williams (JCSO)
According to Jacksonville Police Chief Tom Hackney, Officer Jeff Edwards pulled over Williams for "driving suspiciously in a[n]… area known for drug activity." Williams tried to evade Edwards by making sudden turns and running stop signs.

When Williams finally stopped, the chief said, he refused commands to show his hands and was moving around inside the vehicle. Officer Edwards moved from one side of the car to the other to get a better view of what Williams was doing.

"At that time, the suspect made a sudden motion, reaching down," Hackney said.

Edwards then opened fire, shooting seven times through a side window and hitting Williams with six of the shots. Williams died at the scene.

Police found 17 grams of powder cocaine in one of Williams' socks and less than a gram of crack cocaine in the other. There was no weapon on Williams or in the car.

Williams had a criminal record dating back to 1992, including possession of marijuana, sale and possession of cocaine, resisting arrest, and battery on a law enforcement officer.

Officer Edwards has been placed on administrative leave while the State's Attorney's Office investigates.

Williams' killing was the seventh shooting by Jacksonville police this year and the fourth fatal one. In 2010 and 2011, Jacksonville police shot eight people each year, and in both years, four of them died.

"These traffic stops are filled with inherent dangers," Hackney said.

Jacksonville, FL
United States

Oregon Methamphetamine Defendant Killed After Ramming Patrol Car

A convicted meth offender facing new charges was shot and killed by Oregon deputies late Saturday after he tried to escape in his pick-up truck and rammed a patrol car. Walter Phillips, 46, of Cave Junction becomes the 27th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Phillips had been convicted of methamphetamine possession in 2011 and was set to appear in court May 7 on new meth and marijuana trafficking charges. He also had an outstanding warrant for driving without a license.

According to the Josephine County Sheriff's Office, deputies attempted to pull over Phillips' truck Saturday night in Cave Junction, but he sped off when deputies turned on their lights. He then pulled off the highway and skidded to a stop before shifting into reverse and hitting the patrol car.

The two officers, Deputy Robert Baker and Reserve Deputy Mike Holguin, then opened fire "to try to stop him," the office said.

Phillips was airlifted to a hospital in Medford, where he was pronounced dead. The deputies did not require medical attention.

The sheriff's office has not released details on any evidence found in the pick-up truck or provided any motive for why Phillips fled.

His death is being investigated by the Oregon State Police, with assistance from Grants Pass Public Safety detectives, Josephine County Sheriff's Office, and the Josephine County District Attorney's Office.

Cave Junction, OR
United States

South Carolina Man Dies in Custody of Narcotics Officers

A 46-year-old South Carolina man died in police custody last Tuesday after being arrested for selling cocaine. Rodney Andrew Haymon of Westminster becomes the 26th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to official sources, Haymon was arrested after selling cocaine to undercover narcotics officers. He was cooperating with officers while riding with them to another location as part of a drug investigation. Haymon was sitting in the front seat of the patrol car and was not handcuffed. According to officer reports, he "chugged" a bottle of water, then was "chugging" a bottle of Gatorade when he went into what officers described as a seizure.

Officers on the scene carried out CPR, and an ambulance was called to the scene. Haymon was transported to a local hospital where he died, just under two hours from the time of his arrest.

An autopsy last Wednesday revealed no physical injuries that would have caused his death. The coroner found that he had two fractured ribs, but said they were consistent with CPR efforts, which include sharply compressing the chest.

The coroner said he had heard rumors Haymon had been Tasered or otherwise injured, but there was no evidence of that. He said that he is awaiting toxicology reports to see whether Haymon ingested something that could have caused his death.

Haymon's family said he had no history of seizures.

Seneca, SC
United States

New Hampshire Police Chief Killed in Drug Raid

Greenland, New Hampshire, Police Chief Michael Maloney was shot and killed and four other officers were shot and wounded during a drug raid last Thursday evening. Maloney becomes the 23rd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Greenland, NH, Police Chief Michael Maloney (Greenland PD)
According to state and local officials at a press conference that night, the male suspect in the shooting and a female remained barricaded inside his home along and surrounded by a SWAT team, which was called to the scene after shooting broke out. The resident at the address in the raid has been identified as Cullen Mutrie, 29, who was facing steroid possession charges after police who came to his home to confiscate guns after a 2010 domestic violence complaint found them in his living room.

[Update: Mutrie and the as yet unidentified woman were found dead inside the home after a police robot was sent in early last Friday morning. Police said it wasn't clear if it was a murder-suicide or a double suicide. They become the 24th and 25th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.]

It's not yet clear precisely why police were raiding his home Thursday. Police did confirm it was a drug raid and that the suspect had opened fire. Other than that, it is also unclear exactly what transpired, except that Maloney is dead and four officers are wounded. They have been identified as Det. Jeremiah Murphy of the Rochester Police Department, Det. Gregory Turner of the Dover Police Department, Det. Eric Kulberg of the University of New Hampshire Police Department and Det. Scott Kukesh of the Newmarket Police Department.

Two of the four were shot in the chest and were in intensive care early Friday. Two others were treated and released, one with a gunshot wound to the arm and the other with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. They were working as part of a drug task force.

Maloney, 48, was a 26-year law enforcement veteran and had been chief in Greenland for the past 12 years. He was due to retire in less than two weeks.

Greenland, NH
United States

Jacksonville Police Kill Armed Man in Drug Raid

A Jacksonville, Florida, narcotics detective shot and killed an armed man during a drug raid aimed at arresting a small-scale crack dealer last Thursday. Juan Montrice Lawrence, 40, becomes the 22nd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the third in a one-week period.

According to the Florida Times-Union, citing Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman John Hartley, detectives had spent six weeks buying crack out of an apartment in the Casa del Rio St. Johns complex, and, after making one last purchase at the apartment door Thursday afternoon, a "take-down team" attempted to arrest their target, Nathaniel Phillip Hill, 39.

But Hill struggled, and the officers were pulled into the apartment as they took Hill to the floor. A second male, later identified as Hill's teen-age son, was also tackled. At that point, veteran narcotics Detective Valentino Demps saw Lawrence standing in a hallway with a gun in his hand. Demps ordered Lawrence to drop the gun, then shot him twice when he did not comply.

"He gave multiple commands for the suspect to drop the gun. He refused to obey the commands," Hartley said. "He was shot at least twice, once in the face, once in the hip."

Lawrence was taken to Shands Jacksonville Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Witnesses described seeing officers in black uniforms and ski masks gathered at the apartment complex.

By Friday, police had identified Lawrence as an "armed felon" whose previous convictions including carrying a concealed weapon and cocaine possession and were saying that the decision to shoot him had probably saved several officers' lives.

"If he'd let him get down that hallway, we could have three or four dead officers at the scene," Hartley said. "Certainly he [Lawrence] was ready to fire on them."

Nathaniel Hill was arrested and charges with distribution of cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. An ounce of cocaine, a pistol, and rounds of ammunition were seized at the apartment. Hill's teenage son was detained, but later released without charges.

Jacksonville, FL
United States

Two More Drug War Deaths

Two more people died last week in drug-related law enforcement actions, one in Colorado and one in Kentucky. The two men, an as yet unnamed Denver man and 46-year-old Brice Horne of Harned, Kentucky, become the 20th and 21st persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

In the Colorado case, police told the Denver Post that a 35-year-old man was pulled over in an April 1traffic stop and then struggled with police before collapsing and dying.

He died after a "brief use of force" that was "very minor," Denver Police spokeswoman Raquel Lopez said. Force was used after the man became combative and tried to assault the officer, she said. He was then handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car, and shortly thereafter showed signs of "what appeared to be medical distress," she added.

The Office of the Medical Examiner reported that the man had "a large quantity of suspected narcotic" in his stomach.

"It appears one or more of the balloons burst or opened, releasing the content into the victim's system," Denver police said in a statement.

Denver police and the Denver District Attorney's Office are investigating.

In the Kentucky case, Kentucky State Police told media a Breckenridge County sheriff's deputy and a state police Drug Enforcement Special Investigations Task Force officer went to a Frankfort apartment last Tuesday morning to bust a methamphetamine lab.

Horne fled from the apartment and fled inside a nearby mobile home. The deputy didn't enter the mobile home, but the state agent did. Shots were fired and Horne was killed.

On Wednesday, police said the shooter was state police Detective Scott McMichael. They also said Horne confronted McMichael, threatened to kill himself, and fired his weapon before McMichael shot and killed him.

McMichael is on administrative leave pending an investigation.

DC Cop Kills Teen in "Drug Activity" Shootout

A Washington, DC, Metro police officer shot and killed a Southeast DC man after an exchange of gunfire as he investigated "drug activity" on a Marshall Heights street. Kevin Bolden, 19, becomes the 19th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations this year.

According to the Washington Post, citing a police spokesman, the unnamed police officer was one of several officers responding to a complaint about drug activity last Wednesday afternoon. He approached a group of people standing in the area, and Bolden broke and ran as police tried to speak with him. Officers chased Bolden a short distance through a neighborhood of townhouses and apartment buildings.

At some point, police said, the fleeing Bolden drew his weapon and pointed it at officers. Shots were exchanged, and Bolden fell mortally wounded.

He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. A gun was found on the ground near his body, police said.

It's not clear whether the police were in uniform or plain clothes.

The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

Washington, DC
United States

DEA Agent Kills Man in Cartel Murder-for-Hire Sting

An unnamed DEA agent in Laredo, Texas, Saturday shot and killed one of four men he and other agents were trying to arrest as they wrapped up an undercover operation in which DEA agents posed as Mexican cartel members seeking assassins. The dead man, Jerome Corley, becomes the 18th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to Reuters, citing court documents filed Monday, undercover DEA agents working the months-long sting sent in an arrest team to detain the four men. One of the agents shot Corley repeatedly, killing him. The court documents provided no other details on the circumstances of the shooting.

The sting operation began in January 2011, when undercover DEA agents posing as members of the Zetas, a notoriously violent cartel originally composed of US-trained former Mexican elite soldiers, were told by two men in South Carolina that Corley's cousin, Kevin Corley, a lieutenant in the US military until two weeks ago, could sell them automatic weapons and ammunition.

As the months ticked by, the DEA agents developed the relationship with Kevin Corley, who told them he was an Army officer who trained soldiers and said he could put together a murder-for-hire ring to raid a South Texas ranch, kill the owner, and recover 20 kilograms of stolen cocaine. He said he and his cousin would carry out the hit for $50,000 and five kilos of coke.

Earlier this month, Kevin Corley sold three assault rifles, five stolen bullet-proof vests, and other equipment to an undercover DEA agent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for $10,000, the court documents said. At that meeting, Corley discussed the pending hit, saying he had purchased a knife to carve a "Z" in the victim's chest and a hatchet to dismember his body.

At that point, the DEA decided to wrap things up and sent in its arrest team. The surviving members of the wannabe hit squad, including one active duty member of the US Army, are now in federal custody in Laredo and facing federal drug conspiracy and weapons charges.

Laredo, TX
United States

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