2012 Drug War Killings

RSS Feed for this category

Five More US Drug War Deaths

At least five people have been killed in the drug war on America's streets in the past few weeks. They become the 30th through the 34th persons to die in US domestic drug law operations so far this year.

While we try to publish these stories in a timely fashion, it doesn't always work out that way because initial news or police accounts fail to provide adequate detail. In the two cases below from May, for example, the drug war link became apparent only with the release of a toxicology report in one instance and the release of court documents in the other.

In Sonora, California, James Jones died in police custody on May 3 after swallowing an eight-ball (3.5 grams) of methamphetamine while being searched at the Toulomne County Jail upon being arrested for outstanding warrants. When Jones was taken to the jail, deputies found a glass pipe, prompting them to strip-search him. They observed a white object in his mouth, but when they told him to spit it out, he swallowed it instead. He was then rushed to the hospital, but died of the methamphetamine overdose. A toxicology report released last week showed he had about 16 times the potential fatal level of meth in his system.

In Miami, Sergio Javier Azcuy was shot and killed on May 17 by Miami-Dade police who had set up a fake cocaine rip-off, then staged a traffic accident to corral the vehicle in which he was traveling. Azcuy, 46, was the passenger in the vehicle stopped by the Miami-Dade Special Response Team, and police shot and killed him when he reached for a "dark shiny object." Police found a cell phone in his hand. Records did not indicate whether he was armed, meaning that he wasn't. The same Miami-Dade robbery unit killed four men in another fake cocaine rip-off last year and two more in a similar set-up in 2007.

In Dallas, Kendrick McDaniel was shot and killed June 24 by an off-duty Dallas police officer during a confrontation at a local Taco Bell. Officer Courtney Howard entered the restaurant and saw McDaniel, 18, and two other teens sitting there. Howard noticed McDaniel had a marijuana cigarette behind one ear, and approached the teens. According to police, McDaniel got angry and starting cursing at Howard. Howard then pulled his weapon, and McDaniel started to run, fell, and then pulled a gun from his waistband. Howard then shot him. He died shortly thereafter at a local hospital. McDaniel's sister, Cedrickia, said she doubted the police version of events, adding that she didn't think her brother would pull a gun on an officer. The killing will go before a grand jury.

In Atlanta, Christopher Calhoun was shot and killed by Atlanta police last Wednesday as they attempted to arrest him on a fugitive warrant for drug and auto theft charges from Mississippi. Police got a tip Calhoun, 38, was in a vehicle at a local shopping mall, and shot and killed him when he didn't surrender peacefully. There was little detail beyond that, except one witness said police pulled up in several vehicles, jumped out of their cars, and yelled "Freeze!" before opening fire. The killing is being reviewed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

In North Fort Myers, Florida, Carlos Joseph Charles was shot and killed last Thursday by a Lee County sheriff's deputy after the vehicle he was driving was pulled over by the sheriff's Highway Interdiction Unit. Charles, 28, was driving with a woman and a four-year-old child when deputies stopped his vehicle. All three were ordered out of the vehicle when a drug dog alerted on it. When deputies found "a large amount" of cocaine, a "violent altercation" ensued and Charles was fatally wounded. The unnamed deputy was reportedly injured, but was quickly released from the hospital. Charles had been sentenced to two years in state prison on cocaine charges in 2008.

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

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School