2012 Drug War Killings

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Michigan Father Killed in Marijuana Child Removal Incident

A prosecutor in northern Michigan has cleared the police officer who shot and killed a Grayling man as police and Child Protective Services (CPS) employees attempted to seize his three-year-old. The attempted removal of the minor child came after a police officer who came to the scene on a call earlier that same day reported that he smelled marijuana and reported the incident to CPS authorities, who decided the child needed to be removed. The dead man, William Reddie, 32, becomes the 17th person killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

William Reddie
[Editor's Note: This case illustrates the difficulties that arise in determining which deaths qualify as being a direct result of drug law enforcement. Police here were enforcing child protections laws, not drug laws, but the only reason CPS was called in was because of the allegation of marijuana use. There was no allegation of crazed behavior due to marijuana use; only the allegation of use. For Michigan CPS authorities, that was enough to remove the child. Bottom line: This guy died because the state tried to take his kid because he was accused of smoking pot, so he merits inclusion. That doesn't mean his own actions didn't contribute to his death.]

Reddie's killing took place on February 3, but we only became aware of it when news broke this week that prosecutors had decided that the police officer's use of deadly force in the incident was justified.

According to the Crawford County Avalanche, Grayling police Officer Alan Somero was called to Reddie's apartment for an alleged domestic disturbance. Somero made no arrests, but believed he smelled marijuana and reported it to CPS. Two CPS employees went to Reddie's apartment to check on the situation. They then got a court order to remove Reddie's 3-year-old son, Cameron, and asked police to escort them to the apartment to serve the court order.

The Gaylord Herald-Times, which obtained the CPS removal order, added more detail. It reported that Reddie had been accused of smoking marijuana in front of his son, and that Reddie had become "agitated" and threatened police when confronted by that accusation earlier in the day.

The court order gave the following reason for removing the child: "There are reasonable grounds for this court to remove the child(ren) from the parent... because conditions or surroundings of the child(ren), and is contrary to the welfare of the child(ren) to remain in the home because: It is alleged that the father used marijuana in the home in the presence of the child. In addition, there is concern for the safety of the child due to a domestic disturbance and threats made toward law enforcement by the father."

Returning to the Avalanche's narrative, when police and CPS workers arrived to seize the child, Reddie then reportedly displayed a pocketknife and lunged at them. Crawford County Deputy John Klepadlo shot and killed him. Police had been deploying Tasers, but holstered them and grabbed their guns when Reddie displayed the knife.

Crawford County Sheriff Kirk Wakefield then asked the Michigan State Police to investigate his deputy's use of deadly force. The Michigan Attorney General's Office referred the case to the neighboring Roscommon County Prosecutor's Office. After receiving a report from the State Police, Roscommon County DA Mark Jernigan determined that the use of deadly force was justified and that Klepadlo would not be charged with any crime.

"The deceased was in possession of an edged weapon," Jernigan said. "The deceased pulled a knife and hid it behind his back. At the point where he pulls his hand forward and lunges at the officer, he is in such close proximity, and presents a clear danger of deadly force, the officer is left with no option other than to use deadly force to protect himself, the other officer and the three civilians that were present. The use of deadly force is completely justified and therefore, the homicide was justified."

Toxicology reports, which were included in the final investigation, showed there was no marijuana or alcohol in Reddie's system when he was killed.

Reddie had been seeking permanent custody of his son and was due in court for a hearing on that matter three days after he was killed.

"They took the only thing he ever loved," Reddie's mother, Michelle VanBuren, told the Avalanche after the prosecutor's announcement.

VanBuren said she was baffled by the conduct of authorities, especially since no evidence or alcohol or marijuana use was found. She said she had been in contact with her son throughout that day.

"I was on the phone with my son all day, and that cop was bullying him and harassing him so badly," she said. "Where was protect and serve?" VanBuren asked. "The officers always have to stick together and for them to do this is just totally uncalled for."

VanBuren said the family would continue to fight to ensure that CPS and law enforcement are held accountable for their actions. "They need to be held accountable and they will be held accountable, believe you me," she said.

Reddie's family is not alone in questioning police and CPS actions. "I can't believe they (police) could not subdue Will without killing him, and over what, marijuana," said Joanne Michal, who knew Reddie for half of his life. "Why didn't police just arrest him or cite him for marijuana instead of removing his child?" she told the Herald-Times.

"It is particularly sad that Will was shot to death right in front of his son," Michal continued. "Why not use a Taser? Even if he (Will) had a knife and lunged at police, they didn't have to kill him. Instead of using a Taser, you shoot him in front of his child. It is just totally unjustified. They didn't have to kill him. I think it's very sad that his life was taken during the removal of his son. And the smell of marijuana shouldn't have been a reason for an emergency order. Just a few days before he was killed, Will was visiting, and he was so excited because a hearing was coming up for custody. And it seemed to give him hope of getting permanent custody. His son was everything to him."

Crawford County Clerk Sandra Moore said she also knew Reddie. "It's truly a shame," Moore said. "He was a good guy and very fond of his son. He had been very excited just days before" about gaining permanent custody.

Cameron Reddie is now in foster care. His father's family is seeking visitation rights.

Meanwhile, Deputy Klepadlo, who had been on administrative leave after the shooting, is back on the job.

Grayling, MI
United States

Fresno Cops Kill Armed Man Fleeing Meth Bust

Undercover Fresno, California, narcotic officers shot and killed a man in nearby Sanger Thursday after he first displayed a weapon, then attempted to run away in a drug bust gone bad. Noel Torres, 22, becomes the 16th person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Citing police sources, KSEE 24 TV News reported that the Fresno Police Major Narcotics Unit had arranged for an undercover informant to buy two pounds of methamphetamine from a man in a shopping center parking lot, and things went south once the deal went down.

The man had arrived in a vehicle with two other men, but pulled a gun as undercover officers moved in to make the arrest.

"Once the transaction was complete, undercover officers converged in an attempt to detain the three suspects, when one of the suspects produced a firearm in his hand," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Dyer said the officers yelled at the man to drop his weapon, but he didn't and instead tried to flee on foot. He was shot by two officers as he ran and died shortly after at a nearby hospital. Three officers fired their weapons and are now on paid administrative leave while the investigation is underway.

The shooting is being investigated by the Fresno County Sheriff's Department, but comments by Sheriff Margaret Mims to KFSN TV News suggest it will be little more than a formality.

"In this case, the suspect made a bad choice," said Sheriff Mims. "He got out of the vehicle, he was in fact armed and the officers feared for their own safety and took action."

It is unclear whether the dead man was trying to rip off the drug-buying informant, thought he was about to get ripped-off himself as men in plain clothes moved in, or was trying to avoid being arrested.

The shooting took place in front of a crowded McDonald's restaurant. Investigators are interviewing some 80 potential witnesses. Alina Silva was one.

"We saw cops running and shooting and everybody was ducked down and then next thing you know, they shot a guy over there," she told KSEE TV 24 News.

Sanger, CA
United States

Two More Drug Raids, Two More Deaths

Two drug raids last Wednesday, one in Miami Lakes, Florida, and one in New Orleans, have resulted in the deaths of two men, one in each raid. Michael Ray Santana, 26, of Miami Lakes and Wendell Allen, 20, of New Orleans become the 14th and 15th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

In Miami Lakes, according to police, Santana was shot and killed after he confronted members of the Miami-Dade police Special Response Team, a SWAT-style outfit, serving a "high risk narcotics search warrant" at his residence. Police said officers knocked, announced themselves, and then went inside, when they were confronted by a man armed with a firearm.

Santana was the subject of the police investigation, and police said they found numerous firearms and a substantial amount of unspecified "narcotics" in the residence.

In New Orleans, according to police, Allen was shot in the chest and killed by a police officer serving a search warrant at a home where he was present. Officers from both the New Orleans Police Department and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department took part in the raid, but the identity of the officer who fired the fatal shot has not been made public.

Police made no mention of any weapons found.

New Orleans Police Superintedant Ronal Serpas said the house in the Gentilly district had been under surveillance for several days.

"Today, multiple narcotics transactions of a distribution nature were observed," he said, adding that a person who left the house was later charged arrested for intent to distribute "narcotics."

Serpa did not identify either the shooter or the dead man, and he didn't take questions during a brief press conference.

But a distraught woman at the scene of the shooting told the New Orleans Times-Picayune he was her grandson, Wendell Allen.

Allen's shooting was the second fatal police shooting in the NOPD's 3rd District in less than a week.

As people milled around the scene of the shooting, one woman screamed, "Lord have mercy! Why does this stuff keep happening?" Another shouted, "The policeman killed him. They killed my baby."

Allen had one arrest on his record, for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He was one year into a five-year suspended sentence when he was shot and killed.

In the days since Allen's death last week, a growing clamor has arisen.The Louisiana Justice Institute is threatening to sue the city unless it releases more information on the killing. Police have yet to supply a narrative of what happened, and the officer who pulled the trigger has yet to be interviewed. Family members and community activists demonstrated last Friday and again on Tuesday to keep up the pressure.

What is clear is that the raid was aimed at small-time marijuana dealing, and Allen wasn't the subject of the raid.


South Carolina Man Killed in Drug Traffic Stop

A South Carolina man was shot dead and a Kershaw County sheriff's deputy injured during a narcotics investigation traffic stop that turned violent last Tuesday night. Melvin Lawhorn, 26, becomes the 13th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Melvin Lawhorn, October 2011 booking photo (Kershaw County Sheriff's Office)
According to Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews, narcotics officers were surveilling Lawhorn and Darryl Herbert, 52, after receiving a tip that Lawhorn would be picking up a large amount of drugs. Officers pulled over a pick-up truck driven by Herbert, and while the vehicle was stopped, Lawhorn stepped on the gas pedal. One of the deputies tried to stop the vehicle, but the truck ran over his foot and leg and dragged him.

While being dragged, the deputy shot Lawhorn under the arm, fatally wounding him. A patrol car then rammed the pick-up, bringing it to a halt. The sheriff said the deputy was dragged about 120 feet. He had tire tracks up his boot and leg, Matthews said. He was treated at a nearby hospital for torn ligaments and abrasions, then released.

After the incident, Herbert was arrested for DUI and failure to stop by state Highway Patrol officers.

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has taken over the shooting investigation. Sheriff Matthews said a SLED investigator recovered an ounce of suspected cocaine from the pick-up.

It is unclear exactly how the deputy managed to shoot Lawhorn while being dragged beneath the vehicle.

Texas Officer in Drug Investigation Kills Armed Man

A member of a Parker County, Texas, combined task force shot and killed an armed man during a drug investigation Friday afternoon. The as yet unidentified man becomes the 12th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler, officers conducting a drug investigation on New Hope Road in the far northeast section of the county confronted two men and a woman. One man and the woman were stopped, but the second man fled, throwing packets of something on the ground.

That man then turned, assumed "a defensive position," and pointed a gun at the officers, Fowler said. "The officer called for him to stop," Fowler said. "He pointed a gun at the officer, and the officer shot him."

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. The other man was arrested, but the woman was released. A gun was found at the scene, Fowler said.

Fowler said police were in plain clothes, but with badges visible, and they identified themselves.

The officers involved were part of the Weatherford-Parker County Special Crimes Unit, which includes Weatherford police and Parker County sheriff's deputies, but the sheriff's office would not say which department the shooter worked for.

The Texas Rangers are investigating because it was an officer-involved shooting.

There is no word on what charges have been filed, if any, and what drugs, were found, if any.

Reno, TX
United States

Florida Detective, Meth Suspect Killed in Shootout

A Clay County, Florida, sheriff's narcotics detective and a man he was investigating as a methamphetamine suspect were shot and killed in an exchange of fire last Thursday evening. Narcotics Detective David White and suspect Ted Arthur Tilley, 36, become the 10th and 11th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Narcotics Detective David White (Clay County SO)
Police told the Associated Press White was part of a nine-man investigating a reported meth lab at a residence in Middleburg. When White and Detective Matthew Hanlin approached the front door and attempted to speak with someone inside, the person slammed the door shut.

According to Clay County sheriff's office spokeswoman Mary Justino, when police then tried to force their way in, they were met with gunfire. White was mortally wounded -- he died shortly thereafter at a local hospital -- and Hanlin was shot in the left arm. He underwent surgery and is in stable condition.

As Tilley fled the home, he was shot and killed by another member of the sheriff's office, police said. Five other men at the scene were detained, but police later said only one had been arrested.

The owner of the home told News 4 Jax TV that it was in foreclosure, he hadn't lived in it for three years, and the men were squatting there without his permission. He said the home was one of dozens of abandoned homes in the immediate neighborhood.

Middleburg, FL
United States

Iowa Man Falls to His Death During Drug Raid

A Des Moines man has died after apparently falling from an apartment building balcony as he attempted to evade police executing a drug search warrant. Kirby Praseuth, 28, becomes the ninth person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to police, the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement was serving a search warrant on an apartment around 6:30am Friday. After police secured the apartment, the two suspects inside told them a third man had gone out onto the back balcony to evade them. When officers went to the balcony of the fourth floor apartment, they found Praseuth lying on the ground below.

Hewas taken to Methodist Hospital in critical condition, but later died. Police said they are continuing to investigate how he ended up on the ground.

The two people in the apartment were arrested, but there is no information on what charges have been filed or what, if anything, was found in the apartment.

WHO-TV reported Saturday that police said the search warrant was related to a marijuana distribution investigation.

Des Moines, IA
United States

Bronx Narc Kills Unarmed Teen

A NYPD narcotics officer shot and killed a Bronx 18-year-old Thursday as the teen was allegedly trying to flush drugs down a toilet in his own home. Ramarley Graham becomes the eighth person to die in US drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and it appears to have been over a small amount of marijuana.

Police told the Wall Street Journal the undercover narcs had already arrested two other men they watched allegedly selling drugs Thursday afternoon when they approached Graham. He ran to his home nearby, followed by police, and into a second-floor bathroom, where he was possibly trying to flush drugs, police said.

When an unidentified officer confronted him in the bathroom, Graham spun around, and, according to police, there was a struggle, and the officer then shot him in the chest. It wasn't clear what caused the officer to fire. Graham was pronounced dead at a local hospital. A small amount of pot was floating in the toilet bowl.

An earlier report from PIX-11 TV, however, had police telling local media Graham "made a motion near his waist leading them to believe he was armed" when he was still on the street. He wasn't, police have conceded.

Police were quick to tell local media about Graham's arrest record, which included busts for burglary, robbery, dealing marijuana, and other offenses. But they didn't say how those cases had been resolved or whether they were even aware of his identity when they shot him.

After the shooting, PIX-11 TV reported that "Graham's parents were at the White Plains Road intersection visibly agitated and a crowd of approximately 80 people were openly hostile towards police, berating officers lined up along the crime scene tape."

Graham's mother, Constance Malcolm, 39, told the Wall Street Journal, a neighbor had called her at work to tell her her son had been killed. Malcolm said her mother and her six-year-old son were also in the apartment during the shooting.

"The cops told me they were chasing him. He had weed, and that's it," Ms. Malcolm said. "Nobody deserves to be shot like that in their own house."

Bronx, NY
United States

Sword-Wielding Man Killed in California Drug Raid

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies executing a narcotics search warrant in Lancaster Wednesday night shot and killed an a 68-year-old man when he allegedly emerged from a bedroom holding a four-foot sword. The as yet unidentified man becomes the seventh person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to police, the man raised the sword toward a deputy and was then shot several times. It's not clear how many deputies fired. None were injured.

The man was taken to a local hospital, where he died. His name has not been released pending notification of relatives.

Three other people in the house were detained for questioning.

Police released no information about the results of their narcotics search, nor have they specified the technique they used in gaining entry to the residence.

Lancaster, CA
United States

Michigan Deputy Kills Drug Suspect Dragging Him With Car

A Wayne County sheriff's deputy shot and killed a drug suspect whose car was dragging him down the street Monday evening. The man, who is yet unidentified, becomes the sixth person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to local media citing police sources, Wayne County sheriff's deputies witnessed a suspected drug buy and moved in to make an arrest. The suspect appeared to be cooperating until a tow truck arrived, when he then bolted back into his car and tried to drive away. A deputy grabbed onto the car and was dragged down the street. He opened fire when the suspect refused to heed his commands to stop.

"The suspect jumped back into the car, took off. One of my deputies was next to the car. He attempted to stop him from taking the car, grabbed a hold of him and he was dragging him down the street," said Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. "He was being dragged down the street," Napoleon explained. "After several orders to stop, the deputy fired twice."

The suspect died at the scene, the sheriff said. The deputy, a veteran undercover narcotics officer, was hospitalized in serious condition, but is expected to recover.

The sheriff said the dead man appeared to be cooperating until he suddenly dashed for freedom.

"The process was almost over, and I guess something about seeing the car go on the tow truck must have really set him off and he decided he didn't want his car towed," Napoleon said.

Detroit, MI
United States

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