2014 Drug War Killings

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Southern California Schoolgirl Killed in Drug-Related Police Pursuit

A 12-year-old Orange County girl was killed last week when a driver fleeing police seeking to apprehend him on drug and weapons warrants crashed into her family's car. Vivian Nguyen becomes the 14th person to die so far this year in US domestic drug law enforcement operations.

According to The Orange County Register, citing police sources, Westminster Police were chasing a Chevy Suburban driven by Aleksandr Apostoloic, 26, who was wanted on narcotics trafficking and weapons warrants, last Thursday afternoon when the Suburban slammed broadside into a minivan carrying Nguyen's family.

Vivian Nguyen died that same night. Her brother William, 13, is hospitalized in critical condition, and her mother, Helen, is in serious condition. Both are expected to recover.

Apostoloic was arrested midnight Thursday on suspicion of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and felony evasion, as well as the warrants for drug trafficking and weapons violations.

Twelve uninvolved bystanders died in police pursuits in California in 2012, the last year for which data is available. A 2006 law requires law enforcement agencies to implement pursuit policies and yearly training or lose their immunity to lawsuits related to pursuit injuries or damages. It was not reported whether the Westminster Police have done so.

Westminster, CA
United States

Police Kill Wisconsin Man in "No Knock" Drug Raid

A Red Cedar, Wisconsin, was shot and killed by police during a February drug raid. Although we didn't catch the story at the time, Dennis Grohn, 32, becomes the 13th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

[Editor's Note: We only saw this story when a new story about Grohn's autopsy results came out. We strive to catch every drug war-related death in the US, but we're only as good as our Google news searches, so we once again implore readers to send us any news of drug war deaths they come across. We may have seen them already, but we may not have, either, and we appreciate your input in our bid to be as comprehensive as possible.]

According to The St. Paul Pioneer Press, citing police sources, members of the Dunn County sheriff's office, the West Central Drug Task Force and Eau Claire County Regional Tactical Team hit Grohn's home with a "no knock" search warrant at 2:00am on February 12.

The details of what happened next are sketchy, but Grohn ended up shot and fatally wounded shortly thereafter. He was pronounced dead in the emergency room of the Mayo Health Clinic.

There is no mention in either the initial accounts of the raid or in the autopsy story of Grohn having or brandishing a weapon. But according to the search warrant, police were looking for weapons, as well as methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, and other indicia of drug sales at his home.

But Dunn County District Attorney James Peterson determined last month that the use of deadly force by the Eau Claire County Regional SWAT team was justified and offered up the following detail:

"According to an investigation done by the State Department of Criminal Investigation, a member of the SWAT team entered Grohn's garage and saw him sitting in a chair. The deputy says Grohn growled and charged him. The men collided, and the deputy shot Grohn once. The two then fell to the floor in a struggle. Another officer told investigators he saw Grohn's hand on the deputy's rifle and that he feared for his own, and the deputy's, life. He then fired one shot at Grohn, killing him. Prior to entering the home the swat team had been advised that this was considered a high risk entry. Grohn had a history of violence toward police officers, weighed 280 pounds, was suspected of having a shotgun and was likely under the influence of meth. Peterson says Grohn was also likely aware he was facing a lengthy prison sentence if he was caught selling meth."
 

The autopsy report on Grohn came out this week, and the Dunn County Medical Examiner's Office said he was "heavily under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of his death," and that the amount of meth in his blood was "near a toxic range." But it wasn't meth that killed Grohn, it was a policeman's gun shot.

Red Cedar, WI
United States

Chronicle AM -- March 31, 2014

Garden State municipal prosecutors say legalize it, an Arizona sheriff has to give back medical marijuana seized rom a patient, Colorado wants to crack down on high plant-count patients, Louisiana takes a resolutely last century approach to heroin, Uruguay is going to seriously track its legal weed, and more. Let's get to it:

This much heroin could get you a two-year mandatory minimum sentence under a bill being considered in Lousiana (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Prosecutors Say Legalize It. The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association has come out in favor of legalizing marijuana possession. The support of the prosecutors association comes as two bills were introduced this month in the legislature. The board of trustees of the municipal prosecutors association on February 21 voted to endorse legalization, said its president, Jon-Henry Barr, who is municipal prosecutor in Kenilworth and Clark.

Poll Shows Virginians Split on Legalization, Strongly Favor Medical Marijuana. A new Quinnipiac poll has Virginians narrowly opposed to legalization, with 46% in favor and 48% opposed. Medical marijuana fares much better, with support at 84%.

Wisconsin Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and 10 Democratic cosponsors have introduced a decriminalization bill, Assembly Bill 891. It has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice, but is not expected to go anywhere.

Wisconsin's Dane County (Madison) Votes Tomorrow on Legalization Advisory Referendum. Voters in Dane County, Wisconsin, will vote tomorrow on whether to approve an advisory referendum calling for marijuana legalization. The question was put on the ballot by County Board member Leland Pan.

Vermont Legislature Legalization Debate Killed. An effort to debate a proposal to study the impact of legalization on state revenues died in the state House. The effort came in an amendment to a miscellaneous tax bill from Rep. Kristina Michelsen (D-Hardwick), but was blocked when Rep. Thomas Koch (R-Barre Town) asked House Speaker Shap Smith to rule on whether it was germane. He ruled it wasn't.

Hundreds Rally for Marijuana Reform in Harrisburg. Supporters of medical marijuana, hemp, and decriminalization rallied by the hundreds at the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg Monday. They called it the Keystone Cannabis Reform Rally.

Medical Marijuana

US Supreme Court Denies Arizona County's Appeal; Sheriff Must Give Back Seized Medical Marijuana. The Supreme Court has refused to overturn Arizona court rulings ordering the Yuma County sheriff to return marijuana that was seized from a woman with a California medical marijuana authorization honored by Arizona.

Oregon Has Now Approved 22 Dispensaries. The Oregon Health Authority reported 14 more dispensaries had been approved by late Friday, on top of the eight approved the previous week.The agency has processed 102 of 301 applications submitted since March 3. A total of 41 applicants have been granted provisional licenses until their security systems are in place, and 39 applications have been denied. Reasons for denial include incomplete information or locations within 1,000 feet of a school or another dispensary.

Nevada Dispensary Rules Finalized. The Legislative Commission approved rules for growing, processing, and selling medical marijuana Friday. Nevada voters approved medical marijuana in 2000 but patients have had no legal way to acquire it other than to grow it. A law approved by the 2013 legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval set up a taxing and distribution system to make it accessible to patients. It could be late this year or early 2015 before medical pot is available for purchase.

California Federal Court Judge to Hear Motion on Declaring Unconstitutional Marijuana's Schedule I Classification. For the first time, a federal judge has granted a hearing on a motion to declare unconstitutional the continued classification of marijuana in Schedule I. The evidentiary hearing is currently set for June 2 before Federal District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller in Sacramento.

Colorado Health Officials Warn of Crackdown on High Plant-Count Patients. Beginning today, the state Health Department will send out letters to doctors who recommended that patients be allowed to grow elevated plant counts and the patients who benefit, requiring them to provide more documentation on the need for the extra plants. The department also unveiled a proposed bill that would strictly limit medical-marijuana caregivers -- people who grow cannabis for patients who can't grow for themselves -- to serving only five patients and growing no more than six plants per patient. Caregivers can currently apply for a waiver to serve more than five patients. The proposals did not go over well with medical marijuana supporters, with Health Department spokesmen being cursed at and called "fascists" in response.

Massachusetts Municipal Association Releases Report on State Medical Marijuana Law. The Massachusetts Municipal Association has released a report on the state's medical marijuana law, offering several suggestions for local officials trying to navigate it. The report, written by MMA legislative analyst J. Catherine Rollins, touches on the legal right cities and towns have to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and grow centers. Municipalities, Rollins said, have the power to create zoning bylaws, ordinances, special permits or host community agreements.

Drug Testing

West Virginia Governor Signs Mining Industry Drug Test Reporting Bill. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has approved a bill requiring employers in West Virginia's mining industry to report all positive drug and alcohol tests to the Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training. Prior to this law, which takes effect immediately, mine industry employers were only required to submit test results to the state if a miner was fired. Employers must notify the administration within seven days if an employee tests positive, refuses a urine sample, or has submitted an adulterated sample. Suspect employees will be suspended from work until they appear before a board of appeals. New hires must submit to a pre-employment urine test.

Alabama's Jefferson County (Birmingham) Suspends Employee Drug Testing Program. Mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of all new hires in Jefferson County has been suspended pending an inquiry into whether the program is unconstitutional. Ronald Sims, the court appointed receiver in charge of the county's Human Resources Department, this month halted across-the-board drug tests and medical examinations for new county workers because, Sims said, the drug tests "likely violate individuals' rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Law Enforcement

Friends, Family of Unarmed Man Killed in Drug Raid Rally in Tulsa. Deandre Starks was shot and killed last week by Tulsa police serving a drug search warrant. On Friday, friends and family members rallied at city hall demanding answers. Starks' mother said she believed her son was murdered. Police said they fired at him after he made a threatening movement, but Vanesta Starks wasn't buying that. "But to know that my son was shot when his hands was up in the air, surrendered. He tripped over a rail and that was the body movement. I know the story. I just want to know if somebody will come tell me why," she said.

Lawsuit Charges "License Plate Profiling" by Idaho Troopers. A 70-year-old Washington man who was arrested and his car searched by an Idaho Highway Patrol trooper solely because he had Colorado plates has filed a federal lawsuit charging "license plate profiling." Both Colorado and Washington are legal marijuana states, while Idaho is one of the most reactionary on marijuana policy. Click on the link for all the tawdry details.

Sentencing

Louisiana Bill Would Jack Up Sentences for Heroin Possession, Sales. A bill moving in the legislature in Baton Rouge would drastically increase prison time for heroin users and dealers, including a mandatory minimum two-year sentence for simple possession. House Bill 332 easily passed out of the House Criminal Justice Committee last week and is attracting bipartisan support, even among lawmakers otherwise skeptical of the "tough-on-crime" policies that have been blamed for Louisiana's nation-leading incarceration rate. The bill would also double the mandatory minimum sentence for heroin distribution from five years to ten.

International

Colombia's FARC Calls for "Humanized" Approach to Drug Policy. Colombia's counterdrug policies must have "a humanized approach in the context of integral agrarian reform" negotiators for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said in Havana Friday. Forced crop eradication and aerial fumigation are repressive and ineffective, the guerrillas said during ongoing peace talks with the Colombian government. The FARC supports crop substation programs as long as they are "participatory, concerted, gradual, [and] environmentally sustainable."

Uruguay to Track Marijuana from Seed to Stash With Genetic Markers, RTF Tags. Uruguay's drug czar says every legal marijuana plant in Uruguay will be registered and tracked using radio frequency tags, and that state-grown marijuana will be cloned to include genetic markers, making sure that what's grown there stays there. That's a much tougher tracking system than those imposed in Colorado and Washington, which recently legalized marijuana use. Unlike those US states, Uruguay wants authorities to be able to test the pot in any drug user's possession to determine if it came from a registered, legal source.

Jamaican Marijuana Growers Call on Government to Halt Crop Destruction. At a preparatory meeting of the Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association (GFGPA) in Kingston this weekend, some participants called for an immediate end to the destruction of marijuana crops. "Please, Mr. Government, ask you police and the army to stop digging down the world number one brand ganja," Ras Arthur Newland shouted out emphatically. "We believe the persecution and the lock-up for ganja must stop immediately." That's not the official position of the GFGPA, which said it is going to concentrate on winning decriminalization first.

Tulsa Man Killed in Drug Raid

A Tulsa, Oklahoma, man has died after being shot by police officers during at drug raid at his home. The as-yet-unnamed man becomes the 12th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The Tulsa World, citing police sources, the 27-year-old was shot Tuesday afternoon as Tulsa Police Department narcotics and gang squad officers were serving a drug-related search warrant in a predominantly black area of the city.

"When officers arrived, they entered the residence, there was five to six people inside the residence," Officer Leland Ashley said. "Officers gave commands to the individuals. At some point, in one of the bedrooms, officers confronted a subject... An officer was forced to use deadly force."

Officer Ashley did not specify whether or not the dead man was armed.

Several other people in the home were handcuffed and taken in for questioning, but it was not clear if they were charged with anything. Nor is it known what, if anything, police seized at the home.

Tulsa, OK
United States

New York Man Falls to Death in Drug Raid

A Yonkers, New York, man fell to his death attempting to escape police serving a drug search warrant Friday night. The as yet unnamed man becomes the 11th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The Lower Hudson Journal News, citing a police news release, the 45-year-old man attempted to flee through a third-floor window of an apartment as officers executed a drug search warrant.

Police then observed the man on the ground floor of the building with a head injury and summoned medical assistance. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was shortly pronounced dead.

In addition to the drug search warrant, police already had a drug arrest warrant for the man from New York City. Police said they found drugs, packaging materials, a scale, and an unspecified amount of money in the apartment.

The Yonkers Police Department Internal Affairs Division and the Westchester County District Attorney's Office are investigating the incident.

Yonkers, NY
United States

Suspect Killed, Four SWAT Officers Wounded in Indianapolis Drug Raid Shootout

A drug suspect was killed and four SWAT officers were wounded Wednesday night when police in Indianapolis raided a Near Eastside home on a drug warrant. Andrew Sizemore, 27, becomes the 10th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/andrew-sizemore-200px.jpg
Andrew Sizemore (IMPD)
According to The Indianapolis Star, citing police sources, SWAT officers were serving a search warrant on a suspected drug operation when they were met by gunfire. Police shot back, killing Sizemore.

None of the injured officers were seriously wounded, and three had been released from the hospital by early Thursday.

Police said they seized heroin, 13 guns, and $120,000 in cash inside the house. Five people inside the house were arrested. Three were arrested for "visiting a common nuisance," while one was arrested on drug dealing charges and another was detained with no charges specified. Police also confiscated four vehicles.

The house was protected by surveillance cameras, which could have alerted occupants to the raiders' presence.

"That put our officers at a disadvantage, but they overcame it," said Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said, adding that the shootout could be a harbinger of things to come as police go after criminals. "None of us want these things to happen," Riggs said, "but at the end of the day with the the aggressiveness with which your police department is going after those who are committing criminal acts, this is always a possibility."

In a follow-up story, The Star reported that as word of Sizemore's death spread Thursday, friends and family members created a small shrine in his honor, leaving stuffed animals, flowers, a can of energy drink, a snack cake, and a candle. One sign on the shrine said: "RIP, Drew. We Love and Miss You." Another read: "There was no reason for him to die."

Sizemore had no criminal record except for an arrest for trespassing when he was 19.

The Star also reported that some neighborhood residents "were leery to comment" and "some were even hostile to reporters seeking information about the neighborhood and the people who lived in the house."

Indianapolis, IN
United States

A Third California Drug War Killing in a Week

In the third California drug war killing in a week, police in San Diego County shot and killed a fleeing drug suspect last Friday. Michael Paul Napier, 33, becomes the 9th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Although Napier was killed last Friday, authorities did not release his name or details about why he was wanted until Monday.

According to KUSI TV News, citing police sources, the San Diego County sheriff's gang enforcement team was attempting to arrest Napier on two felony drug warrants and as a suspect in two recent burglaries when they encountered him in the garage of a North County apartment complex.

Detectives identified themselves and ordered Napier to raise his hands, but instead, he moved his hands toward his waistband. "Fearing that the suspect was reaching for a gun, Deputies Brandon Boisseranc and Nicholas Danza opened fire," the TV reported.

"The deputies were aware Napier was a documented gang member with a history of possessing firearms," sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio explained.

Napier died at the scene. No weapon was recovered.

"After the shooting, it was determined that Napier did not have a weapon on him, although there was a knife stuck in the garage wall next to where he was standing," Giannantonio said. "A search of the garage yielded stolen property from at least one residential burglary and one vehicle burglary."

San Diego, CA
United States

California Cops Generate Two More Drug War Deaths

California police have shot and killed two people in separate drug law enforcement incidents in the past week. Luis Morin of Coachella and Mark Ayala of El Centro become the 7th and 8th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the San Bernardino Sun, citing police sources, the first killing, which occurred last Monday night, happened when a Riverside County sheriff's deputy attempted to arrest Morin on felony warrants.

"When the officer attempted to take the subject into custody, an altercation occurred, which resulted in an officer-involved shooting," Deputy Armando Munoz said.

Morin died at the scene, according to the coroner's office.

Police didn't specify what the warrants were for, but later in the week, Morin's family members told KESQ TV News that one was for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and the other was for grand theft auto. The family also expressed anger with the unnamed deputy who shot Morin.

"He did not come to serve a warrant," said Morin's father. "He came with bad intentions. I would love to see him prosecuted."

The deputy has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by Riverside County prosecutors.

Two days later, according to KSWT 13 News, citing police sources, members of the Imperial County Narcotics Task Force shot and killed Ayala in a taxi in El Centro. The Imperial Valley Press reported that task force members present included Border Patrol and DEA agents, as well as agents from the Imperial County District Attorney's Office.

Police said Ayala was wanted for unspecified parole or probation violations and that he was armed. But they did not say whether he had brandished a weapon or fired at them. Ayala was hit by multiple shots and died at the scene. No police were injured.

A witness, who didn't want her name used, told KSWT 13 that Ayala was still in the back seat of the taxi when officers opened fire.

"I was in the kitchen and heard tires screeching and then I went outside," said the woman identified only as Guadelupe, whose remarks were printed in Spanish. "When I got outside, I saw a taxi and the officers were already pointing their guns at the guy in the back seat. "There was a lot of shooting," she said.

CA
United States

Two Oklahoma Cops Among Four Latest Drug War Deaths

Two Incidents; four more drug war deaths: A Louisiana man was killed in drug bust gone wrong last Tuesday and two Oklahoma police officers and the drug suspect they were after were killed in car crashes last Thursday.

Kenner, Louisiana resident Eldrin Smart and Oklahoma lawmen Kristian Willhight and Brian Beck and the man they were chasing, Quentin Lee Johnson, become the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

In the Louisiana incident, WGNO News reported that two undercover narcotics officers were investigating two men "suspected of drug activity" in a car parked at an Airline Highway gas station. Kenner Police Chief Steve Caraway told the media outlet one of the officers leaned into the car to take the keys from the ignition, and the driver then took off with the officer still partly inside the vehicle.

The cop then shot the driver, Eldrin Smart, 31, four times while the car was in motion before it crashed into a parked pickup truck and through a fence. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Smart was on parole for gun, drugs, and escape felonies. His unidentified passenger was charged with marijuana possession.

In the bizarre Oklahoma incident -- or, more accurately -- incidents, Officer.com reported that Washita County Undersheriff Beck, 39, was attempting to serve a drug arrest warrant on Johnson, 27, when Johnson fled in a vehicle. Johnson was then killed when he drove his car off the road and crashed into an embankment.

Meanwhile, unaware that Johnson had already crashed, Beck and another cop, Burns Flat Police Officer Willhight were racing at high speed to catch him when their two vehicles collided at a rural intersection south of Dill City, three miles from where Johnson had crashed minutes early. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Neither was wearing a seat belt.

Johnson had been warned by Beck himself weeks earlier that he was likely to be arrested after, working on a tip, Beck searched his home and found drugs, used needles, and a stolen pistol. Beck told Johnson he was submitting a report to the district attorney and would probably be back with an arrest warrant.

When Beck returned with one, Johnson fled. He had already done five years in state prison for possession of a controlled substance.

Puerto Rico Man, Police Officer Become First Drug War Fatalities of 2014

Alexis Sanchez Agostini, who shot a member of the Puerto Rico Police Department's Mayaguez Drugs division and then allegedly killed himself, becomes the first person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations this year. Agent Carlos Rivera Vega, who died Tuesday, a week after being shot, becomes the second.

Agent Carlos Rivera Vega (PRPD)
Last year, 41 people were killed in such operations, down from more than 50 each in the previous two years, when the Chronicle began tracking such deaths.

According to the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia, Vega and other members of the dope squad were investigating at the Concordia Public Housing Complex, when Agostini walked up and began questioning them about why they were there. He then pulled out a .357 caliber pistol and shot Vega in the stomach.

According to police, Agostini Vega then ran a short distance from the scene and took his own life.

Vega, a 14-year veteran of the department, was taken to a local hospital, but never recovered, succumbing to his wounds Tuesday.

Police refused to divulge further details about the investigation or the confrontation.

Mayaguez, PR
United States

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