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California Game Warden Kills Armed Marijuana Grower

A California game warden shot and killed a suspected marijuana grower during a raid early this morning at a federal wildlife refuge near Elk Grove. The as-yet-unidentified man becomes the 22nd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Sacramento Bee, citing law enforcement sources, a team composed of agents from the state Department of Justice Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation team, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife game warden hit a suspected marijuana grow just after sunrise.

Raiders approached the patch from several different angles, and one of the teams confronted the grower, who police said was armed.

"The man was armed and pointed his weapon at the officers," said state Department of Justice spokeswoman Michelle Gregory. "He was told to lower that weapon but did not comply."

"There was a mortal threat to one of the officers by the armed suspect," said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

There's no word on whether any of the law enforcement personnel were wearing body cameras that could verify their accounts. There were apparently no other witnesses.

CA
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More jail guards get greedy, an Oklahoma deputy self-medicates with meth from the evidence room, and a San Jose cop gets popped with a storage locker of pot. Let's get to it.

In Texarkana, Texas, a Bowie county jail guard was arrested last Wednesday after getting caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail inside a bag of Cheetos Puffs. The unnamed 19-year-old guard went for a break and was searched upon returning to the jail. He has been charged with possession of prohibited substances inside a correctional facility.

In Wilburton, Oklahoma, a former Latimer County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday for stealing drugs from the evidence room. Bobby Joe Eubanks went down after the sheriff asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to look into missing drug evidence. Eubanks had been in charge of the evidence room before he was fired earlier this year, and the sheriff said he had found drugs in Eubanks' official vehicle while cleaning it. Eubanks admitted to twice stealing meth evidence and said he used it to cope with PTSD from his service in Afghanistan.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a Pulaski County jail deputy was arrested last Thursday after jailers intercepted a call saying contraband would be left in his vehicle in the jail parking lot, then caught him trying to bring it into the jail. Deputy Kyle Guyer, 24, got caught with one package in hand containing money, candy, and tobacco. A second package containing meth and marijuana was recovered from his car. He is charged with using a communication device to facilitate crimes, criminal attempt to furnish prohibited articles that include marijuana and methamphetamines, furnishing prohibited articles, and unauthorized use of another's property.

In San Jose, California, a San Jose police officer was arrested last Friday on felony marijuana charges nearly a year after fellow officers found more than a dozen pounds of weed in a storage locker rented in his name. Son Vu, 44, is now charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and "maintaining an illegal stash location."

In West Chester, Pennsylvania, a Chester County Prison guard was arrested Tuesday on charges he smuggled drugs to inmates. Guard Douglas Keck, 45, now faces three to six years in prison on introducing contraband charges. Oh, he has been fired, too.

Oregon Drug Fugitive Killed After SWAT Standoff

A Eugene man wanted for failure to appear on drug charges was shot and killed by Salem Police SWAT officers last Friday after repeatedly refusing to surrender. Mark Cecil Hawkins, 49, becomes the 21st person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Salem Statesman-Journal, citing law enforcement sources, Salem police officers approached Hawkins, whom they correctly believed had an outstanding warrant, in the parking lot of a Walmart store, where his bus turned recreational vehicle was parked. Hawkins fled into the bus and refused commands to come out.

When more officers and a police dog arrived, Hawkins came out of the vehicle, and he and the officers exchanged fire. No one was hit, but the police dog was slightly wounded. Hawkins then retreated back into the bus.

At this point, the Salem SWAT team was called in and spent several hours attempting to negotiate a surrender with Hawkins. During this time, Hawkins again opened fire.

More than six hours into the negotiations, SWAT officers used armored vehicles equipped with battering rams to rip open the walls of the vehicle. That exposed Hawkins, who was holding a handgun and who refused to comply with demands he surrender.

Officers then opened fire on Hawkins, striking him nine times. He fell out of the bus and was transferred to Salem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Hawkins had originally been charged with meth distribution in Lane County and had been sought on a failure to appear warrant since he didn't show up in court last December.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops, cocaine, and corruption, from Florida to Texas to California to Michigan. And some crooked jail guards, too. Let's get to it:

In Punta Gorda, Florida, a Charlotte County sheriff's deputy was fired last Friday after an internal affairs investigation revealed he bought drugs and traded them for sexual favors. Deputy Elio Santana would buy cocaine while in uniform and driving his squad car, and the investigation found at least some of it was used to pay for sex.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a local jail guard was arrested last Wednesday on charges he smuggled marijuana into the Pendleton Correctional Center. Laura Whitinger, who has been on the job less than a year, faces charges of trafficking with an inmate, possession of marijuana and dealing a controlled substance.

In Yuba City, California, a Yuba City police officer was arrested last Wednesday on federal charges he was involved in cocaine trafficking. Officer Harminder Phagura, 35, and his brother, Gursharan, 39, were both arrested in an investigation that targeted the brother, but that also implicated Harminder, who is accused of passing on sensitive law enforcement information to his brother. They are both charged with conspiring to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute and use of a communications facility in drug trafficking activity.

In Detroit, three Detroit narcs were indicted last Wednesday for allegedly setting up drug deals while in uniform and making fake traffic stops to rip off suspected drug dealers. Lt. David "Hater" Hansberry and Officer Bryan Watson face charges of possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, while Officer Arthur Levells faces one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

In Rio Grande City, Texas, a Rio Grande City narc was arrested last Saturday on charges he was involved in a cocaine deal. Noel Pena, a narcotics investigator and member of the Starr County HIDTA Task Force, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 10 pounds of cocaine. He was busted by the Homeland Investigations division of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement.

In Dover, Delaware, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to 4 ½ years in state prison for plotting to smuggle marijuana and cellphones into the Vaughan Correctional Center. Darryl West, Jr. had earlier pleaded guilty to manufacturing, delivering or possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance with an aggravating factor, promoting prison contraband and second-degree conspiracy. He went down after authorities found a quarter pound of pot, $700, and two new cellphones in his vehicle in the prison parking lot.

Chronicle AM: Supreme Court Nixes Roadside Waits for Drug Dogs, DEA Head to Resign, More (4/21/15)

The DEA head is on her way out, the Supreme Court rules on making motorists wait for drug dogs to arrive, Indiana's governor extends an emergency needle exchange, a new report on asset forfeiture abuses in California is out, and more.

The US Supreme Court rules that detaining motorists on the side of the road to wait for drug dogs is illegal. (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Washington State Legal Pot Price Declines to $12 a Gram. Pot prices averaged nearly $30 a gram—well above black market prices—when the state's first marijuana retail outlets opened, but that has changed dramatically, according to the State Liquor Control Board. Now, the average retail price of a gram is about $12, as supply expands to meet demand. That's still $336 an ounce, though.

Medical Marijuana

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Initiative Getting Underway. Activists with Wyoming NORML submitted their initiative application with the secretary of state's office Monday. If and when the application is approved, organizers will have until next February to gather 25,673 valid voter signatures to place it on the 2016 general election ballot. A recent poll had support for marijuana at 72% in the Cowboy State.

Asset Forfeiture

New Report Details California Asset Forfeiture Abuses. The Drug Policy Alliance today released a new report, Above the Law: An Investigation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses in California, a multi-year, comprehensive look at asset forfeiture abuses in the state that reveals the troubling extent to which law enforcement agencies have violated state and federal law. The report finds that a handful of LA County cities lead the state in per capita seizures, that some departments rely on asset forfeiture for funding themselves, and that some departments were providing false or incomplete reports to the Justice Department.

Drug Testing

Indiana Welfare Drug Testing Bill Dead. The legislator who unexpectedly proposed adding a welfare drug testing proposal to a social services spending bill has withdrawn it after learning how few people would be tested and how little support there is for it. Rep. Terry Goodin (D-Crawfordsville) said today he would instead seek a study committee to examine how best to fight drug abuse.

Florida Governor Settles on State Employee Drug Testing. Gov. Rick Scott (R) has formally given up on his effort to subject state employees to random, suspicionless drug testing. He reached an agreement Monday with the employees' union that will only allow drug testing in a relative handful of safety-sensitive positions. Of the 1,400 job classifications Scott originally wanted covered, only 267 will be covered.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Governor Extends Emergency Needle Exchange Program. Gov. Mike Pence (R) Monday extended an emergency needle exchange program in Scott County for another 30 days in a bid to get a handle on an injection drug-related HIV outbreak there. The move comes as the legislature heard testimony supporting a bill that would allow similar exchanges elsewhere in the state.

Law Enforcement

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart Set to Resign. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart is expected to resign soon, a unnamed "senior administration official" told CBS News this morning. The embattled DEA head has been under fire for years over her leadership of the scandal-ridden agency, but it was her performance at a Capitol Hill hearing last week that sealed her fate. Click on the link to read our feature story on this.

Supreme Court Says Detaining Motorists to Wait for Drug Dogs to Arrive is Not OK. In a 6-3 decision today, the US Supreme Court held that detaining motorists on the side of the highway to await the arrival of a drug dog violates the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unlawful searches and seizures. Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that police may request drivers licenses, vehicle registrations, proof of insurance, and check for outstanding warrants because all those investigatory actions are aimed at enforcing traffic laws and ensuring that vehicles are operating safely—the ostensible reason for the stops. "A dog sniff, unlike those stock inquiries, lacks the same tie to roadway safety," she said. Prolonging the stop, even for a few minutes, to allow for the arrival of a drug dog was improper, Ginsburg wrote. "A traffic stop becomes unlawful if prolonged beyond the time in fact needed to complete all traffic-based inquiries," Ginsburg said. Click on the link to read our newsbrief and view the ruling itself.

International

Mexicans Capture Gulf Cartel Leader. Mexican authorities confirmed over the weekend that they had captured Jose Tiburcio Hernandez Fuentes, who they described as a Gulf Cartel leader responsible for much of the recent violence in the border city of Reynosa. He was caught despite a shootout between Mexican soldiers and police and around 60 cartel gunmen who tried to rescue him. The Mexicans caught a key Juarez Cartel leader just a day earlier. 

Holding Motorists on Highway to Await Drug Dog Searches Not OK, Supreme Court Rules

This article was published in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

In a 6-3 decision today, the US Supreme Court held that detaining motorists on the side of the highway to await the arrival of a drug dog violates the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unlawful searches and seizures.

In the decade since the Supreme Court held in Illinois v. Cabellas that a drug dog sniff of a vehicle that did not extend a traffic stop was not a search under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement agencies across the country have routinely detained drivers on the roadside awaiting arrival of a drug dog, then used drug dog alerts as "probable cause" to allow vehicle searches.

The practice left motorists in a legal limbo where there was no actionable cause to detain them, but they were not free to be on their way. Today's ruling from the Supreme Court says that is not okay.

Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that police may request drivers licenses, vehicle registrations, proof of insurance, and check for outstanding warrants because all those investigatory actions are aimed at enforcing traffic laws and ensuring that vehicles are operating safely -- the ostensible reason for the stops.

"A dog sniff, unlike those stock inquiries, lacks the same tie to roadway safety," she said.

Prolonging the stop, even for a few minutes, to allow for the arrival of a drug dog was improper, Ginsburg wrote.

"A traffic stop becomes unlawful if prolonged beyond the time in fact needed to complete all traffic-based inquiries," Ginsburg said.

The ruling came in Rodriguez v. US, in which Dennys Rodriguez had been pulled over in Nebraska for a traffic infraction. He was issued a warning ticket for driving on the shoulder of the road, but then made to wait on the roadside for the arrival of a drug dog 10 minutes later. After the drug dog alerted, his vehicle was searched, methamphetamine was found, and he was charged and convicted.

While the decision is a boon to motorists, it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card for Rodriguez. The evidence derived from the drug dog search has been thrown out, but his case remanded to the lower courts, prosecutors will still have a chance to try to prove there was other reasonable suspicion to think he was carrying drugs.

Chronicle AM: Jamaica Decrim Now in Effect, First CA 2016 Legalization Init Filed, GA Gov Signs CBD Bill, More (4/16/15)

A Northern California attorney is first out of the gate with a 2016 legalization initiative, a CBD cannabis oil bill becomes law in Georgia, and another awaits the governor's signature in Oklahoma, congressmen say they have "no confidence" in DEA head Leonhart, decrim is now in effect in Jamaica, and more. 

This Rastaman has reason to smile. Decrim has come to Jamaica. (wikimedia.,org)
Marijuana Policy

First 2016 California Legalization Initiative Filed.  Sebastopol marijuana attorney Omar Figueroa and attorney Heather Burke have filed the California Craft Cannabis Initiative, the first of what are expected to be several measures seeking to legalize marijuana in the state next year. Proponents say it is an inclusive effort designed to protect the state's legacy of artisanal marijuana growers. To make the ballot, initiatives must see their language approved by the state Attorney General's office, and then they have 180 days to gather more than half a million valid voter signatures.

Frustrated Vermont Legislators Propose Treating Alcohol Like Marijuana. A pair of House members Wednesday filed a bill that would ban alcohol and treat it like marijuana. The move was a frustrated reaction to stalled efforts to legalize marijuana and treat it like alcohol.  The bill is House Bill 502, and lead sponsor Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington) said he doesn't really want to ban alcohol, but that the bill is a symbolic step "recognize recent scientific studies that demonstrate that alcohol use is significantly more dangerous than marijuana."

Medical Marijuana

2016 California Medical Marijuana Initiative Filed. A group of medical marijuana activists have filed the Compassionate and Sensible Access Act, which is designed to protect a doctor's right to recommend medical marijuana and limit officials' ability to regulate cultivation, distribution, and transportation of the plant. To make the ballot, the language must first be approved by state officials, then campaigners will have to gather more than half a million valid voter signatures within 180 days of starting.

Georgia Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) today signed into law House Bill 1, which allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil for a list of specified diseases and medical conditions. The bill allows patients to possess the oil, but has no provision for obtaining it in the state.

Oklahoma Legislature Approves CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. The Senate Wednesday unanimously approved House Bill 124, which would allow for the use of the oil to treat seizure disorders in children. The bill passed the House in February and now heads to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

Asset Forfeiture

Iowa House Committee Hearing on Asset Forfeiture Reform Gets Heated. Law enforcement squared off against civil libertarians in a House Government Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday. No bill was on the agenda, but committee Chair Rep. Bobby Kaufman (R-Wilton) said after the hearing he planned to author reform legislation next year. Click on the link for more detail.

Drug Policy

Federal Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Bill Filed. Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) has reintroduced the bill, HR 1812. It's been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Law Enforcement

House Oversight Committee Has "No Confidence" in DEA Head Leonhart. Fed up with DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart over a long litany of scandals in the drug-fighting agency she heads, 22 members of the House Oversight and Government Reforms Committee issued a statement yesterday saying they had "no confidence" in her leadership. "After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive 'good old boy' culture that exists throughout the agency," the statement said. "From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position. Ms. Leonhart has lost the confidence of this Committee to initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency."

Sordid Philadelphia Police Drug War Corruption Trial Underway. This one is a doozy! A trial now in its third week is ripping the lid off scandalously criminal behavior by the police department's dope squad. Stolen drug money, planted evidence, perjured testimony, beaten suspects, it's got it all. Click on the link for more detail.

International

Jah Herb is Now Decriminalized in Jamaica. Marijuana decriminalization went into effect Wednesday in the island nation. Anyone, including foreign tourists, can now possess up to two ounces of ganja and face only a $5 fine. And any household can now grow up to five plants. And adult Rastafarians can now use the herb for religious purposes. Irie.

Elite Texas Cops "Spied on Mexico," Report Says. Department of Public Safety documents show that an elite reconnaissance team formed by Gov. Rick Perry did aerial surveillance of Mexican drug cartel targets on the Mexican side of the border. Aircraft were used to track suspected Zeta cartel members and passed that information on to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which in turn worked with Mexican military forces to target them. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Looks like we've got us a Big City Bad Boys edition this week, with the exception of a pair of crooked Louisiana cops, but that pair is pretty special, too. Let's get to it:

In New York City, two Brooklyn narcotics officers were under investigation last Thursday after a video taken during a raid on a bodega appeared to show one of them pocketing $4,000 in cash. Detective Ian Cyrus, 49, from the Brooklyn North Narcotics Squad has been suspended, and Sergeant Fritz Glemaud, 44, has been placed on modified assignment. The investigation continues.

In Detroit, two Detroit police officers were arrested last Thursday on charges they robbed drug dealers and stole drugs and money during police raids. Lt. David Hansberry, 34, and Officer Bryan Watson, 46, allegedly identified themselves as police officers to scare their victims into complying with their demands, then stealing their cash, drugs, and personal property. They had been members of the now-disbanded Detroit Police Narcotics Section, but had been suspended since last October. They are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, multiple counts of interference with commerce by robbery and extortion, possession with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine and two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and drug trafficking crime.

In San Francisco, a San Pablo police officer was arrested last Wednesday after police who were monitoring him saw him make what appeared to be a drug sale. Officer Kenneth White, 32, had a two-year-old child in his back seat when the deal went down. Police suspect he was dealing heroin and cocaine, and he's now being held on suspicion of narcotics violations, weapons violations, and child endangerment.

In Chicago, a Melrose Park Police detective was arrested last Thursday on charges he stole cocaine from the evidence room, plotted to steal drugs from the state lab, and agreed to transport a load of drugs in his unmarked squad car. Detective Gregory Salvi, an 18-year veteran, went down in a sting. He was arrested at a storage facility where he'd gone to pick up a 5-kilogram load of cocaine that he thought he was delivering to another drug dealer. But the dealer was actually a federal informant. He's charged with possessing 5 kilos of coke or more with intent to distribute and is looking at a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence if convicted. He's also charged with using a firearm in furtherance of crime, which is good for another five years.

In Lafayette, Louisiana, a state trooper and a Lafayette Parish sheriff's deputy were arrested over the weekend on charges they conspired with a local businessman to plant drugs in his brother's car and have him arrested. Bryan Knight, the brother of businessman Mark Knight, was arrested in June 2014 after a Mark Knight employee planted drugs in his car and the two cops then showed up to bust him. Evidence on the cell phone of a Mark Knight employee implicated Trooper Corey Jackson and Lafayette Parish deputy Jason Kinch, who was assigned to the narcotics task force. The two cops and the employee were allegedly paid $100,000 for setting up the brother. Both cops are now charged with racketeering in the case.

Florida Man Dies After Eating Drugs to Avoid Bust

A Marathon, Florida, man died last week after apparently swallowing a bag or bags of drugs following a traffic stop turned drug bust. Clifford Green, 39, becomes the 20th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The Florida Keys Keynoter, citing a Monroe County Sheriff's Office report, Green was pulled over by Detective Iscandel Perez last Wednesday for having windows too darkly tinted. Perez wrote that Green was "fidgeting about inside the vehicle" before pulling over. [Editor's Note: Apparently, the tinting wasn't so dark.]

Perez ran a computer check that showed Green was on probation for a drug conviction and that his drivers' license had been suspended for failure to pay child support. Green was placed under arrest.

Detective Perez then deployed a drug dog on the exterior of the vehicle and the dog "alerted to the presence of narcotics on the passenger's front side door." Perez and other officers at the scene then searched the car, finding "a beaker and large quantity of blue clear plastic Baggies commonly used to package narcotics inside a paper bag in the back seat of the vehicle. No narcotics were found inside the vehicle at this time."

Deputy Thomas Hill then began transporting Green to the jail in Plantation Key, but within a few miles, Perez wrote, he saw Hill's cruiser stopped with Green "face down on the asphalt" and Hill trying to turn him on his side.

Green was "vomiting, having tremors and irregular breathing," according to Perez's report. The detective added that he saw "what appeared to be a cellophane bag with suspected cocaine inside" Green's mouth.

EMS arrived and took Green to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead within the hour.

The Florida Division of Law Enforcement is investigating the death.

Plantation Key, FL
United States

Another Week, Another Pair of Drug War Deaths

A black New Orleans man was killed Monday after a traffic stop escalated into a chase and shootout, and a white South Carolina man was killed in a drug raid on his home Thursday, in the two latest deaths in the US drug war. Desmond Willis, 25, and Phillip Michael Burgess, 28, become the 18th and 19th persons die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The New Orleans Times-Picayune, citing the account provided by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Norman at a Wednesday press conference, deputies initially pulled Willis over for a traffic violation, but smelled marijuana from his open window. (This contradicts an earlier law enforcement statement that he was targeted as part of a drug investigation.) Deputies ordered him to put his hands up and turn off the SUV, but when one deputy reached into the vehicle to grab his arm, Willis sped off.

He then crashed his SUV and took off on foot. Norman said Willis fired at deputies and that witnesses inside an office building and a restaurant saw him firing. Deputies returned fire, killing him in the parking lot of New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger.

Detectives recovered a 9 mm pistol near his body, and a .38 caliber pistol and $800 in cash in his pockets. In the SUV, investigators found a half-pound of pot packaged for sale, as well as ammunition, sandwich bags, and a vacuum sealer.

According to Fox Carolina News, citing Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office sources, narcotics officers were serving a drug search warrant Thursday morning in Boiling Springs when Burgess became "belligerent."

The narcs called for backup, and two deputies showed up to assist. The official account said Burgess continued to be belligerent and grabbed a gun from atop the refrigerator, pointing it at deputies. The two deputies then opened fire, killing him.

Because his death was at the hands of law enforcement, it will be investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

No word on if any drugs were found.

Drug War Issues

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