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Two More Drug War Deaths

A Minnesota man died late last month after being arrested on drug charges, and a Washington state man was shot and killed late last week in a drug bust gone bad. Philip Derks of St. Paul and as yet unnamed Wenatchee, Washington, man become the 37th and 38th persons to die in US domestic drug law operations so far this year.

In the Washington case, according to the Wenatchee World News, citing police sources, members of the Columbia River Drug Task Force had made repeated undercover drug buys from the man, then used uniformed police to pull him over in a traffic stop. The man pulled into a Taco Bell drive-in lane, and a police car pulled in behind him.

"The officer exited the vehicle and contacted the suspect," said Trooper Darren Wright of the State Patrol, which is conducting the investigation into the killing. "A struggle ensued and resulted in the shooting."

Wright said it was not clear if the man had a gun, or if he had fired any shots. He said the unnamed police officer shot more than one shot.

The mid-afternoon shooting at the popular fast-food restaurant resulted in the victim's vehicle rolling forward and striking an occupied pick-up truck in the parking lot. No injuries were reported there.

No word on what drugs the task force was chasing.

{Update: The man has been identified as Robert Harris, 43, of Wenatchee. The coroner reported he died of multiple gunshot wounds. Still no word on whether he had a gun.]

In the Minnesota case, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Philip Derks, 32, had been arrested on November 28 along with the driver of the vehicle in which he was riding after police who stopped them for a traffic violation saw a plastic baggie containing an unknown substance being thrown from the vehicle.

A preliminary field test identified the substance as methamphetamine, and Derks and his companion were taken to the Ramsey County Jail. Within a half hour of their arrival at the jail, Derks' friend alerted jail staff that he needed medical attention. Jail staff wrote that he didn't appear to be under duress, but was fidgety and starting to sweat.

Jail staff moved him to a segregation cell for closer observation after he mentioned Adderall but "refused to answer other questions." Derks grew "even more restless, became very pale, and was sweaty," staff noted before transporting him to a local hospital.

Derks died in the hospital about 18 hours after arriving there. His friend told sheriff's deputies that Derks had swallowed an unknown amount of drugs to hide them from police when they had been pulled over the previous day.

Chronicle AM -- December 2, 2013

The Denver city council votes today on where you can smoke pot, a Tennessee bill equates meth-making with child abuse, there's dissent on drug policy at the UN, India fights a drug menace, and more. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

Denver City Council to Vote Today to Ban Marijuana Smoking on Private Property if Visible to the Public. The Denver city council is expected to give final approval today to an ordinance that would ban marijuana smoking on one's own property if it is visible to the public. The measure won an initial 5-7 vote last week. The measure is opposed by the ACLU of Colorado, Sensible Colorado, and even the Denver Post, which editorialized against it today.

Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Returning to Iowa Legislature; Event in Des Moines Tonight. State Sen. Joe Bolckom (D-Iowa City), who has introduced medical marijuana bills in four previous sessions, will try again next year. He said he will introduce legislation modeled on the New Mexico program. Bolckom and Dr. Steven Jenison, who helped create the New Mexico bill, will be speaking about the New Mexico program at the Des Moines Public Library at 6:00pm tonight.

Methamphetamine

Under Proposed Tennessee Bill, Meth Making = Child Abuse. A bill filed last week, Senate Bill 1438, would allow meth-making parents to be charged with child abuse or neglect, even if the child has not suffered any child abuse or neglect. Current state law allows such charges to filed against meth-making parents if there is physical injury as a result of exposure to meth, but that's not good enough for state Sen. Doug Overbey and state Rep. Dale Carr, the bill's sponsors.

Prescription Drugs

Rhode Island Task Force to Study Electronic Prescription Monitoring. A legislatively-mandated commission meets for the first time today to consider whether the state should track certain medications in a bid to prevent prescription drug abuse. The commission is led by Rep. William O'Brien (D-North Providence), and includes state health officials, physicians, and a community health expert -- but apparently no pain patients. About half the states have moved to enact some form of electronic prescription monitoring in recent years.

International

Leaked Document Reveals Splits Ahead of UN Drug Session. A draft of a UN document setting out the organization's long-term strategy for fighting drugs has been leaked to British media and reveals an accelerating erosion of the decades-long, but increasingly shaky, drug prohibition consensus. In the leaked draft, both Latin American and European nations demanded that the UN's drug policy open itself up to new directions. This is all run-up to the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs.

Another Dark Web Drug Marketplace Shuts Down. The Black Market Reloaded web site, which offered illicit drugs and other items for sale, has closed, a victim of its own success. The site operator said it had grown too big to be able to guarantee anonymity for its customers. The move comes after a competitor, Silk Road, was shut down by US officials, and another competitor, Sheep Marketplace, closed claiming someone had stolen more than $2 million worth of bit coins, a virtual currency. Silk Road 2.0 is reportedly up and running, however.

In Wake of Mass Bootleg Alcohol Deaths, Indian State Wants More Alcohol Prohibition. Responding to a 2009 mass bootleg alcohol ("hooch") poisoning that left at least 156 people dead, the Gujarat high court Sunday called for tougher enforcement of alcohol prohibition. While the high court appreciated the state government's move to impose the death penalty for "hooch tragedies," it also called for stricter enforcement of prohibition to fight "the menace of illegal transportation, manufacturing and possession of liquor."

Jamaica's First Medical Marijuana Company Set to Open. Jamaican scientist Dr. Henry Lowe is expected to open the island nation's first medical marijuana company this week. Lowe said he plans to develop marijuana extracts to treat psychosis and severe pain, and, possibly, "mid-life crisis in men."

Iranians in 550 Armed Clashes with Drug Smugglers in Past Three Months. Iranian officials said Monday that there had been more than 550 armed clashes with drug traffickers in the past three months. Iran borders Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer by far, and is both a transit country and a final destination for tons of Afghan opium each year. It has destroyed more than 60 tons of illicit drugs a year in recent years. It also hangs hundreds of drug traffickers each year.

Fort Worth Man Killed in Drug Raid

A Fort Worth, Texas, resident was shot and killed by members of the Tarrant County Narcotics Unit as they executed a search warrant Friday night. The as yet unidentified victim becomes the 36th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to WFAA TV News, citing a Fort Worth police captain, six members of the unit's Northeast Division arrived at the Tulip Tree Drive residence at about 8:45pm. When they broke down the door, the man inside was holding a shotgun and pointing it at officers.

One officer from nearby Euless fired once at the man, striking him at the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

While police did not identify the man, they did say he was 30 years old.

Four other people inside the home were taken into custody, but it is not clear if they were actually arrested.

The Fort Worth Police Department is investigating the shooting.

Fort Worth, TX
United States

Newark Cops Kill Alleged Drug Dealer, Neighbors Attack Police

Two undercover Essex County sheriff's deputies shot and killed a suspected drug dealer Wednesday, sparking an angry response from area residents. The dead man, so far identified only as "Jose," becomes the 35th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, citing Essex County Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose, the deputies were doing a drug investigation and approached "Jose" in a building on North 9th Street. Ambrose said the man came out of the building with a loaded weapon, and both deputies opened fire, killing him.

Neighbors at the scene, who pelted the sheriff's office vehicle with rocks and debris, breaking at least one window, had a different version of events. Several of them told a Star-Ledger reporter that the deputies hit the man with their vehicle, then shot him as he lay on the ground. None of those interviewed would give their names, saying they feared retribution from the police.

"Why did you have to hit him with a car? Why'd you have to shoot him in the back?" people shouted over Ambrose as he spoke to reporters.

One neighbor who did identify himself, Jamar Smith, said he was a friend of the dead man and was on his way to his house when he heard the sound of a car crash followed by the loud bang of two gun shots. Smith and several others said one of the officers involved is well-known in the neighborhood for his aggressive policing and that they had had violent encounters with him, too.

Newark, NJ
United States

Indianapolis Man Killed in Drug Task Force Raid

Members of the Indianapolis Metro Drug Task force shot and killed a man early Thursday morning while serving a warrant. Jose Guerrero, 36, becomes the 34th person to die in UN domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to WISH TV, citing police sources, officers with the Carmel Police Department serving on the drug task force had entered an apartment in a Westside complex around dawn Thursday when Guerrero pulled out a gun and refused to put it down. They then shot and killed him.

"We had two veteran narcotics officers in this residence who did what they needed to do when they were confronted with an armed individual," said Carmel Police Chief Tim Green.

There is no word on whether the raid was a no-knock raid or not.

The raid was part of a two-year undercover operation known as "Operation Five Dollar Foot-Long," with the DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement, participating. On the day of the killing alone, police seized 100 pounds of marijuana, 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine, seven guns, 26 vehicles, and more than $80,000 in cash.

The two Carmel police officers involved in the Thursday morning shooting have been placed on administrative duty pending the result of IMPD's investigation into the shooting. That is standard procedure.

Indianapolis, IN
United States

Tennessee Cops Kill Man in Meth Lab Raid

Sullivan County sheriff's deputies shot and killed a man attempting to flee in a vehicle Friday night as they conducted a raid on a residence where a meth lab was suspected to be operating. Kenneth Ray Clark, 47, becomes the 33rd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Bristol Times-News, citing police sources, officers with the Sheriff's Office Vice Unit, the 1st Judicial Drug Task Force, and the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force were dispatched to a Bristol residence after receiving information that a meth lab was operating there and that a person with outstanding warrants was there.

Upon arriving at the property, officers found Clark in a vehicle. Police said he refused to get out of the vehicle and, in an attempt to flee the scene, "tried to run over at least two officers." Officers then opened fire on the vehicle, striking Clark. Clark managed to drive approximately a mile, where police found him dead in his vehicle.

Clark was wanted on a probation violation warrant in Sullivan County. He also reportedly had an unspecified outstanding warrant from nearby Bristol, Virginia.

Although Clark allegedly "tried to run over at least two officers," there was no mention of any injury to any of the officers involved.

The shooting will be investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Bristol, TN
United States

Two More Drug War Deaths

A Texas marijuana grower and a California man who might have been a drug dealer were killed by police in separate incidents last week. The two men become the 31st and 32nd persons killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to News 4 San Antonio, citing police sources, Gonzales County sheriff's deputies were raiding a marijuana grow last Wednesday when a shootout erupted, leaving one of the suspected growers dead. Sheriff Glen Sachtleben said one of the growers fired at the deputies, and the deputies returned fire, killing the man, who has not been identified but is suspected of being a Mexican national.

"There were six that were actually in the gunfight," the sheriff said, referring to his deputies. None of them were injured.

A second man, also suspected of being a Mexican national in the country illegally, was arrested.

The sheriff described the grow as extending across several acres of a remote area of the county.

"Probably the largest in my 40 years in this county we've ever encountered," Sheriff Sachtleben said. "In our estimation, this is not in the local use at all. We're pretty sure it's flowing into Houston from here."

Texas Rangers are investigating the killing.

The following day, according to the Long Beach Post, citing police sources, a Long Beach, California, man was shot and killed by an undercover officer conducting a narcotics investigation. The man has been identified as 39-year-old John Del Real.

According to police, they were in the area investigating reports of drug dealing in the neighborhood when Del Real approached an officer "in a threatening manner." Del Real then reached for an object in his waistband, at which point the officer identified himself and gave several commands before opening fire.

Police attempted to render aid at the scene, but Del Real was pronounced dead after arriving at a local hospital. A metal bat he allegedly had tucked in his waistband was found at the scene.

Del Real's killing was the third shooting by a Long Beach Police Department officer in five days. It is being investigated by department homicide detectives and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Armed Drug Suspect Killed in Houston SWAT Raid

A drug suspect was shot and killed by a member of a Houston Police Department SWAT team early Wednesday. The as yet unnamed man becomes the 30th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Houston Chronicle, which cited police sources, SWAT team members were executing a narcotics search warrant at dawn in northeast Harris County when they encountered the man, described as a Hispanic in his 40s or 50s. As SWAT members entered the home from the side and front, "the suspect produced a handgun when confronted and was shot by a member of the team." The shooter was identified as Houston Police Officer SJ Hamala.

The dead man was one of four people named in the warrant. The other three were not found at the residence and remain at large.

Police said they used a SWAT team to conduct the raid because they had information the suspect had many weapons in his home.

At last report, narcotics officers were on the scene and conducting an investigation. No word yet on what, if anything, was seized.

Houston, TX
United States

Big Payout in Drug Raid Killing of Ex-Marine

An Arizona county and several towns will pay big-time for the killing of homeowner Jose Guerena in a 2011 SWAT drug raid. The jurisdictions will pay $3.4 million to his widow to settle a lawsuit she filed after his death, the Associated Press reported last Thursday.

Jose Guerena
Guerena was gunned down in the hallway of his home by invading SWAT officers as he crouched defensively with an AR-15 in his hands. Five SWAT officers fired 72 shots at him, hitting him 22 times and killing him on the spot.

He had returned early that morning from working an overnight shift at the ASARCO mine, and was asleep in bed when his wife warned him that armed assailants were surrounding the house. He instructed his wife and four-year-old son to hide in a closet while he grabbed his rifle and went to confront the intruders. Police initially claimed he fired first, but that turned out not to be the case.

The case became a cause célèbre for critics of aggressive police tactics, even roiling the waters of the local Republican Party. A Google search for "Jose Guerena" now returns more than 62,000 hits.

His widow filed a $20 million lawsuit against Pima County and the towns of Marana, Sahuarita, and Oro Valley, all of which had officers on the SWAT team. She alleged that the SWAT team acted negligently throughout, beginning with the signing of the search warrant and extending to the period after Guerena was shot, when police left him lying on the floor for more than an hour before allowing medical treatment to begin.

Pima County prosecutors could find no fault with the raid or the SWAT team.

"Under the circumstances, and based upon our review of all the available evidence, we have concluded that the use of deadly force by the SWAT Team members was reasonable and justified under the law," ruled Pima County District Attorney Barbara LaWall. "Accordingly, the Pima County Attorney's Office finds no basis to prosecute," she concluded in her report.

Tucson, AZ
United States

Texas Trooper Cleared in Chopper Drug War Killings

A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper who opened fire from a helicopter on a fleeing pickup carrying what he thought was a drug load near the US-Mexico border, killing two Guatemalan immigrants, will not face criminal charges. A grand jury in Edinburg declined Tuesday to indict him in the deaths.

Hidalgo County prosecutors had presented the case to a grand jury after the killing stirred outrage not only from the Guatemalan government, but also among people concerned about lax rules for law enforcement use of deadly force from the air.

In the October 2012 incident, Trooper Miguel Avila was aboard the Department of Public Safety (DPS) chopper as it participated in the pursuit of the pickup. DPS said Avila believed the truck, whose bed was covered with a cloth, was carrying drugs, and that he opened fire to disable it because the fleeing vehicle was headed toward a school zone. (The shooting took place on an unpaved rural road.)

The truck crashed after being fired upon. Police found no drugs, but instead found nine Guatemalan immigrants and a teenage driver. Six of the Guatemalans were in the bed of the pickup covered by a cloth. Two of them, Marco Antonio Castro and Jose Leonardo Coj Cumar, were fatally wounded by Avila's gunfire.

While the two men's killer escaped criminal charges, the killing did force DPS to revise its policies on the use of force from the sky. Since February, troopers have been prohibited from shooting from the sky unless they are facing deadly force.

"A firearms discharge from an aircraft is authorized only when an officer reasonably believes that the suspect has used or is about to use deadly force by use of a deadly weapon against the air crew, ground officers or innocent third parties," the revised policy says. Reckless or aggressive driving doesn't count as use of a deadly weapon, the policy states.

Edinburg, TX
United States

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