Drug War Chronicle has reported
with depressing regularity on people killed by police prosecuting the war
on drugs. This week, we look at the flip-side: the number of police
officers killed fighting the drug war. Working from a list of 146
officers killed in the line of duty last year presented on the Officer
Down Memorial Page (http://www.odmp.org),
part of a larger pro-police web site, Officer.com, and digging into the
background of the sometimes incomplete reports, DRCNet has found that at
least 14 police officers, or slightly more than one per month, were killed
enforcing drug prohibition last year.
And the toll continues.
The latest prohibition-related police fatality occurred just last week,
when 24-year-old St. Louis Police Officer Nick Sloan was killed while working
undercover to make a drug purchase as part of the federally-funded Weed
and Seed program. When Sloan and other officers attempted to arrest
Dennis Hathorn, 31, of nearby Centreville, Hathorn grabbed Sloan's weapon
and opened fire, killing Sloan and wounding his partner, Police Officer
Gabriel Keithley. Hathorn was in turn shot and killed by other police.
"I just spoke with a relative
of a police officer who was a friend of the one killed in St. Louis," said
Jack Cole, director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (http://www.leap.cc),
who happened to be in Missouri this week for a set of appearances detailing
the group's opposition to the drug war. "She came up to me after
a speech almost in tears, telling me about that dead officer," Cole told
DRCNet. "I would bet you anything that the guy who shot him was not
a big time criminal."
|LEAP director Jack Cole at the
European Parliament Out from the Shadows
conference, Brussels, Belgium, October 2002
Cole would win that bet.
According to St. Louis police, Hathorn had no criminal record. His
mother told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that her son, a railroad worker,
was having money troubles. "After this incident happened, one of
his friends told me that Dennis had financial troubles with child support
and that he was thinking about finding someone to show him how to sell
cocaine until he could get on his feet," said Francis Hathorn. "The
police said they found crack cocaine in his pocket. I can only go
by the reports of the police. I would have said, 'No, he never would
get involved in drugs.'" Hathorn added, "Dennis may have thought
he was being robbed. I know he didn't know they were police officers."
While the younger Hathorn
was relegated to the dustbin -- in an article Thursday on Officer Sloan's
funeral, he was referred to only as "a drug dealer" -- Sloan's death was
marked by an outpouring of official grief.
"These police deaths are
totally unnecessary," said Cole. "If we ended drug prohibition, none
of these officers would have had to die. We're killing our police.
All we have to do is legalize drugs and that would not be happening.
Can't we learn from Alcohol Prohibition?" Cole asked. "We had the
highest murder rate in our history and cops were dying right and left."
"These are casualties of
war," said LEAP member Peter Christ, a retired police captain with 20 years
of experience fighting the drug war. "It's a war we shouldn't be
fighting," he told DRCNet. "Drug prohibition creates an environment
where we put cops in a job where they can't win, and you have to expect
these kinds of results. The answer is a no-brainer, at least for
me: You have to legalize drugs."
Officer.com identified 146
police officers who died in the line of duty last year, a figure in line
with recent years, when, except for 2001, the number of police killed has
hovered between 150 and 200 each year. Nearly one-third of those
died in car crashes, while among those killed confronting criminals, responding
to domestic disturbances proved to be a leading killer. But at a
minimum, almost 10% of all police line-of-duty fatalities last year came
in the war on drugs. They include:
Officer Andre Gerard Booker,
26, Henrico County Police Department, VA, killed January 12, 2003.
Booker drowned when his patrol car sank in an icy pond as he was maneuvering
to block the road to stop a fleeing suspect. Although authorities
charged the suspect in the case with Booker's murder, he was not convicted
of the death. He was convicted of possession of cocaine and possession
of a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance.
Patrolman Jeremy (Jay) Carruth
, 29, Alexandria Police Department, LA, killed February 20, 2003.
Carruth was one of two Alexandria police officers killed in a shootout
with escaped fugitive Anthony Molette, 25. Molette had broken out
of the parish jail, where he was serving a sentence for sale of Schedule
II drugs. He had been arrested numerous times before, including eight
separate times for drug offenses. Four of those arrests were for
"anti-drug loitering" or "drug trafficking loitering." After he escaped
from jail, Molette ambushed another police officer the day before he turned
an AK-47 on Carruth and his partner. Molette was killed by police
later in the same engagement.
Private First Class David Ezernack,
26, Alexandria Police Department, LA, killed February 20, 2003. Ezernack
was the other Alexandria police officer shot and killed by Molette.
Deputy Sheriff Randy Smith,
31, Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Department, LA, killed April 16, 2003.
Smith was shot and killed while attempting to arrest Frank Jack, who had
escaped from the Evangeline Parish jail two months earlier. Jack
was in jail for distribution of counterfeit drugs. Jack was shot
and killed by police during the same incident.
Police Officer Mary Ann Collura,
43, Fair Lawn Police Department, NJ, killed April 17, 2003. Collura
was shot and killed and another police officer wounded in a shootout at
the end of a vehicle chase where passengers were seen throwing items from
the car as it fled. Police in nearby Clifton began the pursuit, and
Collura joined in to provide assistance, but was shot and killed in a struggle
once the vehicles came to a stop. According to the police, her killer
stole her car and ran her over as she lay dying. That killer was
"drug dealer Omar Marti of Passaic," who in turn was killed in a shootout
with police three days later in Florida.
Officer Tony Zeppetella, 27,
Oceanside Police Department, killed June 13, 2003. Zeppetella was
shot and killed during a traffic stop by Adrian George Camacho, 30.
Camacho was identified as a gang member and was in possession of methamphetamine.
He was wounded, but fled to a relative's house, where, surrounded by more
than 50 police, he surrendered after a four-hour standoff. He faces
Sergeant Michael Johnson, 39,
Vermont State Police, VT, killed June 15, 2003. Johnson died attempting
to place spike strips on Interstate 91 to stop 23-year-old Evan Daley,
who, facing drug charges in Vermont and New Hampshire, sped away from a
traffic stop minutes earlier. After placing the strips on the highway,
Johnson was standing in the median when Daley swerved to avoid the strips
and hit him. Daley didn't stop, but was caught two days later in
Pennsylvania and faced charges of second-degree murder in Johnson's death.
Police Officer Douglas E. Wendel,
41, Richmond Police Department, VA, killed July 30, 2003. Wendel
was shot and killed after responding to a call about a suspected drug dealer
in the city's Southside. Wendel was patting the suspect down when
he felt a gun, and a struggle ensued. Peter Lee Boone, 19, was convicted
of shooting Wendel four times and sentenced to life in prison. At
the time of the incident, Boone was on probation on a drug charge.
Deputy Stephen Sorensen, 46,
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA, killed August 2, 2003.
Sorenson disappeared after responding to a trespass call. Witnesses
reported hearing six shots, and after searching the area for an hour, other
deputies found his body. He had been shot six times with a .223 rifle
before his feet were tied together and his body was dragged into the desert.
Deputies found meth lab chemicals in the area, leading to the theory he
had discovered a meth lab. The man who admitted killing Sorenson
died a week later in a blazing inferno. Surrounded by deputies at
Lake Los Angeles area house, the man responded to tear gas and battering
rams with gunfire before the house burst into flames.
Sergeant Rodney L. Davis, 30,
Greene County Sheriff's Department, VA, killed August 26, 2003. Davis
was shot and killed as he and another deputy attempted to serve a warrant
on a man for selling crack cocaine. The suspect was also killed when
deputies returned fire.
Narcotics Officer Donnie Washington,
31, Richland County Sheriff's Department, SC, killed October 16, 2003.
Washington died in a one-vehicle car accident while on duty as an undercover
Police Officer Matthew Pavelka,
26, Burbank Police Department, CA, killed November 15, 2003. Pavelka
was shot and killed while doing back-up on a traffic stop. After
the driver of the vehicle was unable to produce a driver's license, he
and his passenger came out firing handguns. One of the suspects was
killed in the exchange of gunfire; the other fled and was arrested in Tijuana,
Mexico. He faces murder and attempted murder charges. Police
found methamphetamine and several semi-automatic rifles in the vehicle.
Sergeant Hubert (John John)
Yancey, 35, Scott County Sheriff's Department, TN, killed November 28,
2003. Yancey was accidentally shot and killed by a fellow officer
while conducting a raid on a suspected meth lab. The first deputy
inside the residence noticed someone hiding in a closet and took cover
when the door began to open and women residents began screaming.
Thinking his fellow officer was in trouble, Yancey entered the building,
and the deputy, thinking he had an armed suspect, shot him. Four
people were arrested on methamphetamine charges, but were not charged in
Trooper Nikky J. Green, 35,
Oklahoma Highway Patrol, OK, killed December 26, 2003. Green was
shot and killed after he stopped to check on a vehicle parked on the side
of the highway. During the stop, Green discovered the occupant had
been cooking meth in the vehicle. A struggle ensued, and the suspect
shot and killed Green with his own weapon. The suspect was caught
two days later and faces murder charges.
BREAKING: In addition to LEAP's web site, you can read about them on the front page of today's issue of the northern New Jersey newspaper The Bergen Record.
-- END --
Issue #323, 2/6/04
Drug War Kills More Than a Cop a Month |
HEA Struggle Enters New Year as Bush Budget Pushes Souder Reform |
Mothers to Mothers: New York Drug Reform Activists Visit Argentina |
Marijuana Rx for Methamphetamine? Hawaii May Give It a Try |
Offer and Appeal: New StoptheDrugWar.org Ink Stamps and Strobe Lights -- DRCNet Needs Your Support in 2004 |
Newsbrief: San Francisco Releases Proposition S Report, Gives Okay to Possible City-Supported Medical Marijuana Co-ops |
Newsbrief: Update -- Colorado Confrontation on Hold Pending Federal Court Ruling |
Newsbrief: Lane County Won't Be Sensible -- Group Ends Marijuana Amendment Effort |
Newsbrief: Florida Pain Doctor Sees Murder Charge Dropped |
Newsbrief: Dutch Do De Facto Decriminalization for Small-Time Cocaine Smugglers |
Newsbrief: The Continuing Revolt of the Black Robes, Part I |
Newsbrief: The Continuing Revolt of the Black Robes, Part II |
Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story |
This Week in History |
DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime |
The Reformer's Calendar
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