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Drug Raids: Atlanta Police Kill Woman, 92, Who Shot Invading Officers

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #462)
Consequences of Prohibition

Three undercover Atlanta police officers who kicked in the door of an elderly Atlanta woman to serve a no-knock search warrant for drugs were shot and wounded when the woman opened fire on the intruders. They returned fire, killing 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston inside her home.

Kathryn Johnston
Friends, neighbors, and relatives of the woman described her as a long-term neighborhood resident who was feeble and frightened, rarely letting even friends and neighbors enter her home, which she kept locked. She apparently opened fire as the police raiders broke through burglar bars on her front door. Johnson fired five shots from a revolver, wounding the three officers before she was killed by two shots to the chest.

As anger and concern grew in the community, Atlanta police worked urgently to explain and justify the killing. During a Wednesday press conference, Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher said police had purchased drugs from an unknown man earlier in the day at the Johnston residence and returned the same evening with a no-knock search warrant. That man was not found, but police said they found an unspecified amount of an unspecified controlled substance inside the home. Police originally said they knocked and announced their presence before entering the home, but that is now in doubt.

"It was a very tragic and unfortunate incident," said Assistant Chief Dreher, who added that Johnston was not suspected of selling drugs and that police knew nothing about her.

He got no argument from local activist the Rev. Markell Hutchins on that point. "This is one of the most tragic cases of police-involved use of force, not only in Atlanta, but in the nation," said Hutchins, who had counseled the family, and set up a meeting with a law firm. "It appears Mrs. Johnston was a model citizen. A good citizen and a matriarch of the community," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"A confrontation with police and a 92-year-old woman don't go together," echoed State Rep. "Able" Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta).

Although Assistant Chief Dreher promised "a complete, thorough investigation" of the killing, neighbors and community activists did not wait to take to the streets. On Wednesday evening, more than a hundred people gathered in front of the Johnston home for a candlelight vigil to demand justice in the case.

Johnson is only the latest victim of overzealous law enforcement in police raids gone bad, the vast majority of them related to drug law enforcement. See "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America" by Cato Institute analyst Radley Balko for an overview of the subject.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

In the years I worked as a Paramedic in a major Mid USA City, I never once ran a call where the chief complaint had anything to do with Marajuana. The closest I came to that was an irate father demanding that my crew test his 14 yo son for marajuana use. We told him we don't do that and this is in fact a misuse of the system. The son denied use to me apart from the father and I believed him. With all the drug laws and the gun toting law enforcement warriors, the Marajuana laws should be removed from all levels of prohibition and enforcement. This is because the use has little or no effect on the user beyond the current dosage they are on. The fact that a single death at the hands of the enforcement folks puts the laws in the position of being more harmful to the population than the drug itself. There is no way to justify this particular aspect of the drug laws. I also support the street cops in their job to enforce the law. It is the politicians who are responsible for this war on the citizens. It was Nixon who grabbed hold of this "issue" to try to alter the course of his demise as an office holder by rejuvenating the dormant drug war.
On the other hand, fully 45% of all the calls I ran were alcohol related. From trauma to end stage liver disease, alcohol is by far the worst drug out there. And it harms not only the user, but also their families and strangers in a wide array of medical problems. And though not as wide ranging as alcohol, tobacco is next in the devistating effects on users. The common thread of both of these drugs is that the government is complicit in the manufacture and distribution for the tax revenue they generate. That gives them motive to continue the hypocricy.
It is time for the people to demand that our representatives get out of the prohibition game. This drug war, regardless of any specific drug, continues to cause more damage to the population than the drugs themselves. Enough!

Fri, 11/24/2006 - 11:39pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The Atlanta Police Deparment should be ashamed of themselves, the people of Atlanta should be outraged, We need to spend money on keeping drugs from entering the country, but we all know who's bringing the drugs in. The amount of money being spent on housing the petty drugs abusers and small time drugs dealers, would be better spent in the educational system.
When will America speak up and be heard.


Sun, 11/26/2006 - 9:03am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a white woman in America, and I am furious at what is going on in NYC and Atlanta. It is pathetic that we are rolling around killing people and pretending like it is okay. I am surious that a bunch of government idiots have now created a situation that will cause racial disparities for those of us who do not like their behavior. I am now concerned the backlash for the recent actions are now going to affect white middle America because of a bunch of retarded people. If someone busted in my house in the middle of the night, they too would be shot.

Wed, 12/13/2006 - 11:53pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Sharanda Barnes. I am 18 years old and a senior attending Flint Southwestern Academy. The other day my English teacher asked us to write a persuasive essay about an important topic. At first I chose to write about the topic of the Drinking Age. I wanted it to be lowered, not because it is necessarily good to do that, but if teens had the choice to do something that was legal they wouldn't want to do it. I know I wouldn't have drank alcohol if it was legal because their wouldn't have been any humor in it. No I'm not proud that I have drank alcohol, but it just something that needed to be addressed. I now tell kids from my expierience that it's not something you want to do, but I know that people have to experience things themselves to tell if it's good or bad.I decided against that because while researching with my younger cousin who was writting his own persuasive essay about why drugs shouldn't be legalized it hurt when I saw all of those faces that were killed innocently and made me wonder...What has happened to our society? When it's o.k. for officers to be able to kill people and nothing happens to them but when we kill someone we get the worst punishment. It's almost repaying evil for evil which is not right. I'm not downing police officers for doing their jobs. I just want someone to address that maybe if we can't handle things withmaors and without killing tghen maybe nobody should be allowed to have weapons or they have to wait fot=r a certain time before firing.

Tue, 01/09/2007 - 11:27am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Whether or not the police enters a home, they have the reight to defend themselves. If someone shoots at them, well of course, they will shoot back....let's be fair , police is here to keep us safe

Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:25pm Permalink
Scott Michael (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

By kicking down the door and showing up in plain clothes the cops were asking to be shot at.  People have a right to know they are not being attacked by criminals (but rather that they are being attacked by cops).  Any idiot can yell "I am a police officer!" only to then kill you and take your stuff. No knock warrants are dangerous to both the police and those who they are searching or anyone inside the house. A Denver man was shot and killed for holding a soda can which the responding officer thought could be a weapon.  The saddest part is that the police had the wrong address. End no knock warrants for frivolous crimes before more police officers and more innocents are hurt.

Wed, 05/18/2011 - 5:50pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

cops are in jail ..the murders of innocents continue by the ones who wernt jailed i just wish somebody had given that old woman a ak 47 .so she would have had a chance .message to the old folks out there buy a auto shotgun load up with buckshot and aim just below the face shield of the helmet

Sat, 04/18/2009 - 11:19pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

When the police raids your house you have a right and a need to know it is the police and not someone else.

Sat, 12/26/2009 - 3:03pm Permalink

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