Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

Law Enforcement: Drug Cops Kill Two in Drug Raids in Florida and Tennessee

At least two US citizens were killed in their own homes by American police enforcing the war on drugs in a 48-hour period late last week. One was a 52-year-old white grandmother; the other was a 43-year-old black man. Both allegedly confronted home-invading officers with weapons; both were shot to death. No police officers were injured.
Brenda Van Zwieten
The combination of widespread gun ownership in the US and aggressive drug war policing is a recipe for tragedy, one that is repeated on a regular basis. Gun owners commonly cite protecting themselves from home-invading robbers as a reason for arming themselves, while police cite widespread gun ownership as a reason they need to use SWAT-style tactics, breaking down doors and using overwhelming force against potential shooters. That homeowners would pick up a weapon upon hearing their doors broken down is not surprising, nor is it surprising that police are quick to shoot to kill "suspects" who may pose a threat to them.

The first killing came Thursday morning in North Memphis, when a Bartlett, Tennessee, police narcotics squad serving a search warrant for drug possession -- not sales, manufacture, or possession with intent to sell -- shot and killed Malcolm Shaw, 43, after breaking into his home. Police said they knocked on Shaw's door several times and identified themselves as police before entering the home.

Police said Shaw emerged from a room and pointed a gun at plainclothes officer Patrick Cicci. Cicci fired once, killing Shaw. Cicci is on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

While the Bartlett Police investigation is ongoing, that didn't stop the Shelby County District Attorney's Office from announcing Monday that Cicci will not be prosecuted. Cicci's killing of the homeowner was "apparent justifiable use of deadly force in self defense," a spokesman said.

Bartlett police said that while the Bartlett narcs conducting the raid were not in uniform, their gear clearly identified them as law enforcement. They wore "high-visibility vests" marked "POLICE" in several spots, police said.

The killing of the well-known neighborhood handyman led to the formation of a crowd hostile to police outside his home. Bartlett police on the scene had to call Memphis police to do crowd control.

Memphis police complained that the Bartlett narcs had not followed law enforcement protocols requiring them to notify the local agency when they were operating in its jurisdiction. They said they were notified only as the raid commenced, and that moments later, they got a request for an ambulance at the address, and moments after that, they got a request that they send a couple of police cruisers for crowd control.

Timothy Miers, who said he was Shaw's brother, accused police of being trigger-happy. "How you gonna go in serving a warrant and shoot somebody?" Miers asked. "They already had their finger on the trigger."

The sense of disbelief over the killing was shared by members of the crowd gathered outside Shaw's home. Many complained about the officers' actions.

"My heart fell to the ground," one neighbor said.

"We can't believe it," said another. "Malcolm out of all people."

Family members expressed confusion about the shooting, saying Shaw was not a person they would have expected to threaten officers. "They say he had a gun," said Miers. "My brother doesn't have no gun."

Friends of Shaw said the same thing. "I ain't never seen him with no gun," said Arvette Thomas, a friend of Shaw.

Shaw never bothered anyone, neighbors said. "I think it's wrong to just kill him like they did," said a neighbor, "because he wouldn't hurt a fly."

Less than 48 hours later, members of a Broward County Sheriff's Office SWAT team and its Selective Enforcement Team in Pompano Beach, Florida, shot and killed Brenda Van Zweiten, 52, during a drug raid on her home. Police had developed evidence that drugs were being sold from the residence, and obtained a search warrant. After allegedly identifying themselves as police, they broke through a sliding glass door to a bedroom and arrested Van Zweiten's boyfriend, Gary Nunnemacher, 47, on charges of possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana. Van Zweiten was in a different bedroom, and was shot and killed by deputies when she emerged holding a handgun. According to police, she refused to put down her weapon, so they shot her.

Police reported finding one gram of heroin, four grams of crack cocaine, marijuana, marijuana plants, 40 generic Xanax tablets, $550 cash, two shotguns, and a rifle. Family members said Van Zweiten had a prescription for Xanax, but was not a drug dealer. But police had earlier in the day arrested three people leaving the home who they say had bought drugs there -- although police did not say from whom.

After Van Zweiten's killing, police were unrepentant. "When you approach a police officer with a loaded weapon and don't put the weapon down, there's going to be consequences," sheriff's spokesman Mike Jachles said. "It's unfortunate, but I'd rather be talking about a dead suspect than a dead cop."

Van Zweiten's brother, Bill George, said his sister had recently received threats and was afraid of break-ins. "It was an unlawful shooting," he said. "She's 98 pounds. She was just trying to protect herself. I would come out of my room with a gun too."

As news of Van Zweiten's death spread, friends, neighbors, and family members expressed dismay and disbelief. They called the incident a "set up" and said the blonde grandmother was affectionately called "Mom" by many who knew her for using her home as a neighborhood hangout to keep kids off the streets. Dozens of people gathered in her yard near a flower-bedecked cross put up as a memorial.

"Look at these people," said George. "She helped so many of these young people."

"She was like a second mom to me," said Michael Miller, 18. "She would take in anybody."

"There was no reason for this," said son Rob Singleton, 32.

Van Zwieten had no criminal history involving drugs or violence, state records show.

George said that Van Zweiten had reason to fear intruders because she had been threatened recently by a man accused of stealing watches and rings that were part of a shrine to two of her four sons, who had died within the past three years, one in a traffic accident, one of a drug overdose. She had just installed an alarm system last week, George said. "She was scared."

Singleton showed reporters inside the house, including the small bedroom where she was shot. A large puddle of blood remained on the floor, and the walls and ceiling were splattered with blood -- from his mother's head, he said. "She was probably running into the closet and trying to hide," he said.

As is all too typical in such raid, police also totally trashed the house. As the Sun-Sentinel reported: "Much of the interior of the three-bedroom house looked as if it had been hit by a tornado... Drawers were pulled from dressers, clothes were scattered, a bed was overturned, food and crockery had been knocked from kitchen cabinets." The shrine to her dead sons was also destroyed, Singleton said.

Two Broward County Sheriff's Office detectives are on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. They have not been named.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

"...I'd rather be talking

"...I'd rather be talking about a dead suspect than a dead cop."
So telling, so sad and so disgusting. The cops think they're on a level above the rest of us...


It turns out she had reason to be afraid, she was helping people, so the police got a warrant and put an end to it. Only in America !

Jean Boyd's picture

Tough on What?

Seems alot of people wanted "tough on crime" and we are sure getting it. It is just that the definition of crime has changed in the past twenty years. It used to be that if people came into your home with guns and rummaged through your stuff, they were the criminals. Who is guarding the guards? A lot of police have become lunatics and I tend to fear cops more than a bear.
It is going bad here in Washington state, two persons killed this week, one medical marijuana patient and then a kid that broke into a medical mariijuana dispensary? Not adding up to me. This is a back lash. We are breaking through on this drug war and the opposition is firing up their war tactics. And it is clear that they are targeting innocent people. But remember people, this is happening to scare us. When I heard about these incidents, it inspired me to gather more signatures for I-1068 the marijuana legalization initiative here in WA.

Just The Facts Maam

Dead men (and women) tell no tales.

Jean Boyd's picture


Are you a cop or something? I am no saying all cops are bad. But when whoever you are makes a statement such as this...What are you saying? That I should fear to speak up about these issues and pretend it is not happening. There are powerful people that want to end the drug war. We are alligned together. Fear is not part of my make-up.
Damn, if you wanted me to write just the facts in these comments, I would have to become Drug Policy. I am expressing how I feel about this immoral travesty.

One of the reasons British

One of the reasons British Americans rebelled against their king was

"For protecting (armed troops among us), by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States'

In America's Nixonian "War on Drugs" the agents of the Police State don't even bother with the mock trial. They kill with the same zeal and impunity as the Gestapo of Nazi Germany.



Cops are murderers not hero's these days. They are the rabid dogs on government leash there to do the bidding of the people who want to control everything. They don't care about your life, they only care about their results. Their results get people murdered and put in jail for doing nothing but trying to protect themselves while trying to live a happy life. Who cares if they had some weed? I care that the cops had automatic weapons and can break in peoples houses who have harmed no one. This drug war is a war on american's. It is for money. People are dieing so the cops can all drive mustang police cars and the government can take everything you own and use it to gain more power so they can rule more people with an even tighter iron fist.

When a cop dies I feel nothing but revenge. They kill us every day and they get metals and paid vacations. They murder us and it's justified by corrupt laws. I know people that have died at the hands of police just because the police thought that they were better than them and could get away with it. A cop kills you and he gets a metal and is sited for bravery, you kill a cop that is going to murder you for trying to protect yourself in your home and you get killed or imprisoned for life. They murder our pets when they break in our houses and our pets try to protect their homes. All over a little cannabis or whatever other drug that you should have the right to do. This is a war and we are being murdered.

They hassle our children for riding skate boards, they bother everyone who they want to terrorize, they are not our friends or our protectors. They are our guards in the prison that has been made out of america. They control our very lives that we were told were ours and they trash the very rights that we fought to get for the last 200 years. They are terrorists, they are gangs. They break the law EVERY SINGLE DAY and they do it just knowing that they are above the law and do not have to answer for the laws that they break.

Fuck the police and the terror they cause. They do more harm than good with their super egos and their automatic weapons. They are murderers and are not my friend. You call them for help and they arrest you for some off the wall thing and then YOU are the victim. The police should be here to protect us and our rights, they are here to arrest everyone for breaking the thousands of petty laws that the government came up with. The only laws that need to be enforced are laws against harming anyone else. The only ones harming anyone in this article are the police. This is another example of the government controlling you and harming you if you will not bend to their absolute rule. America is a prison nation, we have 25% of the whole world inmates. We have more people in prison than any 3 countries.

I am all about harming non and being a good person, but as long as there are ridiculous laws that do not protect people but convict them for doing nothing to anyone else then I do not support the tyranny that is a police officer. They are morally responsible for the things that they do, they are not above the law, they should not be allowed to commit murder but they do. They murdered those poor people because they were people who do not allow themselves to be mindless sheep. We know what laws are right and wrong and so do the police, but they enforce regulating what you do in the privacy of your own homes while you harm no one. I say as long as this goes on that every time a cop gets shot is just justice being dolled out for treating free people like prisoners in their own homes.

I do not condone violence at all, but if cops get what they give then that is the justice that they deserve. I do not think harming anyone even police officers is good, but as long as they terrorize americans then they get whatever they have coming to them. No I do not mean to write this to sound like I want to harm cops, I write this so everyone can see the anger that the police bring to american citizens. As is they do more harm than good and they think that they are the good guys. They are not the good guys as long as they support laws that were made by racists and the powerful only to control what can not be controlled. The war on drugs is a failure and should never have been allowed.

End the war on drugs and help bring back honor to the title of Police Officer.

Make police officers just as responsible of the damage they cost to other people as the rest of us. They should be charged more harshly because they understand the laws better and are the ones who are supposed to set the example. The rule like gangs and they die and kill like gang members. They need to learn to be respectful to every american citizen. They are there for us to use and they are there to protect us. They can't do that when they think they are better than everyone with their super egos. They can be better than that. They should deffer to every day citizens. We are their bosses because they are public servants. They should not be terrorizing us.

When we harm non we should be able to do what we will. What right does the government have to say what we can and can't do in our homes when we are not hurting anyone? Instead of our laws protecting our rights and freedom, our laws have been made to imprison us and trap us. We need to fix this to be a truly free america. We need to stop making crimes out of things that are not crimes. Cops have their uses, but their use should not be used to murder people and take away everything the hold dear just because they think they should have the right to lord over people who are just going about their lives trying to be good people.

I agree.

I agree with ya.
But this is why the American people need to be more interested in voting and politics. Police Chief, Sherriff, and voting for people in charge that do not just bow down and give the police departement whatever they want.
Half of the problem isn't even with the federal government and more about state and local laws. I totally support what you wrote, but at the same time I feel that you communicate the overall effect quite well. But it's the small things also, like how whenever a police officer is killed, everyone bows their head, everyones assumes the cop was a "good cop." Maybe more effort sometimes should be put into finding out "who the cop was," instead of always assumming that he was the one cop to "run into a burning building to save a baby." Anyways, peace out, I like what ya wrote.

Too many killed by drug cops

It's time to finally end this evil, insane war on drugs, just like we ended alcohol prohibition 77 years ago.


I agree with the person above me! They are stereotypical people that judge too much without looking in the mirror.

Can't wait till judgement day so God can tell them how big they messed up in their lifetimes. ;')

"License to Kill" not "Serve and Protect"

I have so much to say in reference to the ongoing problem but I think the subject says it all.

Law Enforcement must uphold the law, not be a hypocrite

Wow. If your going to end up killing them anyway, then they need to be using tranquilizers. If you are shot, your rights are taken away until proven not guilty... since you are dead if it had not been a tranquilizer gun shot. This is stupid. You don't kill people on the spot like that. I would laugh if a law enforcement officer broke in and came face to face with (the home owner) a law enforcement officer.

Violence solves nothing.

I hate drugs like these. But you don't just shoot someone down. It is simple as this. If you get shot, you get shot by a tranquilizer. If you live, you can't sue. Your lucky they did not use a real bullet. This would avoid death like in this situation, and you would not have the problem of being sued for doing it, because the person would be lucky to be alive. Since your allowed to kill someone on the spot like that, you should be allowed to instead use tranquilizer guns, you hear me cops? I take prescription drugs but I can't wait to be done with them thanks to EEG.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School