Grandmother's Death in Botched Drug Raid Leads to $4.9 Million Settlement

The 2006 killing of Kathryn Johnston gave the American public a window into the rampant incompetence and needless violence that so often characterizes modern drug enforcement. A massive settlement announced today will hopefully serve as a vivid reminder to police that dirty tactics can carry a heavy price.

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- The city of Atlanta will pay $4.9 million to the family of Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed in a botched November 2006 drug raid, Mayor Kasim Reed's office announced Monday.

Johnston was shot to death by narcotics officers conducting a "no-knock" warrant. Investigators later determined the raid was based on falsified paperwork stating that illegal drugs were present in the home.

In the four years since Johnston's death, we've seen equally dramatic national controversies emerge from Berwyn Heights, MD and Columbia, MO, as well as countless other disturbing events that for whatever reason failed to generate national outrage. I can only imagine that the next great drug raid fiasco is just around the corner. Until the drug war is brought to an end, the loss of innocent lives will continue and the cost of cleaning up the mess will fall on every one of us.

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Unfortunately, you twice misspelled Ms. Johnston's name, leaving out the T.  Please correct those errors.  We need to make certain we produce commentary and reporting that is as close to perfect as we can make it.  Correct spelling, grammar and usage matters, the further we fall from perfection in those things the less we will be perceived as worthy of being read or as knowledgeable as we purport to be on the subject of re-legalization.


Ok, I admit, spelling is important, but I think you missed the point Moonrider.

Nice note Scott.

No, I got the point

And other than the misspelling, Scott did a good job of making sure the point was made, I just think we ALL need to be more careful of our language arts if we want to be taken seriously.

Make the COPS pay!!

Until the murdering cops are made to pay such settlements nothing will change. Why should a cop on the street care if the City pays? The Courts should have made all cops involved pay, even if it meant taking everything they own and ever will own...take their homes and cars and savings and all future earnings, leaving them at poverty level forever. That is the ONLY thing that cops comprehend; when it hits them personally.


  The cops that murdered the old lady got a few years behind bars in a comfy low level jail where they would not be torn to shreds by the inmates, who would LOVE to get ahold of murdering cops that blew away an old woman, all based on lies. Cops are the enemy today, and all of us had better realize it.


  Make all cops pay out of their pockets and be supplemented by the City if they cannot come up with enough to settle the suit. But do NOT let the killer cops walk away from a slap on the wrist sentence to go back to living is an insult to the victims of police murder.

Oh but that would be "too

Oh but that would be "too harsh" and it would "take cops off of the street"


at least that would be the excuse anyway...

also, screw just taking away

also, screw just taking away their stuff. put them behind bars for MURDER! 25 years+ to think about their horrible abuse of power.

I totally agree Richie. If

I totally agree Richie. If the police catch someone with some plants they take everything they can away from that person. Even if it's just a small amount for personal use. Just ask Bernie Ellis in TN. He was growing MMJ for himself and giving, free of charge, some to a few seriously ill neighbors. For this he spent 8 years in prison, has paid thousands of dollars in court costs and restitution, and had to turn over a large section of his farm to the state. All he did was try to help people. Well these cops broke down an elderly ladies door, shot her dead, and planted evidence on her body to try and justify their heinous actions. I say take everything they own and let them rot in prison for the rest of their lives. That's exactly what would happen to any of us if we committed such an unthinkable crime.

borden's picture


A clarification about Bernie: He didn't go to prison for eight years. I think he spent some time in a halfway house. Bernie has described an eight-year ordeal -- a major ordeal, to be sure, but not eight years of incarceration. CannaZine has the story.

lolwut? has the right of it

make certain all cops get the same kind of legal treatment any other citizen would get for the same kind of accusation.  

And also Richie Rich, yes; suing, personally, the actual cops who are responsible for the deaths of innocents, human and animal, must become the first choice rather than suing the city(county/state).  Even if the attorney tries to tell you they are exempt from lawsuit, try it anyway, if your rights have been violated and/or your dog(s) or a member of your family killed in one of these incidents.  

The sooner bad cops start having to lose their own money and see jail terms over these incidents, the sooner these kinds of incidents will actually become "isolated incidents" rather than the standard operating procedure they are today.

No Knock Warrants???

What is the deal with no knock warrants? We have the right to bear arms, and to defend ourselves when threatened. It is perfectly legal to go to a gun shop and purchase a gun for self or home defense. So police are given warrants that allow them to knock down doors and come rushing in with weapons raised without first identifying themselves as police. Doesn't this create a situation where people are likely to get shot and killed even if they are innocent of any wrong doing, just for trying to defend themselves against an unknown threat. I have a gun and believe me if someone comes crashing through my door like that, I'm going to shoot first and ask questions later. It's call self defense, and it is legal. 

borden's picture

not true

Normally we delete comments that are suggestive of shooting police officers (not that I think you mean that), but I think it's important to point out how seriously you've misinterpreted both the implications of this case and the state of the law throughout the country on this.

In this case, Kathryn Johnston was killed precisely because she took that advice and shot at the intruders. They reacted by shooting and killing her. Ryan Frederick was charged with murder, convicted of manslaughter, and is spending 10 years in prison, for shooting through a door when his home was invaded, killing a police officer. Cory Maye faced a death sentence for this, later reduced to life. There are other examples.

I don't blame any of these three people at all for defending themselves against the attackers on their homes, attackers who to them were of unknown nature. But look where it got them. Police, prosecutors, judges and juries did not find that Frederick or Maye acted within their legal rights, and they never had the chance to determine that for Ms. Johnston. It's a terrible affront to justice, but that's the situation.

I don't claim to have an alternative to offer. It's a no-win situation, and one of the reasons that the proliferation of SWAT raids and other paramilitary actions is so repugnant and needs to be stopped.

Scott, you say grammar matters...

You talk about the importance of grammar, but do you realize that "Correct spelling, grammar and usage matters, the further we fall from perfection in those things the less we will be perceived as worthy of being read or as knowledgeable as we purport to be on the subject of re-legalization," is a run-on sentence, with a compound plural subject which does not agree with the singular main verb "matters"?  Perhaps you should be careful to mind your own grammar while correcting the grammar of others. 

My bad

I apologize, the above comment should have been addressed to moonrider, not Scott. 

When is enough, enough?

"Kathryn lived in a rough neighborhood and a relative gave her a gun for protection. When she noticed men breaking through her security bars into her house she fired a shot into the ceiling. They were narcotics officers and fired 39 shots back, killing her. The police had falsified information in order to obtain a no-knock search warrant based on incorrect information from a dealer they had framed. After killing Johnson and realizing that she was completely innocent, they planted some marijuana in the basement. Eventually their stories fell apart federal and state investigations learned the truth. Additional facts have come to light that this was not an isolated incident in the Atlanta police department." story located at:

This is an absolutely appalling tragedy and the list of victims of this unconstitutional drug war will continue to grow until we all stand up together and make ourselves heard.

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