2013 Drug War Killings

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Arizona Man Holding Air Rifle Killed in Drug Raid

Tempe, Arizona, police in the Special Investigations/Narcotics Unit serving a drug search warrant Wednesday afternoon shot and killed a man in his backyard as he held an air rifle. John Wheelihan, 43, becomes the 22nd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the sixth in the last month.

The victim appears to be a local photographer whose listed business address matches the address the police raided.

According to reports from local TV stations CBS 5 and ABC 15, citing police sources, police were executing a drug search warrant at Wheelihan's home on East Cairo Street when Wheelihan walked out the back door carrying a Whisper .22 caliber air rifle and began to approach detectives working the perimeter.

Tempe Police Sgt. Mike Pooley said Wheelihan raised his air rifle as he approached detectives, ignoring repeated demands to drop the weapon, so they shot him. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died of his wounds. No police were injured in the incident.

Police did not say whether they were serving a "no-knock" warrant, whether they were uniformed or undercover, or whether any drugs were discovered.

In the comments section of the ABC 15 story on the killing, posters who identified themselves as friends of Wheelihan were highly skeptical of the official story.

"I knew this man personally and so did many of my other friends/associates," wrote a poster identifying herself as Sandi Rollo. "This story is BS!!! If you didn't know him, keep your suspicions to yourself. Tempe Police fucked this one up. There is absolutely no way this man was suicidal and no way he did what they say he did. Dirty cops, dirty media."

Rollo pleaded for anyone who saw anything to step up. "If there are any eyewitnesses to this, please come forward," she wrote. "There is no way John would do this."

Tempe, AZ
United States

Baltimore Man Killed in Drug Possession Traffic Stop

A Baltimore man died Sunday night after scuffling with police who had pulled over the vehicle in which he was riding for "a traffic stop involving possible narcotics." Tyrone West, 44, becomes the 21st person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the fifth in the past four weeks.

According to WBAL TV 11, police said that after they pulled over the green Mercedes, West interfered with officers' efforts to search the vehicle. A struggle took place, and at some point, West become unresponsive. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he later died.

"He resisted the officers attempt to further investigate the possible possession of narcotics and a struggle ensued," Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said. "Some time after taking him into custody, the officers became aware that the individual was in what they believed was medical distress. They immediately began life-saving measures and requested the response of the ambulance," Rodriguez said.

WBAL reported that West had a lengthy criminal record, including resisting arrest charges, and had done 12 years in state prison on drug dealing charges.

WBAL spoke to various witnesses, none of whom wanted to be identified. One witness said police sprayed West with an unknown substance and beat him with billy clubs.

"The two police officers were on top of the man punching him in his side," the witness said. "They sprayed the man directly in his face. The man tries to get up to avoid that he can't see, but he knew he was being abused, so he ran. Police ran after him. He screamed for help because they started beating him with batons and everything."

Homicide detectives are investigating the incident.

Baltimore, MD
United States

Massachusetts SWAT Team Kills Armed Man in Drug Raid

Members of a Massachusetts SWAT team serving a search warrant in a pre-dawn drug raid Wednesday in the town of Orange shot and killed the apartment resident after he allegedly confronted them with a weapon. Corey Navarette, 23, becomes the 20th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the fifth in the past two weeks.

According to the Boston Globe, relying on police sources, members of the State Police Special Tactical Operations Team (STOP), a paramilitarized SWAT-style unit, shot and killed Navarette around 5:00am as they tried to search his apartment. When troopers entered the apartment, He "pointed an assault rifle at them and refused commands to submit," said State Police spokesman David Procopio. "A trooper or troopers discharged service weapons in response and struck the suspect."

Navarette was given first aid at the scene, but was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. A 25-year-old woman who also lived in the apartment "suffered an eye injury" during the incident, the Globe noted without further elaboration.

Procopio did not reveal whether it was a "no-knock" search, where police make forcible entry with little or no notice, but he did say the STOP team was deployed because "detectives had direct and credible intelligence that the suspect had indicated that he had firearms and would use them," Procopio said.

The two-story Mechanic Street property where the apartment was located has been on the radar of police for some time. In November 2011, a resident shot another man with a handgun hidden in the apartment. In May, police raided the building, seizing heroin, a scale, packaging materials, and five shotguns, and arresting the building manager.

The use of deadly force by state troopers is under investigation by Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan.

Orange, MA
United States

Los Angeles Deputies Kill Armed Man, 80, in Marijuana Raid

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies shot and killed an armed 80-year-old man as they served a search warrant on a marijuana grow operation in a remote part of the county early Thursday morning. The as yet unnamed man [Update: He has been identified as Eugene Mallory] becomes the 19th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the fourth in the past week.

According to NBC Los Angeles, deputies were serving a "narcotics" search warrant at the multi-unit rural property in the desert community of Littlerock at 7:30am. Lt. Dave Dolson told the TV station deputies entered the home through an unlocked front door, and one deputy fired when they encountered a man armed with a handgun. The man, who may have been the property owner, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Later Thursday afternoon, the Sheriff's Department released a statement on the killing.

"When deputies approached a rear bedroom at the location, they encountered an 80-year-old male who was armed with a semi-automatic handgun. The suspect pointed the handgun at the deputies and a deputy-involved shooting occurred," the statement read.

Deputies recovered the gun, marijuana, and growing equipment at the home where the man was shot. Residents who lived in other units on the property were detained, but later released.

The shooting will be investigated separately by several agencies, including the offices of the Los Angeles County District Attorney and Coroner, and the Sheriff's Homicide and Internal Affairs bureaus.

Littlerock, CA
United States

SWAT Team Kills Armed Homeowner in Dawn Drug Raid

An armed West Virginia homeowner who confronted dawn police raiders with a rifle was shot and killed by State Police officers Wednesday. Richard Dale Kohler, 66, becomes the 18th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the third in less than a week.

According to the West Virginia Gazette, State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said officers from the State Police special response team and DEA agents knocked on the door of Kohler's home at 6:05am. to serve a federal warrant. The newspaper described the special response team as "akin to a SWAT team."

Officers knocked on the door, Baylous said, but no one answered, so police "had to break down the door or forcefully open it somehow." Baylous gave no indication of the amount of time that elapsed between the initial knock on the door and police breaking it open.

When police break down the door, they saw Kohler pointing a rifle at them, Baylous said. The troopers opened fire, shooting multiple rounds and killing Kohler. Baylous said he did not think Kohler had fired his weapon, but it was still unclear.

Baylous said the warrant police were executing was part of a larger, ongoing drug investigation with multiple suspects. He would not comment further on the nature of the investigation, except to say that the DEA division involved was one that focused primarily on prescription drugs.

A neighbor told WSAZ TV that she had seen unusual amounts of traffic going to and from Kohler's home, but that she was surprised to hear he even had a gun.

"I mean, I can't see him just open fire like that, but you know when all that comes after you, you never know what somebody's going to do," Christina Murdock said.

Clay , WV
United States

One Dead After Charlotte Police Stage Drug Sting on Elementary School Grounds

An undercover drug sting in the parking lot of a Charlotte, North Carolina, elementary school ended up with one person killed and one person wounded, and a community wondering why police chose that particular location for their operation. Jaquaz Walker, 17, becomes the 17th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to reports from WSOC-TV and WBTV 3, police set up a marijuana buy between an undercover police officer, an informant, and two teenagers last Tuesday afternoon. Police said that during the drug deal, Walker pulled a gun and shot the informant in the shoulder in an attempt to rob him.

The undercover police officer then shot Walker in the head, killing him. The teen who accompanied Walker fled, but was arrested later.

"You know, you have 15, 16 year old kids out here wielding firearms, that's a very dangerous situation," said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who also defended the decision to do the deal in an elementary school parking lot. "Anytime you conduct an undercover operation, what's a good location? Whether it's a shopping mall or neighborhood, there is no real perfect location."

Monroe also said that school was out and that the site was chosen by Walker and his companion. "This was a location identified by individuals that we were seeking to purchase drugs from," he said. "We were aware that the school was empty of kids."

But residents of the neighborhood where the shooting took place were not mollified.

"It bothers me that I live right across from the school, and it is bad that it was on school grounds," said neighbor Wilmer Bourne. "That's what bothers me so much."

"It's been quiet in this neighborhood, ain't nothing happened over here, everything been good, it's always somebody come in the neighborhood and do this, it ain't nobody in our neighborhood," said resident Johnny Crank.

Charlotte, NC
United States

NYC Drug Suspect Dies in Struggle with Bronx Cops

A New York City man apparently choked to death on a bag of cocaine as he struggled with police officers Wednesday night. Jose Muniz, 52, becomes the 16th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the New York Daily News, citing police sources, officers spotted Muniz conducting a drug deal, and Muniz took off, ducking into a nearby bodega and attempting to swallow a bag of cocaine.

"We believe (Muniz) took a golf ball-sized packet of cocaine and put it into his mouth," said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "There was a struggle. When you look at the video, there were no blows struck. There was wrestling, if you will, and also pepper spray was used."

Police said they pepper-sprayed Muniz during the struggle, and he began choking and having difficulty breathing. Police and an EMS crew attempted to revive him at the scene, then the EMS crew took off with Muniz in an ambulance, where they pulled the bag of cocaine from his throat. It was too late; Muniz was pronounced dead upon arrival at North Central Bronx Hospital.

Police were quick to release Muniz' arrest record, which included 23 arrests, mostly for drugs, but also for burglary and grand larceny. He also had nine sealed arrests, mostly for drugs.

NYPD Internal Affairs will investigate the death.

New York City, NY
United States

Chicago Police Kill Fleeing Man in "Drug Area"

Chicago police shot and killed a man early Sunday morning on the city's West Side as he fled after they tried to pull over his car in "an area known for drug activity." Antwoyn Johnson, 21, becomes the 15th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to WLS-TV and the Chicago Sun-Times, both citing police sources, officers tried to stop the vehicle in which Johnson was a passenger, and he jumped out and fled. The officers chased him into an alley in their vehicle, where they saw him slip and fall to the ground. They got out of their vehicle and approached him, with Johnson grabbing his weapon as he tried to stand. One officer fired his own weapon, fatally wounding Johnson.

"As he's running, he's got a gun in his belt, in his back. As he goes to the ground, he's falling and reaching for the gun at the same time. At that point, the officers open fire. I believe the offender is DOA," said Fraternal Order of Police's Pat Camden.

Police say they found a weapon at the scene. Johnson's family disputes the police version of events, according to DNA Info Chicago. Family members said police recovered no weapon and Johnson was shot three times in the back.

Johnson, who had arrests for cocaine dealing in 2008 and marijuana possession in 2011 and had spent time in jail, was uncomfortable around police, family members said.

 "They shot my son for no reason," Liberty Johnson said. "He panicked because he doesn't like police. He gets out of the car and runs. You automatically think just because he’s black, he has a gun on him?"

The Johnson shooting received short shrift in a city beset by its worst spate of violence this year. Over the weekend, 10 people were killed and more than 40 wounded in shootings.

Chicago, IL
United States

Ft. Worth Man Tasered to Death in Fruitless Drug Raid

A Forth Worth, Texas, man died after being subjected to electric shocks by police executing a drug search warrant earlier this month. Jarmaine Darden, 34, becomes the 14th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Jarmaine Darden (family photo)
According to Dallas-Fort Worth CBS 11 TV, Fort Worth police "zero tolerance officers" were searching for cocaine when the incident happened. They didn't find any, but they did find Darden asleep on his couch. The 350-pound Darden suffered from asthma and had to sleep sitting up, family members said.

A police report said Darden resisted arrest -- although it is unclear what he was being arrested for, given that no drugs were found on him -- and was shocked at least twice by a taser. He then stopped breathing and died. Two other people present in the home were arrested for drug offenses, but both just for possession -- one for marijuana, another for an unidentified "controlled dangerous substance."

Family members who were present disputed the police account.

"They physically pulled him off the couch because, like I said, he was asleep. They pulled him off the couch and they tried to put him on his stomach. He can't breathe on his stomach. He don't even lie on the bed on his stomach," said Donna Randle, the mother of the victim. "He had his hands behind his back the whole time. But me and about five other people were hollering the whole time, 'He cannot breathe like that. Please handcuff him on his side,'" said Randle.

According to Eric Darden, the victim's brother, a police officer warned Jarmaine that if he didn't get on his stomach, they would tase him, and they did.

"I'm not even accepting the fact that he's gone. I'm waiting for him to drive up any minute. It's just not believable," said Randle, adding that he left behind two teenage sons.

Fort Worth police have yet to publicly comment on the death, but community leaders said Police Chief Jeff Halstead has promised to keep them informed as the department investigates.

Some people aren't waiting for the police. A Justice for Jarmaine Darden online petition asks that Fort Worth police be better trained in the use of tasers "to prevent serious injury and death." As of this writing, there are only 22 signatures on that petition. [Update: As of Wednesday, June 5, there are now 12,993 signatures.]

Fort Worth, TX
United States

CA Police Chase of Pot Car Ends in Fatal Crash

A Nevada man died Monday afternoon after his marijuana-laden car crashed during a high speed police pursuit on Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The as yet unnamed man becomes the 13th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to KCRA TV, the California Highway Patrol began pursuing a BMW near Big Bend, and the chase lasted 20 minutes at speeds exceeding 100mph before the BMW driver lost control, his car went airborne, and containers and jars of marijuana went flying.

According to KCRA's reporter, Claire Doan, it was the transport of marijuana "which might have started this traffic nightmare on I-80."

In addition to the deceased driver of the BMW, two California Conservation Corps workers who were working on the side of the highway were also injured, with one of them suffering "major head injuries" and being transported by helicopter to a hospital in Sacramento.

Dutch Flat, CA
United States

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