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Another Trio of Drug War Deaths

Colorado and Washington may have legalized marijuana, but the drug war continues apace. We here record two more deaths in the name of drug prohibition. The two who died in separate incidents become the 57th and 58th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

In Cartersville, Georgia, an as yet unidentified 66-year-old woman was shot and killed in her home by drug task force members executing a search warrant there, according to local press reports. Police said members of the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force were executing the search warrant after dusk last Thursday evening when they encountered an "armed assailant" and opened fire.

A member of the woman's family said police entered with a "no-knock" warrant, meaning they were allowed to legally burst into the home without notifying the residents beforehand.

Police said the two shooters have been placed on administrative leave pending an inquiry by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

"That was my aunt and she has never ever hurt anyone," wrote someone identifying herself as Tina Bunn in the comments section of the article linked to above. "She had a heart like no one I ever seen, but her being shot by cops, I don't even know what to say, but what is our world coming to today? You will be so missed and we will think about you every day. I hope your afterlife is what you thought it would be, and say hi to all our family that left before you, and one day we will all be back together. RIP and God be with us to help us with this pain of saying good bye."

"This was a good woman, had a heart of gold that lived alone with her two dogs!" added a commenter identified only as Brandon. "She didn't deserve to be shot down like that! She had to be scared and couldn't have known what was going on! I hope the police officers that pulled the triggers feel real good and powerful about what they did! We will always love and miss you, Miss Jean! RIP."

In Tucson, Arizona, Vladimir Cardenas, 23, was shot and killed by a Pima County deputy sheriff during a traffic stop Friday as he traveled with drugs and weapons in his car, according to a Pima County Sheriff's Department press release. Police said a deputy pulled over Cardenas' vehicle in north Tucson, and while the two men talked, Cardenas pointed a gun at the deputy, who then shot him. He died soon after at a local hospital.

The deputy who shot Cardenas was identified as Nicholas Norris. He has been placed on routine administrative leave while the shooting is probed.

As part of the investigation conducted at the scene Friday night, detectives with the Sheriff's Criminal Investigation Division obtained a search warrant for Cardenas' vehicle. They found different types of drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a variety of weapons. Cardenas was also wanted on a misdemeanor warrant from Tucson.
 

Two More Drug War Deaths Last Week

A Louisville, Kentucky, woman was killed in a high-speed chase as police pursued a drug suspect last Tuesday and a St. Paul, Minnesota, man was shot and killed by police officers trying to arrest him on crack cocaine charges that same day. Stephanie Melson, 31, and Victor Gaddy, 41, become the 52nd and 53rd persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to Louisville Courier-Journal, Melson was driving in her vehicle in West Louisville when it was struck by a pickup driven by a man later identified as Joseph Johnson, 63, who was being pursued by up to a half-dozen marked and unmarked police cruisers at high speed.

While Louisville police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley wouldn't initially confirm that a high-speed chase had taken place, she did say the incident began as a drug investigation. Detectives were investigating at 40th Street and Broadway when a pick-up fled the scene. Police pursued it several blocks before it ran a stop sign and collided with Melson's vehicle.

"They still have to review the in-car video," Smiley said. "They still have to interview the officers as well as the guy who's in the hospital [Johnson, the suspect]."

But eyewitness Nita Gardner told the Louisville Courier-Journal she was sitting on her front porch with a friend one house away from the intersection where the accident occurred when they saw Melson's car approach the intersection. At that point, she said, they heard sirens, "and at the same time, the truck just came and smashed her. He rammed her, which pushed her car all the way four houses down and she flipped," Gardner said.

Gardner said she blamed police for Melson's death. "If the police were not chasing that man, he wouldn't have did that. I don't think he woke up to say, 'I'm going to kill this woman," she said. "The truck came fast first, but the police car was right behind him -- not a second behind him, like right behind him," with five or six unmarked cars also following, she said.

Kerry King, the father of Melson's three children, told the Courier-Journal the next day that he held Johnson responsible for her death, but also the police.

"Just as the man who ran into her is responsible, the Louisville police department shares a responsibility too," said King. "These streets aren't that wide. They don't need to be flying through here. It's sickening and it needs to stop."

Police charged Johnson with murder in Melson's death. He is also charged with fleeing police, disregarding a traffic control device, two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana, and receiving stolen property. Police said they found large amounts of cocaine in his vehicle and more cocaine and guns at his home.

Louisville police spokesman Dwight Mitchell said last Wednesday that the department's Professional Standards Unit would review whether officers complied with policies on pursuits. Those policies say police "must weigh the immediate danger or the potential danger to the public, should the suspect be allowed to remain at large, against the danger or potential danger created by the pursuit itself."

"Every pursuit is always evaluated to see what could have been done differently," Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, undercover Minneapolis police had enlisted the help of St. Paul police to stop Gaddy, whom they had been informed was delivering crack cocaine. When unmarked police cars boxed in Gaddy's vehicle, police said he rammed into the police cars in front of and behind him.

Gaddy "accelerated rapidly toward one of the police vehicles, striking it and nearly pinning a St. Paul police officer between the suspect vehicle and the police vehicle," then reversed and rammed another vehicle, police said. "Several officers were in harm's way while the driver of the suspect vehicle appeared to use his car as a weapon," leading officers to shoot him.

But Gaddy's nephew, Terrence Wilson, 20, who was a passenger in the car and whom police have charged with drug possession, disputes the police account, his attorney said.

"He thinks the police murdered his uncle and doesn't think his uncle was doing anything aggressive to police," attorney Bruce Wenger said. "The police felt threatened, apparently, by his (Gaddy's) driving, but my client has said his uncle was not using his car as a weapon as the police have indicated."

Gaddy had a long criminal history with several drug convictions and was known as a crack supplier by Minneapolis police. They found nearly an ounce of crack in and around his vehicle after the shooting.

His older sister, Rayela Gaddy, told the Pioneer Press said she wouldn't "paint some pretty picture" of him but said he wasn't a "menace" as police portrayed him. "A lot of people do things they shouldn't do, but as far as being a 41-year-old man who is executed in the middle of the street, who is unarmed, who is in his car -- whatever kind of person he was, it didn't justify killing him," she said.

Gaddy said she didn't think her brother would try to escape police or ram their cars. "I think he knew the procedure," she said of his having being arrested before. She added that the family would pursue justice for her brother in the courts.

Baltimore Police Change Story on Drug Custody Death

A 46-year-old Baltimore man died Friday night after allegedly swallowing drugs as police attempted to arrest him. The as yet unidentified man becomes the 47th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

[Update: The man has been identified as Anthony Anderson, a black male. The police story has evolved. The original version follows below. The updated version appears after that.]

According to Baltimore police spokesman Donny Moses, officers observed the man selling drugs at the corner of Montford and Biddle Streets early Friday evening. As they attempted to place him under arrest, he placed an unknown amount of drugs in his mouth and swallowed. Within minutes, he became ill.

Police transported him to the Johns Hopkins Medical Center for treatment, but he was pronounced dead a short time later. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Not everyone is buying the police version of events. One local minister told the Baltimore Sun he is investigating what happened.

"There are some sharp differences between the accounts of the eyewitnesses and what we're hearing from the police," said the Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, local leader of the Southern Leadership Christian Conference. "We have tremendous concerns about what took place," Witherspoon said, adding that he would not characterize them until he has more information.

Baltimore police said investigations are underway by both the homicide and the internal affairs divisions.

[Update: The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday that police revised their initial account Monday, saying the cause of death was unclear pending an autopsy. Police also acknowledged that Anderson had physical injuries, including at least one broken bone.

The Sun also reported that "an account that describes Anderson being manhandled by police has whipped through the neighborhood, and those who have had encounters with police say it fits into their perception of overly aggressive drug police they refer to as 'knockers.'"

Dozens of people rallied Tuesday at the trash-strewn field where Anderson died, where activists said they saw the incident as yet another reason for their ongoing protests against police brutality and corruption. They called for city residents to attend Anderson's funeral as small children held signs reading"Jail Killer Police."]

Activists leading the rally Tuesday — the Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon and Sharon Black, who represents All People's Congress — said they want to use the incident to step up their ongoing protests against what they say is police brutality and corruption.

They've called for residents across the city to attend Anderson's funeral and march through the streets afterward. Small children held signs that read "Jail Killer Police."

Police said they continued to investigate and asked for patience.].



 

Baltimore, MD
United States

SF Bay Area Police Kill Man, Seize Ecstasy Tablets

Police in the gritty San Francisco Bay area suburb of Vallejo shot and killed one man and wounded another early Sunday morning and seized about 50 Ecstasy tablets in a roadside encounter turned fatal. Mario Ramiro, 23, becomes the 45th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to KTVU TV News, citing police sources, two Vallejo Police officers were on patrol about 4:30am Sunday in "an area known for recent gang-related activity" when they spotted two men sitting in a vehicle. The police turned their patrol car spotlights on the vehicle to illuminate it.

Police said the driver, Ramiro, got out of the vehicle and they saw the butt of a handgun in his waistband. Police said Ramiro, partly hidden behind the driver's door, reached for the gun and began turning toward the officers. The officers then opened fire, but Ramiro remained crouched behind the driver's door. Police said he did not comply with their demands to show his hands and instead reached toward the vehicle's center console. So they shot him some more. Police said they fired 30 rounds, and Ramiro slumped over.

Ramiro was taken to a Vallejo hospital where he died shortly thereafter. The passenger, Joseph Johnson, 21, was shot at least five times and was being treated at a hospital in Walnut Creek.

After the shooting, police searched the vehicle and found not a handgun but an airsoft pellet gun, which was the weapon they had spotted in Ramiro's waistband, and more than 50 Ecstasy tablets.

Ramiro's sister, Cynquita Martin, told KTVU that she watched the shooting from inside a nearby home and that neither man posed a threat to police. She accused police of out-of-control shooting as angry friends and family members gathered in front of the police department Sunday afternoon. Video of the aftermath showed multiple bullet holes in the vehicle's windshield.

"When I went to the window I saw him [a police officer] re-clip his gun, hop on the hood and just start firing," Martin said. "His arms was out the window. My brother is slumped in the car already."

Ramiro's mother Cynthia also said the police didn't have to use deadly force.

"The Vallejo Police Department has killed my son, an innocent person sitting in the car and then they're trying to make it like it's a shootout," she said. "It wasn't a shootout. The only shootout was them shooting him."

The Vallejo Police and the Solano County District Attorney's office are investigating. Vallejo Police already announced that both Ramiro and Johnson were on parole for felony weapons violations.

Vallejo, CA
United States

Alabama Narcs Kill One, Wound One

Undercover narcotics officers with the Hueytown Police shot and killed one man and wounded another in nearby Brighton last Wednesday afternoon. Calvin Robinson, 21, becomes the 44th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to a statement on the Hueytown Police Facebook page: "Hueytown Narcotics investigators were involved in an incident today in Brighton. Shots were fired. Thankfully, neither officer was injured. The incident is now being investigated by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. It would be improper for us to comment further until this investigation is complete. We appreciate the timely assistance of the JCSO, Birmingham PD, and Brighton PD. I ask that the public wait until the investigation is complete before drawing conclusions about this incident. Thank you. Chief Hagler."

At this point, there is no indication that Robinson or the as-yet unnamed wounded man were armed or had fired on police. Nor is there any word about whether any drugs were found.

Police have made no further statements since then except to describe the shooting victims as "suspected drug dealers," but a witness interviewed by CBS 42 News said he saw several police cars chasing Robinson's vehicle down the Bessemer Highway before it turned off the freeway and headed toward Robinson's home. 

"It was, you had about five of them that was coming behind that car. But by the time I turned around right here, all you could hear was gunshots," said Briscoe Fuller. "That didn't make no sense all that shooting they did."

Robinson's family told CBS 42 they were still coming to grips with his killing, but wanted justice.

"What's going through my mind right now is he was a 21-year-old young man who still had a whole life ahead of him to lead. And as an educator myself I see a senseless killing that took place today," said Angela Kornegay James, Robinson's cousin. "He was less than, as the young man said earlier, 20 feet away from his house. You can see his back yard from the place where he was killed so apparently he was trying to just make it home."

"I loved my brother," said Tyrus Robinson. "My brother don't bother nobody. My brother works. It was a senseless killing. We not going to stop until we find justice."

Brighton, AL
United States

Iowa City Man Killed in Undercover Drug Operation

Members of the Johnson County Drug Task Force conducting an undercover operation at a run-down trailer park just outside the Iowa City city limits shot and killed one man and wounded another last Thursday evening. Ivan Carl Hardemon, 24, becomes the 43rd person to die in US domestic drug law operations so far this year.

Police are releasing few details of what actually happened, but a Department of Public Safety press release said two state agents with the Division of Narcotics Enforcement assigned to the task force were conducting an undercover operation at a trailer in the park when "an altercation ensued and shots were fired," leaving Hardemon dead and another man, Demarco Dudley, wounded.

The passive-voice press release very carefully does not say whether Hardemon or Dudley fired shots, nor does it make any mention of weapons or drugs recovered at the scene. Police said they would not release more information until their investigation is completed.

The shooting left neighbors uneasy. Patty Krueger, who lives nearby, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen she no longer felt safe in the neighborhood.

"I have kids at home, I don't like the fact that the neighborhood's been disrupted like this," Krueger said. "I've felt safe out here for the last few years and now it doesn't seem like it's safe anymore."

Update: In a later report, undercover police said Hardemon and Dudley attempted to rip them off when they showed up with a large sum of money to buy drugs and gunfire was exchanged.

Iowa City, IA
United States

New Orleans Police Officer Indicted in Drug Raid Killing

In an unusual step, the New Orleans police officer who shot and killed an unarmed young man during a March drug raid aimed at small-time marijuana distribution has been indicted on manslaughter charges. Officer Joshua Colclough was indicted last Thursday and turned himself in for booking the following day.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/wendell-allen-200px.jpg
Wendell Allen (family photo)
Colclough shot and killed Wendell Allen, 20, as he served a search warrant at Allen's Gentilly residence. Colclough encountered Allen at the top of a stairway in the house and shot him once in the chest. No weapon was found.

Allen was the 15th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year. The death toll is now at 42 and will go to 43 later today when we post an article about the latest drug war killing, this one in an Iowa City drug raid late last week.

No officers have been indicted in any of those deaths. And despite drug war deaths at the rate of more than one a week in recent years, no police officers have been indicted in any of those incidents since an Ohio police officer was indicted in the killing of an unarmed woman and the wounding of the baby she was holding during a January 2008 SWAT raid. That officer was indicted on two misdemeanor counts of negligent homicide and negligent injury, but later acquitted.

The unusual indictment in the Allen killing came after the shooting generated outrage in the city, including threats from the Louisiana Justice Institute to sue the city if it did not release information about the case and take it to a grand jury. It also comes at a police department that just last month agreed to comprehensive reforms under the eye of the US Justice Department as a result of a pattern of misconduct in the department.

Officer Colclough spent the weekend in jail under a $300,000 bond. A bail reduction hearing was set for Monday.

New Orleans, LA
United States

Lebanon Hashish Eradication Hits New Obstacle

Last week, we reported on armed resistance against Lebanese government marijuana plant eradication teams in the Bekaa Valley, one of the world's leading hashish-producing regions. The country's Internal Security Forces (ISF) aren't having much easier going this week, though at least no one is shooting at them.

A Lebanese marijuana plot before being burned by eradicators (wikimedia.org)
But if no one is shooting, no one is cooperating, either, according to the Daily Star. The Beirut newspaper reported that the ISF had to postpone operations to destroy marijuana fields in Hermel Tuesday after it was unable to hire enough bulldozers to plow the plants under.

The bulldozer owners in the area are refusing to rent out their machinery for eradication operations out of fear they will be targeted by the marijuana growers. They pointed to skirmishes on the outskirts of Baalbek last week that left one policeman wounded and two police vehicles damaged. Of more direct concern to the bulldozer owners, 15 tractors were attacked during that incident, and the drivers said they were warned against participating in the crackdown.

ISF units accompanied by the Central Office of Drug Control and the Lebanese Army headed to Hermel to begin eradication there Tuesday morning, but had to abort the operation when the bulldozers failed to arrive. The Daily Star also reported that the forces on the ground decided to delay the operation "to avoid confrontations between prominent families in the area."

Lebanon is one of the world's leading hash producers, and the Bekaa Valley has long been known as a site of cannabis production. During the Lebanese civil war, the trade blossomed into a multi-billion dollar business, but after the war, the government banned it in 1992, and has undertaken eradication operations with varying degrees of enthusiasm each year since.

Farmers in the Bekaa say their area has been poor and marginalized for decades and that attempts to come up with substitute crops have been ineffective. Efforts to get farmers to switch to crops like sunflowers, saffron, and tobacco have not gone well, with the crops proving unsuitable for the environment and not as profitable as marijuana, and support for crop substitution programs has been inconsistent.

The eradicators have about another month to get at the sticky cash crop before Lebanese harvest season begins in earnest.

Bekaa Valley
Lebanon

Lebanon Hash Farmers Attack Eradicators

hashish (wikimedia.org)
Lebanese security forces began eradicating cannabis fields in the Bekaa Valley Monday, but locals fought back with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, wounding one policeman and damaging two vehicles and forcing a temporary halt to the destruction of the crop, the Daily Star reported. The attack on the eradicators took place near the village of Boudai, on the outskirts of Baalbek.

Lebanon is one of the world's leading has producers, and the Bekaa Valley has long been known as a site of cannabis production. During the Lebanese civil war, the trade blossomed into a multi-billion dollar business, but after the war, the government banned it in 1992, and has undertaken eradication operations with varying degrees of enthusiasm each year since.

Hash producers also fought back Monday morning by using burning tires to block roads in some neighborhoods in Baalbek and in the town of Boudai. Police managed to clear those blockages by midday Monday. And armed men also attacked tractors used to destroy the crop. The National News Agency reported that 15 tractors were attacked in Ain al-Sawda, with the drivers reporting that they were warned not to take part in the eradication effort.

The hash farmers accused the Lebanese government of depriving them of their main source of income and neglecting the area's development needs. They argued that the Valley has been poor and marginalized for decades, and repeated crop substitution efforts have been half-hearted at best.

But Colonel Adel Mashmoushi, head of the Lebanese anti-drug agency, defended the eradication effort. He called cannabis "a dangerous poison" and warned "drugs will spread in Lebanese society," if the crop is not destroyed.

"Everybody knows that if we do not destroy cannabis, this will tarnish Lebanon's reputation on the international level," he added. "These plants deprive the Bekaa of all legitimate sources of making a living. God willing, in the coming days will prove how serious the state is in this move, we will continue to destroy cannabis until the last plant is eradicated."

And so begins the harvest season in Lebanon.

Baalbek
Lebanon

NYPD Police Officer Indicted in Ramarley Graham Killing

Ramarley Graham
A New York City police officer has been indicted on manslaughter charges in the Bronx shooting death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham. Graham, a young black man, was shot and killed in the bathroom of his own home after a team of NYPD narcotics officers followed him home, broke in, and confronted him.

When he was killed in February, Graham was the eighth person to die in drug law enforcement activities so far this year. That number is now up to 28. The indictment of NYPD Officer Richard Haste is the first of any officer in any of those deaths.

Although the indictment has not been officially unsealed, the New York Times reported that a grand jury has indicted Haste, 30, on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter. More charges could be pending.

Graham was shot and killed after he and a pair of friends caught the attention of narcotics officers who had staked out a bodega on White Plains Road. They radioed their colleagues and said they believed he had a gun in his waistband as he walked toward his home. Officer Haste dashed to the scene, broke into Graham's apartment, and shot and killed him in his bathroom.

No weapon was found, but police did say they found marijuana in a plastic baggie in the toilet bowl, suggesting Graham may have been trying to get rid of the evidence to avoid becoming another New York City pot bust statistic.

The shooting has provoked anger in the community and led to numerous calls for justice for Graham and other victims of overzealous policing in the city. It has also focused attention on the aggressive tactics of the NYPD's Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, teams of officers who surreptitiously surveil the streets looking for drug deals before bursting in to bust dealers and customers.

The Graham shooting has focused attention on the aggressive tactics of the Police Department’s Street Narcotics Enforcement Units -- teams of six or seven officers who hide on rooftops or in parked cars as they scan the streetscape for drug transactions before swooping in to arrest dealers and customers. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered a review of the units' tactics, but the results of that review have not been released.

The last time NYPD officers were indicted for killing a resident was when three of them riddled Sean Bell's body with bullets as he attended his pre-wedding party in 2007. Those officers were eventually found not guilty.

New York, NY
United States

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