Police/Suspect Altercations

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More Bad News: Shaq is a Cop

Radley Balko reports that Shaq has been going on SWAT missions. They let him carry a gun, and he’s already had his first wrong address raid and his first misconduct complaint.

Shaq was cleared of any wrong-doing after being accused of excessive force by a drug suspect. Bear in mind of course that getting cleared of misconduct following a SWAT raid is incredibly easy. So one lucky suspect may very well have gotten his ass kicked by Shaq. That’s awesome, but it could also be a sign of terrible things to come.

The madness of it all left Radley Balko "speechless". Had it not, he would likely point out that this is yet another unintended admission by police that they actually feel quite safe during these raids. After all, if executing a warrant is so dangerous, why would you bring along a man whose body is worth millions? Seriously. He’s easier to shoot than just about anybody.

United States

No Winners in Chicago Open Air Drug Market Bust

An article by Michelle Keller in the Chicago Tribune today very factually reported on a police raid and shutdown of an open-air drug market. Fourteen suspects described as gang members were charged with conspiracy and delivery of a controlled substance, according to the article. Things got a little dicey just before the arrests were finally made:
One undercover officer was held at gunpoint while attempting to buy $500 worth of cocaine during the operation, dubbed "Heat Wave" for the high temperatures recorded when the operation was started in July. "I was very scared," said the officer, who had previously arranged to buy 10 "jabs" of crack cocaine. The dealers knew he would have several hundred dollars on him, said the officer.
Police then stepped in to make the arrests. The market -- reportedly operated by a gang known as "The Conservative Vice Lords" -- operated near a pre-K-8 school, Keller reported. Sgt. Carlos Mostek told her, "Had any gunfire erupted, the children who were attending school would have been in harm's way." That's a valid concern. I hope the bust was not done during school hours or anywhere near school hours, because gunfire could certainly have broken out as part of that. I also hope the undercover officer attempted his buy during non-school hours -- his activity also nearly prompted gunfire. This is a losing situation from beginning to end. Because of prohibition we have this open air markets, staffed by gang members who are willing to shoot at each other -- risking the lives of bystanders in the process -- in order to protect their turf or to capture turf from others and thereby increase their market share. A police raid, while shutting the market down, in the process increased the overall danger in the vicinity, at least for as long as the sting and bust were in process. Will the corner calm down? Perhaps, but the activity may restart even there, and if not it will certainly move to somewhere else. Sometimes these busts lead to more internecine violence as rival operators fight each other for the opportunity to be the new guys on the block. Sometimes the instability even draws in new drugs to the neighborhood that weren't common there before. Legalization, not raids and arrests, is what will clean the mess of the illegal drug trade off the streets. Click here to send a letter to the editor. Note: According to gangresearch.net, the Conservative Vice Lords started as a gang but transformed themselves into a community empowerment organization. I don't know enough about this topic to offer an evaluation; I just got the name of the reported gang from the article. If anyone is able to clarify this issue, please post your knowledge here for us. Thanks in advance.
Chicago, IL
United States

Cory Maye to be Re-sentenced!

Huge news from Radley Balko. Cory Maye’s attorney Rhonda Cooper was found incompetent during the sentencing phase, which means Maye’s death sentence is vacated, at least for now.

For anyone unfamiliar with the case, Cory Maye was sentenced to death in Mississippi after fatally shooting a police officer who he mistook for a burglar. Maye lived alone with his infant daughter and had no criminal record. The raid appears to have been a mistake, but Maye’s apparent attempt to defend his home and daughter led to a murder conviction and a now-vacated death sentence.

Balko’s article in Reason Magazine provides an in-depth look at the case, which I’d argue is one of the most compelling stories of injustice yet to emerge from our disastrous war on drugs.

Read the article
, then check out Balko’s blog The Agitator for on-going coverage of Maye’s appeal. There's a lot happening with the case over the next couple weeks , so this is a great time to get caught up.


United States

NY Police Handcuff Children and Shoot a Dog all for a $60 Bag of Pot

With Radley Balko busy uncovering conspiracies in Mississippi I guess I’ll address this week’s paramilitary policing disaster:

From the Times-Union in Albany, NY:

A police strike team raided a woman's Prospect Street apartment and handcuffed her children and killed her dog early Tuesday in a $60 pot bust.

The woman called it excessive force and a case of mistaken identity, but officers said they stormed the home for a good reason: One of her sons was selling marijuana there.

Woodyear said she is appalled about the way her children were treated -- and said her 12-year-old daughter was hit with pepper spray.

The dog, a pit bull terrier named Precious, urinated on the floor in fear and tried to run from the police before it was killed, Woodyear said.

Police said the animal was aggressive and left them no choice but to shoot.

Elijah Bradley said he awoke to find armed men in his home. "They had the shotgun in my face," the 11-year-old said. "I punched at him. I didn't know who he was."

Apparently they're trying to send us a message:

"The moral of the story is: If you don't want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, don't let drug dealers stay with you and deal drugs out of your apartment," [Police Lt.] Frisoni said.

If only it were that simple. Alas, innocence is no protection against police violence.

Ultimately, if you don’t want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, you can begin by contacting your legislators, supporting reform, and taking a stand against the vicious war that encourages our public servants to shoot dogs and pepper-spray innocent children.

United States

Rainbow Farm Deaths Remembered: Supporters Mark Fifth Anniversary of Campground Standoff

Cassopolis, MI
United States
South Bend Tribune

Law Enforcement: Drug War Takes Another Officer's Life

A Beckley, West Virginia, narcotics officer was shot and killed early Tuesday morning in an undercover drug buy gone bad, the Beckley Register-Herald reported Wednesday. Detective Cpl. Charles "Chuckie" Smith, 29, was hit by numerous gunshots as he attempted to make an arrest after a late-night crack cocaine purchase.

Two area men were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Smith's death and are at the Southern Regional Jail awaiting a bond hearing in Raleigh County Circuit Court.

According to the criminal complaint filed against the pair, Smith contacted one of them to make a crack cocaine purchase, then met the pair near a Beckley night club. When one of the men delivered some rocks to Smith, he flashed his badge. One man ran, but the other pulled a gun and shot Smith multiple times.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund, in the last decade, law enforcement officers have been killed at the rate of about 165 per year, with slightly more than half of those deaths due to accidents. The drug war takes the lives of about a dozen officers each year.

Police Killing of Suspect Tests Newark's Novice Mayor

United States
New York Times

Marijuana Grow Outside Santa Cruz -- Could Have Been Dangerous, But Why?

NBC11 in the Bay Area reported that thousands of marijuana plants, valued at $40 million according to authorities had been spotted near Mount Umunhum, in a remote part of the Santa Cruz mountains in south Santa Clara County. They needed helicopters to remove the 10,000-15,000 plants estimated to be there. There's a cool slideshow on the site. My first reaction was, is it just ditchweed? An old report by the Vermont State Auditor found that almost all the "marijuana" destroyed by the government is mere ditchweed -- wild hemp, grows in lots of places, the government subsidized it during WWII. Then I thought, well, Santa Cruz? I'll give the government the benefit of the doubt that this time it's really marijuana. :) Further down in the story police explained that these plants -- which by themselves are unable to move from place to place, being plants -- bring danger with them:
"These operations can be dangerous," Palanov said. "Last year down this canyon a couple miles away from here, a fish and game warden was shot during a marijuana raid." The officer survived. Agents shot and killed the gunman, while another suspect escaped, Garza reported. "Our deputies, and fish and game and everybody else that's involved are hiking into area where the growers have orders to protect their groves at all costs. They have weapons," Palanov said. "You have a lot of environmental damage -- the marijuana goes out on the street, which fuels other criminal activity."
But why is it dangerous? Is the danger intrinsic to the marijuana? No, it is because marijuana is illegal. With marijuana legalization, no one would want to shoot people over the legally grown crop -- even bad people wouldn't shoot people over it, because it would in no way be worth the risk of going to prison for homicide -- because the value just wouldn't be what it is now and one could go to the police for help if one's crop were threatened. The environmental damage -- assuming that's for real, which certainly seems possible -- could also be reduced if not eliminated through agricultural regulation and inspection. Save Mount Umunhum -- end prohibition! Click here to write to NBC11.
Santa Cruz, CA
United States

Drug Dealer/Police Officer Altercation Endangers North Memphis Neighborhood

A report yesterday by WMC-TV (channel 5) in Memphis was titled "North Memphis Store Sprayed with Gunfire." What happened was that after two police confronted a local drug dealer completing a sale from the parking lot of a convenience store at the corner of Chelsea and May, the dealer "ran over the officer, knocked him down and dragged him some 10 to 12 feet," according to a Sgt. Vince Higgins who was interviewed. The officer's partner then opened fire as the dealer sped away in his SUV. Hopefully the injured officer will recover, but it's lucky that someone wasn't shot by his partner. The moral of the story is, prohibition makes the world more dangerous -- the driver of the SUV was involved in criminal activity because it's profitable, and it's profitable because the drugs are illegal -- legalization would put people like him out of that business. Instead, we have police crawling everywhere (the news report's word, not time) looking for drug suspects to arrest. The suspects don't want to be arrested and imprisoned, so some of them resist, sometimes recklessly or violently. And this time an officer reacted the wrong way to that and put other people in danger too. Let WMC-TV news director Peggy Phillip know you think this angle merits inclusion in the station's reporting when these things happen. A good contact for her to make in this kind of story would be the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
Memphis, TN
United States

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