Cheryl Lynn Noel

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Noel was one of the first no-knock cases I began investigating, in January of last year.

Yesterday, attorneys for her family filed a section 1983 suit in federal court seeking damages.

The Noel family’s attorney, Terrell Roberts, has promised to send me a copy of the suit, which I’ll post here.

The facts of the case are awful: A Baltimore SWAT team conducted a 4:30am raid on the Noel family home after finding marijuana seeds and “trace” amounts of cocaine in the family’s outdoor trash can. After battering down the door, they deployed a flashbang grenade, then rushed up the steps to the bedroom of Cheryl and Charles Noel.

Cheryl Noel’s stepdaughter had been murdered several years earlier, and her son had recently been jumped by thugs on his way home. So the family had a legal, registered handgun in the home, and Noel had reason to be frightened. When a SWAT officer kicked open the bedroom door, Noel sat up in bed with the gun, apparently pointed downward, not at the officer. The officer, who was wearing a helmet, mask, shield, and bulletproof vest, and who came in behind a bulletproof ballistic shield, fired twice. Noel slumped over, and the gun slipped out of her hand. The officer then walked over to her and ordered her to move further away from the gun. She couldn’t, of course. When she didn’t, he shot her a third time, essentially from point-blank range.

That’s Charles Noel’s version of events. But it’s supported by the autopsy done on his wife. And early police accounts of the raid have since been revised. The Baltimore Sun, for example, first reported that police said Noel was pointing her gun at them when they entered. That has since changed. She was holding the gun, but not pointing it at anyone.

As for Noel, there’s simply no way the woman would have been holding a gun had she known the intruders were police. After her death, neighbors circulated a petition vouching for her character and integrity. She ran Bible study groups on her lunch break. She’s dead not because she’s any sort of threat to society, but because Baltimore County police decided to conduct a 4:30am, no-knock raid after finding seeds of marijuana in the family trash.

This isn’t overkill?

I’ll have more on this later. I’ve spoken at length with Charles Noel and with Roberts, as well as with several friends of the family.

It’s really a terrible, terrible story.

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