Another Day, Another Drug Raid Death

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Over the weekend, police in Connecticut broke through windows and deployed flash grenades while conducting a drug rain on a home in Connecticut. Gonazalo Guizan, 33, who was visiting and didn’t live at the house, charged at the raiding officers, unarmed. The police shot him dead.

Early reports don’t say much about Guizan, though in this comment thread, friends and family say he wasn’t a drug dealer, wasn’t violent, and wasn’t a criminal. I suppose it’s possible that an unarmed man would knowingly charge a team of raiding police officers. But I think the far more likely explanation is that he thought the place was being robbed.

We don’t yet have details as to why the police felt it necessary to shoot Guizan, other than that he charged at them. I suspect the shooting itself will be ruled justified, as it probably should be. The question is why the paramilitary tactics were necessary in the first place, and whether yet another person has now paid with his life for the very reasonable mistake of confusing invading police officers with invading criminals.

The owner of the house was charged with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Which means there weren’t enough drugs in the place to charge him with distribution. He was released on $10,000 bond.

MORE: When I say the shooting “probably should be” justified, I’m not excusing it. I’m saying that it’s hard to see how criminal charges could be filed against the officer who fire the shot. All he needs to show is that he reasonably feared for his life. If someone is charging at you in the midst of a confrontational drug raid, that’s not a hard point to prove. My point is that the fault lies with the policy of using these tactics to police drug crimes in the first place.

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24 Responses to “Another Day, Another Drug Raid Death”

  1. #1 |  Skip Oliva | 

    “I suspect the shooting itself will be ruled justified, as it probably should be. The question is why the paramilitary tactics were necessary in the first place, and whether yet another person has now paid with his life for the very reasonable mistake of confusing invading police officers with invading criminals.”

    Um, so exactly *how* is the shooting justified? An armed gang assaulted private property and it’s “justified” for one of the gang members to murder an unarmed man who was on the property with the owner’s consent.

    Sometimes I laugh at Radley’s moral relativism.

  2. #2 |  Edmund Dantes | 

    Whoa! We’ve crossed the line where the proportional response to an unarmed man charging us is now justified deadly force. Do you think that reasoning would fly for a citizen that isn’t a cop?

  3. #3 |  claude | 

    “Guizan, 33, who was visiting and didn’t live at the house, charged at the raiding officers, unarmed. The police shot him dead.”

    “I suspect the shooting itself will be ruled justified, as it probably should be. ”

    Why on Earth should shooting an unarmed man be ruled “justified”?

  4. #4 |  EdinTally | 

    Gotta agree. Hardly justified. Even if the guy is running with his fists closed, lethal force is not justified under the force continuum doctrine. Of course, FC has been extinct for quite some time.

    I guess Tasers are only used when people fail to answer police questions? At this rate the Drug War should be over in no time. Woohoo!!!!

  5. #5 |  Chris in AL | 

    Justified? Only if we hold the police to the same standards as toddlers or the mentally retarded. “He can’t help it…he doesn’t know any better. He’s a cop.”

    All of the alleged training these dirtballs get and they can’t tell an unarmed man from a deadly gunmen? They can’t shoot with the intent to disable rather than kill? And I guess just a crack to the head with the butt of the gun is reservedly only for the bedridden, handicapped, or the elderly in nursing homes for these ‘brave’ drug war soldiers.

    We taser kids in epileptic seizures and shoot unarmed men for safety…to protect and to serve.

  6. #6 |  charlie | 

    I love the “support dissent” ribbon on your site… it’s just too bad you don’t allow someone to so much as point out in your comments that your presidential candidate du jour, Bob Barr, spent the vast majority of his professional life seeking to throw drug users in prison for long, long periods of time. He also once publicly pondered prosecuting drug reform advocacy groups under the RICO statutes. But I guess we should forget all that because in the last three years he’s said some nice things about medical marijuana.

    One would also have to ignore Barr’s advocation for stepping up “Plan Colombia” to fight “narco-terrorists” in Latin America, his support for sanctions on Iran, his claims that “only a fool” would support a timetable to withdraw from Iraq, and finally, his avowed support for locking up a 17 year old (black) boy for having consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl.

    Keep in mind, you dropped your support for mean, old Ron Paul after the newsletter fiasco, claiming he only talked about the war on drugs when he was being accused of being a racist (never mind his very public calls since at least 1988 — including in a ’07 PBS-sponsored debate on minority issues — for ending the drug war, all of which you ignored).

    Now you finally have a “respectable” candidate who your colleagues at Reason and Cato can support without feeling awkward as you try desperately — ever so desperately — to achieve mainstream respectability.

    It’ll all be worth it when Barr gets that 1.5% of the vote though!

  7. #7 |  Red Green | 

    Agree with statement “drug war over in no time, woohoo” because of this type of incident. It has to get worse before things will get better. Thats why John McCain could actually help the country , to get worse, therefore ,better sooner. Sheeple are dumb like that. Whatever the verdict, these badass cops should be held up to the light of day.

  8. #8 |  nicole | 

    I’m just surprised and impressed at how many of the comments on that thread weren’t in blind, hate-filled support of the cops. The victim of this raid was from my hometown, and I’m glad to see that we know a bit better.

  9. #9 |  Billy Beck | 

    “Sometimes I laugh at Radley’s moral relativism.”

    That’s not the problem that I see here, Skip. What I see is a failure of moral scope. It’s the failure to necessarily connect the stark moral injustice of the shooting with the larger concept of “paramilitary tactics”.

    We’re supposed to let that cop off the hook just because he was doing his job.

    I, for one, cannot do it.

  10. #10 |  Caroline | 

    One thing that has not been mentioned in any articles is the size of Guizan. Yes, he charged the police – the shooting may or may not have been justified. I have met him on several occasions he is roughly five feet, four inches and 140 pounds. How frightening could someone that size, unarmed be? Multiple gunshot wounds?

  11. #11 |  Lior | 

    Note that Guzman being unarmed is something that was only discovered after the fact — the officers had no way of knowing he was unarmed when they fired. As Radley says, if we think the raid was legal then the shooting was “justified” — police officers do have a greater license to use force. It is important to understand here that “justified” is a legal term, and has nothing do to with the morality of the situation.

    On the other hand, the raid itself was “unjustified” in the everyday sense of the word, and this means that the shooting was “unjustified” in the everyday sense.

  12. #12 |  Skip Oliva | 

    Billy Beck —

    No disagreement here. We’re just using different terminology.

  13. #13 |  m t | 

    re Lior:

    “That Guzman was unarmed is something that was only discovered after the fact …”

    That provides license to kill anyone who is not naked, because they can only be proved to be unarmed after they are dead.

  14. #14 |  Edintally | 

    Lior, here is Florida’s statue (CT’s site is not so user friendly, maybe you can find it)

    776.012 Use of force in defense of person.–A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

    (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or

    (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.
    ————-
    I could be wrong, but I don’t think the issue is “the officers had no way of knowing he was unarmed when they fired”. I believe they HAVE to know or AT LEAST be able to articulate why they THINK he posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury.

    If there was no weapon on him that would have reasonably been construed by the officers as a “serious” threat, then this shooting is not justifiable. Of course, police are not stupid enough to write in their reports that they did not feel their lives were in jeopardy.

    As is usually the case in these things, a “crime” probably did not occur. 776.013 is so slanted in favor of police that an event like this would probably never be categorized as a crime.

    That’s why we have civil courts.

  15. #15 |  Edmund Dantes | 

    Update: If that’s the criteria, then it’s a pretty low bar we are setting for use of deadly force. It’s the epitome of the Clown Suit Defense too.

    Defendant:I feared for my life because he charged me. I couldn’t tell if he was armed, unarmed, etc. I jumped from trying to subdue him via non-lethal methods to my gun which I’m licensed to carry.

    Prosecutor:Are you a Cop?

    Defendant: No.

    Prosecutor: Sorry, Manslaughter. Murder if he happened to be a cop.

    Defendant: But I have to determine whether the person breaking into my house is a cop before I shoot at him, but he doesn’t have to determine if I’m actually a threat before he shoots me?

    Prosecutor: Yes.

  16. #16 |  Lior | 

    Skip and Billy: do you realize that Radley is referring to “justification” in the legal sense? That this legal question has nothing to do with “moral relativism”, “moral scope” or morality at all? That all of us think that this raid (and the resulting shooting) was wrong, and “unjustified” in the everyday sense?

    Edintally: for the officers to conduct a violent raid, I think (IANAL) they needed to have an (official) reason to believe that the suspects were dangerous. Otherwise they should just knock on the door. Perhaps any suspected felon is legally presumed dangerous?

  17. #17 |  EdinTally | 

    Edmund, I agree that it’s fairly broad. But remember there would be case law which might help narrow it down a bit. Obviously, most of these state statutes were created prior to the explosion of “no-knock” raids. If “no-knock” wasn’t an element, then I think the statutes, while broad, are reasonable.

    Lior, I’m sure it’s a presumption of danger when dealing with felons. I also think it might be becoming, if it isn’t already, a presumption of danger whenever there is contact with a citizen. No-knocks are just one example.

  18. #18 |  Billy Beck | 

    “Skip and Billy: do you realize that Radley is referring to ‘justification in the legal sense?”

    I most certainly do, and that is exactly why I wrote what I did. Watch:

    “That this legal question has nothing to do with ‘moral relativism’, ‘moral scope’ or morality at all?”

    Okay; taking you at your words in the final clause (“or morality at all”), I have to ask: are you serious? You are here telling us that the law in this case has no connection to morality “at all”.

    Look: if the law is not connected to morality at all, then what on earth is it?

  19. #19 |  FWB | 

    Again, REAL cops wait until shot at before firing. REAL cops are MEN. REAL cops know when to act and when to restrain themselves. A REAL MAN knows when deadly force is absolutely necessary. A REAL cop has the balls to stand there and deal with the situation. If you don’t want to get shot at, don’t behave like a jack-boot and attack people.

    When my father was a cop, REAL cops knew their job was to take a bullet and possibly die for society. He was shot in the face. He was attacked with knives. He stood face to face against armed gangs. He never shot anyone because he was a MAN and knew how handle situations.

    Justified. Cops shooting the people is never justified unless and until the person first shoots at the cops, even in a legal sense. The legal sense is a bunch of BS perpetrated on the people by the system.

    REAL cops no longer exist.

  20. #20 |  Billy Beck | 

    FWB: if I could vote-up your comment more than once, I’d do it all day long.

  21. #21 |  supercat | 

    //I also think it might be becoming, if it isn’t already, a presumption of danger whenever there is contact with a citizen.//

    What’s the saying “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you should have nothing to fear”? If the cops are presuming that citizens are dangerous, perhaps they should reconsider their actions that might cause that presumption?

  22. #22 |  supercat | 

    //Justified. Cops shooting the people is never justified unless and until the person first shoots at the cops, even in a legal sense.//

    I wouldn’t go that far. On the other hand, I would subscribe to the legal principle that says that if a person acts in such a way as to pose an apparent threat to another person, the former person by his actions largely forfeits any claim of self-defense against the latter.

  23. #23 |  FrankHeights | 

    This CT Pigs are out of their mind!! I went to school with Gonzalo and he was about 5-5, 150 pounds soaking wet. These dumb, inexperienced cops really screwed up apparently. First off, what kind of a police organization gives consent to unleash a task force using those tactics on a house because they were given a tip that someone was smoking cocaine in a house? That is the type of force and action that is taken after a thorough investigation of a know drug trafficer! I’ve had to step in and keep Gonzalo from getting his ass kicked on several occasions over the years. He would’ve never charged at a bunch of armed guys!! This is complete bullshit and someone has completed orchestrated this story. The asshole who shot him should do life in jail. Any trained officer would not shoot an unarmed man 4 times that was charging at him. A skilled policeman would should the person in an area that would stop their charge yet only would them!! This is such a BS story and someone is really covering their tracks. Maybe the local police organizations need to raise the bar on the idiots they allow into the police force. This story is a perfect example of how far our local law enforcement has fallen…….accepting any idiot that can pass the test and allowing them to carry lethal weapons and make critical, life threatening decisions. Gonzalo was a harmless little guy!!

  24. #24 |  Steve Mitchell | 

    How do we know that Mr. Guizan charged? Who were the witnesses that reported this?

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