Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old Kathryn Johnston, Leaving Her To Bleed to Death in Her Own Home While They Planted Drugs in Her Basement, Then Threatening an Informant So He Would Lie To Cover It All UpTuesday, February 24th, 2009
Sorry, but I’m having a hard time conjuring up any sympathy for these guys. They’re due to be sentenced this week. To put it into perspective, all three are expected to receive about the same sentence as Ryan Frederick. That ain’t justice.
I will say, however, that evil and inexcusable as these bastards are, there’s some truth in this excerpt:
Tesler said when he joined the narcotics unit, he was told to “sit, watch and learn” from superiors who cut corners to meet performance quotas for arrests and warrants. “I was a new part and plugged into a broken system,” Tesler said.
Tesler said when he saw Smith about to plant baggies of marijuana inside Johnston’s home to make it look like a drug house, he shook his head in disapproval. Tesler said he falsified the police report and later lied about the raid because Smith told him to follow the cover-up script. Tesler said he wasn’t about to “rat” on a senior officer.
His father, Jack Tesler, said his son was “being vilified and over-prosecuted.”
Smith said his moral compass failed when he began to think “drug dealers were no longer human.”
“I saw myself above them,” he said.
This is what happens when you declare “war” on American citizens. You dehumanize them. And you instill an ends-justifies-the-means, win at all costs mindset in your “warriors.” This mindset infected the entire narcotics unit at Atlanta PD. You’d have to be awfully naive to believe the problem is limited to Atlanta.
Officers Junnier, Smith, and Tesler are going to prison. But you could make a good case that they were only responding to incentives. A lot of other people have Kathryn Johnston’s blood on their hands too, people with names like Bennett, Gates, Walters, Souder, Tandy, and Meese. They’ve been ratcheting up the war rhetoric of drug prohibition for 30 years. It boggles my mind that I’m “known” for this issue. For this to even be an issue, we had to have reached the point where most of America is now accustomed to the notion that state agents dressed in battle garb can and will tear down the doors of private homes in the middle of the night for nothing more than mere possession of psychoactive substances. And most of the time, they do it under the full color of law.
It shouldn’t be at all surprising that this particular war’s boots on the ground might start to take all of that war imagery to heart, and take shortcuts around whatever largely ritualistic Fourth Amendment procedures we have left to “protect” against whatever it is we still might call “unreasonable” searches (if a violent, terrifying, paramilitary-style raid in the middle of the night on someone suspected of a nonviolent, consensual crime isn’t “unreasonable,” I don’t know what would be).
Kathryn Johnston’s death is tragic. But the real tragedy here is that had the cops found a stash of marijuana in her basement that actually did belong to her–say for pain treatment or nausea–her death would have faded quickly from the national news, these tactics would have been deemed by most to be wholly legitimate, and we probably wouldn’t still be talking about her today.
These cops were evil. But they worked within an evil system that’s not only immoral on its face, but is rife with bad incentives and plays to the worst instincts in human nature.
UPDATE: Via the AJC:
U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes sentenced former officer Gregg Junnier to six years in prison, Jason Smith to 10 years in prison and Arthur Tesler to 5 years in prison.