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 Up

Tuesday, 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.

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81 Responses to “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 Up”

  1. #1 |  annemg | 

    I don’t feel bad for people who do evil things because someone told them to. I’ve been fired from jobs for not “following orders” that are unethical. If that’s the worst they had to deal with if they stood up to evil, then they should have done it. No excuses.

  2. #2 |  darms | 

    @44 – Brent, no but three rights make a left… Land of the free?

  3. #3 |  billy-jay | 


    Yeah, but if these three got killed in prison, it wouldn’t be wrong.

  4. #4 |  Timothy | 

    I think you’re pretty right about this, Radley, but I object to this:

    Officers Junnier, Smith, and Tesler are going to prison. But you could make a good case that they were only responding to incentives.

    Okay, there were bad incentives, but these guys chose to remain cops and to follow the script. If the system is that busted, and you knowingly participate you are culpable for the outcomes. These guys deserve to go down, they deserve whatever horrors they’ve sent countless harmless citizens to face in prison. They chose to become cops, and they chose to stay cops after they knew the game was dirty, burn them.

  5. #5 |  Headline of the Day « Out Of My Mind | 

    […] Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old Kathryn Johnston, Leaving Her To Bleed… […]

  6. #6 |  ktc2 | 

    @44 – Brent

    You premise assumes that killing these three murderers in uniform is ‘wrong’. I disagree. It would be justice, something unknown in this nation these days.

  7. #7 |  Pat | 

    Hold more drug warriors accountable for their atrocities and crimes against humanity and the drug war policy will come crashing down in no time at all.

  8. #8 |  Pat | 

    “This is what happens when you declare “war” on American citizens. You dehumanize them.”

    There is a program that gets aired on occasion on discovery or the History channel about training police as snipers. The instructors go to great lengths to explain how they must indoctrinate officers into the concept of “dehumanizing” the “target”. Literally, this is the way they talk about it.

    This is what the war on drugs has done to America. First they mass disenfranchise the population then they dehumanize the population. The final solution becomes a simple act of squeezing a trigger while looking down a sniper scope. The final solution is then a simple act of ignoring the deadly disease ridden over-crowded conditions in drug war POW prisons.

  9. #9 |  Continuum | 

    This kind of police corruption and lying isn’t limited to Atlanta. It is happening all over the country.

    Name one police force where the cops don’t lie, cover-up, and fabricate evidence to protect their own interests.

    The police and the war on drugs have corrupted this nation every bit as much as prohibition did.

  10. #10 |  nemo | 

    ‘Dehumanization’ of drug users has been going on since the beginning of the last century. None of this should surprise anybody.

    I suggest that people read Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State to understand just how that dehumanization process has led to the present mess of cops ‘spraying and praying’ rather than engaging in old fashioned detective work.

  11. #11 |  Spieler | The Best of the Web | 

    […] Radley Balko’s headline for this story – more. […]

  12. #12 |  Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » A Righteous Rant | 

    […] for those of you who think I am being too hard on the libertarians, let me point you to this righteous rant (mentioned here are […]

  13. #13 |  War on Drugs; Libertarismus als Geisteskrankheit; Tödlicher Umweltschutz | ars libertatis | 

    […] and even survival in an attempt to preserve the unspoiled sanctity of nature.3 Radley Balko – Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old Kathryn Johnston, Leaving Her To Bleed… [↩]Daniel J. Mitchell – Is Libertarianism a Sign of Mental Illness? [↩]Ben […]

  14. #14 |  Cops responding to incentives « Later On | 

    […] in Daily life, Drug laws, Government, Law at 1:34 pm by LeisureGuy Very good post at The Agitator, which begins: Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old […]

  15. #15 |  doubleplanet | 

    The absurdity of calling this police-state strategy a “war” is well illustrated in a headline from _The Onion_:

    Drugs Win War On Drugs

  16. #16 |  reform on marijuana | 

    i am featuring this article at my blog here in about 20 minutes!

  17. #17 |  growup | 

    Hey Euler, F***k you

    Less than one percent of the inmates are murderers and rapists.
    Most are in on the same consensual crime, that wouldn’t be a crime or even a statistic if it sold for 10.00 an ounce what it’s worth on the white market.

    I’m sick of you and those like you who watch a movie and then judge everyone by the hollywood stereotype portrayed.

    Had this country stoodup and grew up and honored the Constitution and Bill of Rights and allowed blacks and Latinos the same freedoms to get an education and a job as you have been afforded then they would not have had to resort to selling narcotics to have the basics of life.

    Don’t forget that the main reason hemp was outlawed was so the owner’s of the forests could cut them down and make rayon.

  18. #18 |  growup | 

    Hey Euler, what do you mean “when the people retake this country”
    are you from overseas? Most of those that wear a badge are as honest as you are. They are just taking orders from their bosses who take orders from their’s. This country is run by 300 families who have intermarried for the past 200+ years and own everything that is worth owning and see you and I as an “useless eater”.

    There the ones everyone should be angry with. They need to be routed for the plague they are.

  19. #19 |  Atlanta | 

    Fuck those guys.. They were crying because they got caught. Bless that old ladies heart. Can you imagine what kind of terror she was living at that moment. I hope they rape those assholes on a daily basis. Thats what the blue line deserves. In Atlanta (Fulton County) and Decatur (dekalb county) these cops are barely more that a bunch of gangsta’s. You can not trust these guys for any reason, they are dangerous..The GBI obviously don’t exist or they are just as corrupt as Dekalb and Fulton cops they couldn’t catch the clap in a whore house…..

  20. #20 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » This Is Getting Annoying | 

    […] someone at Fark has plagiarized my headline on the Kathryn Johnston story. Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  […]

  21. #21 |  jdogg92056 | 

    “Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse”… They’re only tearful and expressing remorse because they got caught. That’s the reason. That’s the only reason. Actually, they shouldn’t be going to prison. They should be going to the gallows.

  22. #22 |  Virtual Memories » Unrequired Reading: Feb. 27, 2009 | 

    […] Sometimes you just gotta call evil evil. […]

  23. #23 |  warren | 

    GOOD I hope they rot and go insane.

  24. #24 |  farouk | 

    I wish we lived in China. After the tearful apology to the people of china and to their families these clowns would be taken out back and shot, then their organs would be sold and then their supervisor would be forced to commit ritual suicide.

  25. #25 |  dispatches from TJICistan » Blog Archive » Our Boys in Blue (”The War on Some Drugs” edition) | 

    […] http://www.theagitator.com/2009/02/24/te… […]

  26. #26 |  Right to Bleed » The Tragedy of the War on (Some People) Who Do (Some) Drugs | 

    […] The Atlanta case of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston received a lot of press – she was killed by police when they illegally entered her home, which led to a big cover up by the cops. The Agitator had the best headline about the cops’ trial, which just came to a close: Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old Katheryn Johnston, Leaving Her To Blee… […]

  27. #27 |  Right to Bleed » Making Criminals to Make Money | 

    […] me, though. A traffic ticket, however benign it might feel compared to, say, a government-initiated home invasion and murder, is still a cop pointing a gun to your head and taking your time and your […]

  28. #28 |  Don’t Take Too Long In The Bathroom. The Next Guy In Line May Be A Cop. | Popehat | 

    […] family pet (hat tip: Jag), but that’s old hat, and anyway it’s Atlanta, where the police shoot nonagenarian ladies. So what’s another […]

  29. #29 |  dax | 

    maybe if they weren’t such fucking sheep going along with what the big bad senior officers say and do, this wouldn’t happen. People, regardless of what it is they do for a living, need to think for themselves and do what it is they think is right. Especially cops, they’re supposed to “serve and protect” instead they’re the ones we need to watch out for because they’ve turned into a bunch of powertripping fucks who feel the need to serve “justice” which automatically means DRUGS ARE BAD OH NO lets shoot an old lady and plant drugs in her house. Fucking tools

  30. #30 |  GT | 

    Positions in the storm-trooper dress-up corps have always attracted nutjobs – so there is no surprise when they behave like nutjobs. The more the position requires one to dress up like something out of “Star Wars meets the Village People”, the nutjobbier the results.

    I wouldn’t want to be these guys; their names are out there, and the budgetary situation for most municipalities is going to get MUCH worse over the next generation (and of course once you’re no longer useful to the Machine, it will burn you… they won’t get protected after their incarceration). I have no doubt there is already an OrgA pool with their names on it: if so, they’re already dead.



  31. #31 |  Hugh Fitzimmons | 

    In Response to Brent, #44:

    “Two wrongs do not make a right.”

    I could not agree with you more; fuck these bastards, I hope they get the shank. That will create three rights to help offset their numerous wrongs.