Police: Man Killed by Police During Paramilitary Drug Raid Shows
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Dangers of Paramilitary Drug Raids the Dangers Police Must Face Every Day
Another week, another man shot dead during a drug raid. William Cooper, 69, of Hampton, Virginia, was killed over the weekend after an informant told local police that he was selling prescription painkillers. Cooper apparently fired at the police as they came into his home.
There’s nothing in the articles linked above, or this one, indicating that police found anything incriminating in Cooper’s home. Maybe that information will come out later. But generally speaking, when police do find evidence of criminal activity after a raid, that information is quickly handed over to the press, particularly in raids that end in violence.
Instead, we get to read about the service records of the cops who killed Cooper, how this example of police killing a man is just more proof of the dangers of police work, how thankful the Hampton Police department is “that the officers are OK and safe and were not injured,” and how sorry we should feel for the officers who killed Cooper because “their lives will never be the same.”
From an interview with a neighbor:
Jesse Pittman, was working on the air conditioning unit on the roof of the Living Water Tabernacle Baptist Church at 1612 Kecoughtan Road, about three properties away from the house that was raided, on Saturday morning when he saw a large white, unmarked van pull up in Clifton Street.
He said about five or six police officers got out of the van and kicked in the door of a house. “I just heard shots. I can’t say how many,” he said.
“Just heard shots.” That would seem to indicate that he did not hear an announcement. This article indicates that Cooper’s neighbors saw no evidence of drug activity at his home. From an interview with a friend of Cooper’s:
A friend of the Hampton man shot and killed during a police raid at his house Saturday said he thinks the 69-year-old man opened fire on officers because he was startled and thought they were criminal intruders . . .
Both of those factors, Zacharias said, might have caused him not to recognize the police conducting the 10 a.m. search.
“People around here sleep with a gun beside their bed because of all the home invasions we’ve had,” Zacharias said. “The guy was a nice guy. The guy was a good guy.”
Once again, we also get the absurd-on-its-face argument from the police that these tactics are both absolutely necessary to preserve “the element of surprise” and that there’s simply no way Cooper couldn’t have known that the men breaking into his home were cops:
Price declined to say whether the officers forced entry into the home. But the neighbor’s report of a forced entry was backed by the fact that the left side of the front door, near the door jam, was severely broken.
A common practice in executing a warrant is for police to announce their presence with loud knocks on the front door and words such as, “Police!” or “Police search warrant!”
After a few moments of warning, the door is typically broken, often with a battering ram or other device.
The element of surprise is considered important in many such cases to not allow time for the suspect to hide or dispose of the drugs, such as by flushing them down the toilet.
Price said that even after officers are inside a home, they continue to call out, “Police! Police! Police!” in loud tones. He also said that officers conducting such searches wear clothing marked on both front and back with large letters saying, “POLICE.”
“It’s very obvious that we’re the police,” he said.
Well, sure. “Very obvious.” Clearly this dead, 69-year-old-man-with-cataracts, William Cooper, was just an idiot, then. Carry on.
It’s only been a few days since the shooting, but Hampton Police Chief Charles Jordan can already say he “feels confident” that his officers’ actions “were justified.” But not to worry. Just because Chief Jordan is already confident he knows the outcome of his department’s investigation doesn’t mean the investigation itself won’t be impartial.
So I guess it’s settled, then. Clearly this 69-year-old man who at worst was selling prescription painkillers (and again, we don’t yet have any evidence of that, other than an alleged tip from an informant, who will likely never be identified) knowingly, intentionally took on a team of raiding cops while armed only with a handgun. No need to question the tactics, here. No need to ask if it was really the smartest idea for armed cops to force their way into the home of a sick elderly man with poor vision to serve a search warrant for evidence of nonviolent crimes. No need to ask any further questions at all, really. Just put your faith in Chief Jordan and the integrity of his department’s not-at-all-predetermined investigation.
No, the only lesson we ought to draw from this police killing of a 69-year-old man in his own home . . . is that police work is dangerous.
MORE: From the comments:
A friend of mine was there. More specifically he was at his daughter’s softball game, 200ft away from the shooting. There were reports of stray rounds buzzing around. The game was call off due to everyone hitting the deck and generally freaking out. Haven’t seen anything in the articles about the fact that there were a couple dozen 10 year old kids playing just a stone’s throw away from the raid.