Another Isolated Incident


Montana SWAT team drops a flash grenade through a window into a bedroom where two children are sleeping. No arrests. No alleged meth lab.

A 12-year-old girl suffered burns to one side of her body when a flash grenade went off next to her as a police SWAT team raided a West End home Tuesday morning.

“She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms,” said the girl’s mother, Jackie Fasching. “She’s got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”

Medical staff at the scene tended to the girl afterward and then her mother drove her to the hospital, where she was treated and released later that day.

A photo of the girl provided by Fasching to The Gazette shows red and black burns on her side.

Police Chief Rich St. John said the 6 a.m. raid at 2128 Custer Ave., was to execute a search warrant as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation by the City-County Special Investigations Unit . . .

“It was totally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable,” St. John said. “We certainly did not want a juvenile, or anyone else for that matter, to get injured.”

Well, I’ll give him unplanned. Though I don’t think he meant it in the way I mean it. Sorry, but when you’re blindly shoving a flash grenade attached to a boomstick through a window, and you clearly have no idea who or what is in that room where you’re detonating, the possibility that an innocence person might get burned is not “totally unforeseen.” It’s only unforeseen when you’re so caught up in your drug war that you can’t be bothered to take the time to consider the possible collateral damage your actions may cause.

On Thursday, Fasching took her daughter back to the hospital to have her wounds treated.

She questioned why police would take such actions with children in the home and why it needed a SWAT team.

“A simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in,” she said. “They said their intel told them there was a meth lab at our house. If they would’ve checked, they would’ve known there’s not.”

She and her two daughters and her husband were home at the time of the raid. She said her husband, who suffers from congenital heart disease and liver failure, told officers he would open the front door as the raid began and was opening it as they knocked it down.

When the grenade went off in the room, it left a large bowl-shaped dent in the wall and “blew the nails out of the drywall,” Fasching said.

St. John said investigators did plenty of homework on the residence before deciding to launch the raid but didn’t know children were inside.

“The information that we had did not have any juveniles in the house and did not have any juveniles in the room,” he said. “We generally do not introduce these disorienting devices when they’re present.”

I’ve probably read about more than a thousand of these raids by now. The cognitive dissonance still astounds me. No, Chief St. John, if you did not know there were two children in the home, if you did not know that you were dropping a flash grenade into a child’s bedroom, you pretty clearly did not do “plenty” of goddamned “homework.”

Investigators consider dozens of items such as residents’ past criminal convictions, other criminal history, mental illness and previous interactions with law enforcement.

Each item is assigned a point value and if the total exceeds a certain threshold, SWAT is requested. Then a commander approves or rejects the request.

In Tuesday’s raid, the points exceeded the threshold and investigators called in SWAT.

“Every bit of information and intelligence that we have comes together and we determine what kind of risk is there,” St. John said. “The warrant was based on some hard evidence and everything we knew at the time.”

Sounds awfully professional, doesn’t it? Except that they were looking for a meth lab, and pretty clearly didn’t find it. I mean, unless the Faschings recently had their house fumigated by Vamonos Pest Control, a meth lab isn’t something you can easily pick up and move.

“If we’re wrong or made a mistake, then we’re going to take care of it,” he said. “But if it determines we’re not, then we’ll go with that. When we do this, we want to ensure the safety of not only the officers, but the residents inside.”

The last four words are self-evidently complete and utter crap. And sure. Let’s go ahead and entrust the same department that just carried out this debacle after doing “plenty of homework” to investigate itself to determine if it did anything wrong. That sounds like a perfectly fair, impartial way to treat the Faschings.

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Late Morning Links

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Another Isolated Incident

This one was in Chicago. And from what the article reports, it sounds awfully similar to the Cheye Calvo raid.

Paul Brown was working on his computer in his north suburban home when police smashed in the front door, pointed guns at and handcuffed him and other family members, and ransacked the house in a search for drugs.

The authorities had burst in immediately after a postal worker delivered a package to the home that they said contained marijuana. But a search of the house found no further contraband, and officers left without making an arrest.

Brown, outraged, said he was sure the cops had the wrong house. Police maintained they had the right place, but the target of their investigation wasn’t there at the time.

Brown, a 58-year-old who works in building design, said he supports law enforcement in general. But he said innocent bystanders shouldn’t be subject to such dangerous and damaging searches without any compensation.

“I was scared to death,” he said. “I really felt like a hostage. These guys are supposed to be on my side.”

The package delivered to the home in a middle-class neighborhood on Adelphi Avenue was addressed to someone named Oscar, who Brown said has never lived there and is unknown to him.

Brown would have liked police to pay for the $3,000 leaded-and-stained-glass door, lock and frame they broke, to clean up the mess they made, and to apologize. Police say that won’t happen.

Well of course that isn’t going to happen. Because the police aren’t on your side, Mr. Brown. They’re fighting a war. And you got in the way.

Sullivan did not release the complaint that states the evidence upon which the warrant was based, citing the ongoing investigation. But, he said, “we had a valid warrant, and it was a good search.”

After another member of the household accepted the package outside as he arrived home, officers knocked on the door and announced themselves, and waited an unspecified “reasonable” amount of time, as required by law before breaching the door, Sullivan said.

Brown disputed that, saying his 77-year-old mother-in-law was about 15 feet from the door but did not hear anything, and his two small dogs, who always bark when someone knocks, were silent.

Brown said the people who conducted the raid were dressed in SWAT-style clothing with black sweaters that said “police,” though at first he didn’t even realize who they were. He said they handcuffed and questioned him, along with his son-in-law, who had accepted the package but never opened it, and his son-in-law’s brother, who live in the house along with Brown’s daughter, wife and mother-in-law.

Notice how rarely the victims of these raids actually hear the knock-and-announce the police claim to have given? Going back to English common law, the entire point of the knock-and-announce requirement was to preserve the sanctity of the home—to give the occupants an opportunity to avoid the violence of a forced entry. Over the last 25 years or so, its purpose has changed to protect the police. Today, they announce themselves only so you won’t attempt to shoot them when they break down your door seconds later. The Supreme Court has ruled that as few as eight seconds between knocking and entering is sufficient. That’s hardly enough time for someone who is, say, sleeping to wake up and answer the door. And even if you could, the courts have also ruled that police can break down your door without waiting if they hear movement or see a light go on inside the house. The fear is that these could be indications that someone inside is arming themselves. Because the safety of police is more important than the safety of the rest of us, the fact that movement or light in the house could mean someone is merely trying to answer the door doesn’t really matter.

All of which means the centuries-old principle that the knock-and-announce requirement is necessary to preserve the home as a man’s castle and place of sanctuary . . . is as dead as Kathryn Johnston.

Sullivan said police have to enter such raids in a rush with overwhelming force, to prevent people from flushing or destroying evidence, and to prevent anyone from attacking police. Though Lake County MEG personnel have never been shot during such a raid, officers elsewhere have, and MEG officers have found guns next to dangerous criminals in the past, Sullivan said, making it a potentially dangerous mission.

Got that? Preserving a quantity of illicit drugs small enough to be quickly flushed down the toilet so the person in possession can later be prosecuted is a higher priority than not subjecting innocent people to having their doors torn down, physical abuse, and the terror of having guns pointed at their heads. Oh, and officer safety. Officer safety takes priority over everything else. Everything. Better a 77-year-old woman get rush, knock to the floor, and handcuffed than a single cop wearing Kevlar, holding an assault weapon, and carrying a ballistics shield be “attacked.”

He acknowledged that Brown might not be aware of any illegal activity by anyone in the house but said, “some people have secrets.” He added that police still expected to close the case with an arrest. As of Friday, Sullivan said there were no new developments in the case to report, and court records in Lake County showed no criminal charges filed in the case against members of Brown’s household.

Again, it’s about the priorities on display, here. Because one guy who may or may not be a relative of acquaintance of these people may have committed a marijuana offense, Sullivan sees nothing wrong to subjecting the entire family to the terror, violence, and danger of a tactical police raid.

“I understand when you walk away (without an arrest), that brings up a lot of questions,” Sullivan said. “But there’s a series of checks and balances … to make sure we’re doing everything right. We are concerned about the public as much as they are about themselves.”

So how did those checks and balances work out for Brown, his wife, his brother-in-law, and his mother-in-law? Let’s be clear, here. The “checks and balances” Sullivan is referring to here could better be called “formalities.” And when you tear down a man’s door, scare the hell out of him and his family, acknowledge they all may well be innocent, then refuse to repair the damage you’ve caused or apologize for what you subjected them to, “We are concerned about the public as much as they are about themselves” is so transparently false, I can’t help but wonder if Sullivan was smirking when he said it.

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Morning Links

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Stop and Frisk

This video includes a surreptitious recording of a stop and frisk in New York. It also includes interviews with NYPD cops who say that what you’re hearing isn’t atypical.

The phrase “police state” is overused. But if you can’t merely walk on the sidewalk in your own neighborhood without enduring this kind of harassment on a regular basis, I don’t know of any term that’s more appropriate.

More information on the video here.


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Earth at Night

This is my favorite one of these yet.

Just awing.


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Morning Links

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This St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist appears to be upset that some people are criticizing his local law enforcement professionals for possibly profiling, making illegal traffic stops, and performing illegal searches—all in an effort to seize property from low level drug offenders.

You’d think a journalist would see a possible story here—an opportunity to do some reporting. Maybe he could actually look into Terrance Huff’s allegations instead of mocking them. Maybe he could use his column to see if these sorts of stops have happened to other people. Maybe, you know, at least pretend that he’s holding his local public officials accountable. Maybe he could investigate why a cop with a history like Michael Reichert’s is still on the police force. Maybe look into how these drug dogs are actually used, and whether their “alerts” should really be enough to justify a police officer rummaging through personal belongings.

Maybe that’s asking too much of Pat Gauen. But if he takes his job as a journalist seriously, you’d think he’d do some reporting. Instead, he wrote a column about something he saw on TV, then gave his local public officials a forum to slag a guy whose rights may have been violated.

And here I thought it was we Internet journalists who just sit in our basements opining about stuff, while the newspaper generation goes out and does all the real reporting.

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This apparently was an ABC pilot that was never picked up.

Still looks better than Two and a Half Men.


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Saturday Links

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Five-Star Fridays

Here’s the great Old Crow Medicine Show (minus Willy Willie Watson, sadly) recording a live cut off their new album here in Nashville.


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Morning Links

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Afternoon Links

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Sucker Punch

Most of you have probably seen this video by now. It was taken in Philadelphia. I’ll just make the obvious point others have already made: Even assuming the woman had been the one who threw water/silly string on the cop, the reaction should at least get him fired. And probably prosecuted. That it doesn’t appear to have been her makes it worse, but is kinda’ beside the point.

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Morning Links

  • In Camden, the police union has negotiated bonus pay for cops who work night shifts. They’ve also negotiated bonus pay for cops who work day shifts. And thanks to sick and vacation day benefits, about a third of the force doesn’t show up for work each day. Mysteriously, the city is plagued by crime and debt.
  • Happy first anniversary of the death of free checking! Thanks Dodd-Frank, for making banking more expensive for poor people!
  • Always know where the camera is.
  • TSA agent convicted of stealing from passengers says stealing from passengers is common.
  • Consensus on the coming pension crisis: Basically, we’re all screwed.
  • Headline of the day.
  • Of possible interest to my fellow napping aficionados.
  • The Pentagon is working to make killer drones “sentient.” I don’t see any possible downside, here.
  • Fellow libertarians: You’ve been doing it wrong. There are two possible explanations, here. Either the government deliberately spread the false rumor that tin foil hats block mind-control rays in order to make it easier to manipulate us, or the government is behind this bogus study, because it fears that tin foil hats are an obstacle to taking over our minds. I happen to know which of these scenarios is correct. But you’ll have to subscribe to my mimeographed newsletter to find out.

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