Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

November 25, 2006

Shooting shows need for reform

by Jason Pye

Instapundit has some information that is worth reading on the shooting involving Kathryn Johnson, including some observations by Radley Balko:

According to the Atlanta assistant chief of police:

1) The search warrant was in fact a no-knock warrant.

2) Police claim there was an undercover buy at the residence. The seller was apparently a man — obviously not Ms. Johnston.

3) “Suspected narcotics” were seized from the home, and have been sent to a crime lab for analysis. The assistant chief wouldn’t say how much of the suspected narcotics they found.

4) He also wouldn’t speculate if Johnston herself was involved in dealing drugs, or knew if drugs were being dealt from her home, saying only that both were “under investigation.”

5) He maintains that despite the no-knock warrant police still announced themselves before entering, though he acknowledged moments later that the announcement came as police were battering down the door.

It isn’t at all difficult to see how a 92-year old woman may not have heard or comprehended the announcement.

A reader reminds me that the incident is pretty similar to a police shooting in Alabama this past June, where an innocent, elderly man was shot when police forced entry into his home while looking for his nephew. The man — who had done nothing wrong — also mistook the officers for criminal intruders, and met them with a gun. Fortunately, he survived.

Even assuming the controlled buy, the incident still illustrates the folly of these raids. Paramilitary tactics don’t defuse violent situations, as police groups and their supporters sometimes claim. They create them. They make things more volatile for everyone — cops, suspects, and bystanders. Does anyone honestly believe that Ms. Johnson would have opened fire had a couple of uniformed officers politely knocked on her door, showed her a warrant, and asked if they could come inside?

Violating the sanctity of the home with a violent, forced entry — all to enforce laws against consensual acts — simply isn’t compatible with any honest notion of a free society.

This situation is similar to the Cory Maye case in Mississippi, except Maye didn’t get killed, a police officer in the raid did.

The biggest issue at hand is is the use of “no-knock” warrants (more at Wikipedia). This woman lived in a less than great neighborhood, she had bars on her doors and the fact that she was 92 years old…I cannot fault her for opening fire when she heard someone trying to come through her door. I also cannot fault the police for returning fire.

I can fault the Supreme Court though. Earlier this year the court decided that the use of no-knock warrants was constitutional. I told myself when I read the ruling, “people are going to die because of this.”

Of course there is always the underlying issue of the drug war. Which is an issue I try to avoid with my non-libertarian friends. Most of them seem to believe that legalization is approval. I’ve always said that the Libertarian Party needed to moderate it’s stance on the drug war, if not shut up about it. The shooting of Kathryn Johnson should be an eye opener, it has been for me. We need an open and honest debate of the facts and put every possible solution on the table as means to fix the problem and save the lives of innocent individuals that are caught in middle.

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  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    I think legalization of drugs is more acceptable than most people think. I get surprised more often, and for different reasons than suggested here, that drugs should be legal. One is about the suffering that is experienced by terminally ill cancer patients, who can’t have narcotics that would ease pain and keep them functional at the same time. I wonder that if a legalization of drugs question were on more ballots, would it pass?

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2006/11/22/comrades-i-hereby-declare-the-revolution/ Adam Selene

    Jason, I can, and do, fault the police. Perhaps not those officers right at the scene, although it is hard to imagine how they could have taken less care for the safety of citizens than they did. But the police generally, who behave more as an armed force within a generally hostile population than they do as people who are here to “protect and serve”.

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