Another Dead Citizen
Another citizen is dead in a raid conducted by police to serve a warrant. In this story, an 18 year old man, and his dog, is killed by police. He is suspected of armed robbery, supposedly one of two men that hit Justin Raines over the head and stole a PlayStation 3 from him.
It turns out that, although there were weapons in the house, Peyton Strickland kept them unloaded and none of them were in his hands when he answered a knock on the door. What, apparently, was in his hands was a game controller. Although he was, according to his roommate, going to answer the door, sheriff’s deputies knocked the door down before he could. They entered the house and fired four or five times, killing Strickland and his German Shepherd.
Although the police told Strickland’s roommate that they were there to serve a warrant, they never provided a copy of it to him. The District Attorney and Sheriff’s Department will conduct an investigation:
Investigators were reviewing the conduct of all officers and deputies involved in the incident, said New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David, who confirmed at least one sheriff’s deputy was involved in the shooting.
“I am making this my top priority,” David said Saturday. “No one’s above the law. If there’s any criminal conduct that can be established, I’m not going to hesitate to treat them as any other defendant.”
Neither he nor Sheriff Sid Causey would release any information on who was present at the time of the shooting or details about why or how it happened. The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation, they said.
“It puts a cloud over everybody,” Causey said. “Nobody wants things to happen, but they do happen. When they do, we have to investigate … and then do the approriate thing.”
So, I have several questions.
- What about negligence, even if it wasn’t criminal? It sounds to me like the sheriff’s deputies chose a high risk approach to serve a warrant when they could have just waited until Strickland was leaving, or coming home, to serve the warrant. Or, simply waited for him to open the door. I have yet to hear anything that indicates the need for a forced entry. There was nothing that indicated immediate danger to anyone. So, even if there wasn’t criminal behavior, it sounds pretty negligent.
- What sort of compensation will be offered to the roommates, the friends, the family? Is the Sheriff’s department going to repair the home, clean up the blood, pay for the counseling that the roommate is likely to need?
- The Sheriff appears to be of the mindset that such things happen. It seems to me his mindset should be that they should never happen and a significant part of his job is making sure that citizens are protected. Obviously, I only have the quotes the paper chose to provide, hopefully this doesn’t reflect his attitude accurately.
Although not as cut and dried as the Kathryn Johnston case, it still seems pretty clear that Strickland didn’t have to be killed. Nor did his dog. What is interesting is that no details of why the police believed Strickland had committed armed robbery are provided. We have no way to judge if the warrant was appropriate, or not.
What do we know? An 18 year old is dead. A police officer may, potentially, have his career ruined, depending on this investigation. No weapons or lethal force was involved, or threat to the cops, except their own weapons. Another 18 year old is probably emotionally scarred for life. All of this, it would appear, could have been avoided by a change in tactics. As Radley Balko says:
Instead of kicking down doors, wouldn’t have been easier to just wait until this kid was coming or leaving his house?
As far as I can tell, yet another death to lay at the feet of a police culture that now emphasizes the citizen as the enemy.