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November 20, 2007

Kathryn Johnson: One Year Later

by Doug Mataconis

About one year ago, a 92 year old woman named Kathryn Johnson was shot dead when Atlanta police busted down the door of her home in a botched drug raid. In his Fox News Column this week, Radley Balko wonders if anything has changed since then:

All across the country, narcotics units and SWAT teams are still kicking down doors in the middle of the night and still deploying flash grenades and using aggressive, paramilitary tactics–and they’re still doing all of this to apprehend people suspected of nonviolent crimes. And they’re still making mistakes.

In February of this year, 16-year-old Daniel Castillo, Jr. was killed in a police raid on his family’s home in Texas. Castillo had no criminal record. A SWAT officer broke open the door to the bedroom as Castillo, his sister, and her infant son were sleeping. When Castillo rose from the bed after being awoken to his sister’s screams, the SWAT officer shot him in the face.

In March, police in Spring Lake, Minn., acting on an informant’s tip, raided the home of Brad and Nicole Thompson. The couple was forced on the ground at gun point and warned by an officer, “If you move, I’ll shoot you in the f___ing head.” Police had the wrong house.

In June, a 72-year-old woman on oxygen was thrown to the ground at gunpoint in a mistaken drug raid near Durnago, Colo.

In fact, since the Johnston raid last year, there have been mistaken drug raids on innocent people in Temecula, Calif.; Annapolis, Md.; several incidents in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City; Galliano, La.; Hendersonville, N.C.; Ponderay, Idaho; Stockton, Calif.; Pullman, Wash.; Baltimore; Wilmington, Del.; Jacksonville, Fla; Alton, Kansas; Merced County, Calif.; and, believe it or not, Atlanta, Ga.

And of course, these are merely those reported in newspapers.

As Balko notes, if any good has come from the tragedy of one year ago, it’s that people and the media are paying more attention to the issue of excessive police force than they were a year ago. Whether that will result in any changes anytime soon is another story.

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