SWAT Team Cleared For Botched Raid
A few weeks ago I posted about a botched SWAT raid in Limestone County, in which the para-military troops:
1) failed to even give the local authorities a courtesy call;
2) busted down the door and exploded into the wrong house;
3) shot the unsuspecting resident of that house, Kenneth Jamar, who is in his 50’s and suffers from gout, and whom relatives say “can’t even get up to make himself a ham sandwich;”
4) did not find the actual suspect until long after the mistaken entry and shooting, when they happened to see him in the front yard of the house talking to reporters.
I concluded the post with this observation:
Three, no-one is going to suffer any adverse consequences for this screw-up. Any lawsuit will quickly be dismissed, with words like “emergency” and “officer’s safety.” Never mind the fact that the officers created the emergency and the dangers. As for internal discipline, I’m not holding my breath.
Guess what? A “review board” has found that the troopers acted “in policy” when they shot Mr. Jamar. According to the story, the officers intended to search Mr. Jamar’s house, though the warrant actually identified another house. They also allegedly “announced their presence and identified themselves” before smashing down Mr. Jamar’s door. After getting into his house, they had to break down another door, behind which they found Mr. Jamar holding a gun. Only after telling him to drop the weapon did the cops open fire on Mr. Jamar.
The story does not say who sits on the review board. Without knowing that, the findings are untrustworthy. I would certainly reject these conclusions if they came from other law enforcement officers. I would probably accept them if there were private citizens on the board. For purposes of this post I’ll take them as true. But the whole thing still stinks.
Why was the SWAT team needed in the first place? The aftermath sure indicates that the actual suspect was anything but a danger. Why couldn’t they have just set up surveillance and then arrested the guy when they saw him? What was so important that it required the use of a small army?
And how about this attitude:
Sheriff Mike Blakely said it is unlikely Jamar will face any charges stemming from the incident.
“Unless the DA’s office sees some reason to bring charges, I don’t see any reason to. … Getting shot was heck of a lot more punishment than the statute calls for. In the interest of justice, I see no reason to charge him,” he said.
The officials will make all the excuses in the world for the SWAT team, but “punishment” is what you get if you dare to defend your home. All Mr. Jamar knew was that a bunch of guys in dark outfits with big guns just smashed through his door. What was he supposed to do? Sure, the “review board” found that the cops announced their presence. But how long did they wait, if they did, between the announcement and deployment of the battering ram? And with two closed doors between him and the troopers, do you really think Mr. Jamar heard them?
I’m not saying these type of raids are never justified. I am saying all too often they are the default method of arresting people. As this case illustrates, they are dangerous for everyone involved. The more of them, the more likely this stuff is going to happen. So using them ought to be a last resort.
(Update: Radley Balko has some great suggestions for reducing the number of botched raids.)