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There were two unfortunate drug raid stories in the news this week. The first comes from Crescent City, Calif., where some cops were caught on video allegedly stealing money out of the wallet of a drug suspect, then laughing about it. And that’s really only the start of the alleged corruption.
[Attorney Michael] Riese said there were also inconsistencies with items missing from the residence after the raid and those that were documented in the initial search returns.
Among them, was a gold chain belonging to [James] Banuelos that appeared to go for sale on Craigslist days after the search, with a geo-tag location for the online post indicating it was made by a county employee, Riese said.
According to [Deputy District Attorney Annamarie] Padilla’s motion filed Wednesday, the FBI investigation determined the chain was being sold by an unrelated third party who claimed to have bought it years ago.
“In this case, my client says that it becomes ‘interesting’ that his jewelry shows up on Craigslist and it does not show up on the evidence listing until the FBI becomes involved,” said Riese.
Riese also takes issue with a trailer seized from Banuelos’ property ending up in the possession of one of the Sheriff deputies who assisted in the search. The deputy claimed to have owned the trailer years ago before it was “junked” by a local tow service, says Padilla.
The trailer was not documented on the initial search return itemization, said Riese, and was returned to the deputy without the proper legal recourse.
Let’s assume that by some crazy coincidence the trailer really did belong to the deputy. (And given everything else that went down during this raid, that’s assuming quite a bit.) You’re a cop. You go to court to get it back. You don’t just say, “Hey, that’s mine!” and take it back.
From all of this, it appears that one officer was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly taking the cash, even though the article indicates that the video implicates more than one of them.
These stories aren’t uncommon. They’re partly the product of the general nature of the drug war. Because consensual crimes don’t usually produce victims who report the crimes to police, drug enforcement often requires drug cops to break the same laws they’re enforcing, either through informants, or by going undercover. That can foster a mentality that the law is fungible or that the cops themselves are above the law.
But I also suspect civil asset forfeiture has something to do with these laws. Once you believe that the police are entitled to the property of anyone merely suspected of a drug crime, it isn’t much of a moral leap to start helping yourself to a suspect’s belongings, particularly if, as in this case, it appears that the suspect is a major drug distributor. Between the two, we get a steady stream of stories about corrupt drug cops.
The prosecutor in this case doesn’t want the jury to see the video of the officers allegedly stealing money. Of course she doesn’t. That might undermine their credibility with the jury when it comes to everything else about this case. But then, it should.
The second story comes from Louisville, Ky., and is yet another illustration of how aggressive, “dynamic entry” drug raids make things more dangerous for everyone.
The family of the man who is accused of shooting a Shively police officer Friday is claiming self-defense on his behalf.The police arrested Probus’s roommate Loretta Harris for allegedly selling meth. She also had an outstanding warrant.
Three days after a police officer was shot at a house on Eden Lane in Shively, the people who live there are fixing the door they say was busted down by police.
“She says they didn’t knock. She says they just took a ram and busted the front door in and they grabbed her,” said the suspect’s brother, who didn’t want to be identified.
Nine Shively officers were at the house Friday to serve a warrant when gunfire erupted. Shively Det. Wes Singleton was shot four times in the legs. He’s still recovering at University Hospital.
Police say the man who shot Singleton is 53-year-old Kenneth Probus.
Police say he fired first and police shot back. He’s in serious condition and had surgery Monday.
“He’s got a messed up, his leg is broken. They reset part of his intestines. He’s got a tube in his lung for it’s compromised,” said his brother.
His brother says he was shooting in self-defense.
“Then they just took the ram and busted his door in and he didn’t know what happened so he just grabbed a gun and started shooting,” he told WDRB.
He says Kenneth was sleeping when police went in his room and he started shooting with the gun he keeps above his bed.
He says Kenneth has a gun collection and legally owns all of them.
“Yeah, they got receipts and everything and he’s got a concealed permit.”
Neighbors told a local news station that they were shocked to hear that Probus had allegedly shot a police officer. The fact that he owned a legal conceal-carry permit suggests that he had no previous serious run-ins with the law. And so far, none of the coverage of the case indicates that Probus was a suspect. Perhaps we’ll learn later that he was complicit in some way. But as of now, it looks as though he was an innocent man who woke up to discover armed men breaking into his home.
Regardless of what police may later learn about Probus, he and a police officer have been seriously wounded and are both lucky they aren’t dead. This, of course, raises the question — yet again — of why in the world cops feel compelled to batter down doors when serving drug warrants. They argue that they need to take suspects by surprise, either to prevent them from disposing of drug evidence or to prevent them from fleeing or shooting at police.
But this case and countless others before put the lie to the latter argument. In most cases, it just isn’t possible to batter down a door in time to subdue a suspect who wants to shoot at police. And in far too many cases where cops get shot, the shooter can make an entirely plausible argument that he had no idea he was shooting at police. After all, the entire point is to take the suspect by surprise.
This case is particularly troubling because of Probus’s conceal-carry permit. There are two possibilities here. The first is that the police didn’t bother to check to see whether Harris had a roommate, or if they did, didn’t do much investigation of the roommate. At minimum, that shows a pretty callous disregard for an innocent people who could have been subjected to this raid. The other possibility is even worse: The police knew Probus had a legal conceal-carry permit, which means they likely knew he had guns in the home. To knowingly subject a gun-owning, permit-carrying, presumably law-abiding citizen to these kinds of tactics is especially reckless and dangerous.
The police department is taking donations for the officer who was wounded in this raid. If it turns out that Probus was innocent in all of this and thought he was defending himself from criminal intruders, they ought to start taking donations for him, too.
January 15, 2016
Radley Balko | Washington Post | The Watch