Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

No-Knock Entries by Police Take Their Toll on Innocent

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

No-Knock Entries by Police Take Their Toll on Innocent

Article excerpt

WHILE Congress debates exactly how much to increase the power of law enforcement officials in the crime bill it is considering, little attention is being paid to the abuses already occurring at the hands of zealous, unrestrained government agents.

People's lives are increasingly being ruined as a result of unsubstantiated "tips" by anonymous government informants.

On March 25, 13 heavily armed Boston police smashed into the apartment of Rev. Accelynne Williams, a retired Methodist minister. Reverend Williams apparently ran into his bedroom when the raid began; police smashed down the bedroom door, struggled with him, and handcuffed him. Minutes later, Williams was dead of a heart attack. No drugs were found in his apartment. Boston police carried out the raid on a tip from an anonymous informant who did not even give a specific apartment number.

At 2 a.m. on Jan. 25, 1993, police broke down the door and rushed into the home of Manuel Ramirez of Stockton, Calif. Mr. Ramirez awoke, grabbed a pistol, and shot and killed one policeman by his bedroom door before the other police killed him.

The police were raiding the house based on a tip that drugs were on the premises, but they found no drugs.

Lt. Dan Lewis, of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department later sought to justify the raid's methods: "Our problem is that a lot of times you're dealing with drug dealers, and their thought process is not always right from the start. That's when things get real dangerous for us."

On Aug. 25, 1992, Customs Service and Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the San Diego home of businessman Donald Carlson, setting off a bomb in his backyard, smashing through his front door, and shooting him three times after he tried to defend himself with a gun. Police even shot Mr. Carlson in the back after he had given up his gun and was lying wounded on his bedroom floor. The Customs Service believed that there were four machine guns and a large cache of illegal narcotics in Carlson's home - but federal attorneys finally admitted in early 1993 that Carlson was completely innocent.

The raid was launched based on a tip from a paid informant named Ron, who later told the Los Angeles Times that he had never formally identified any specific house to be searched.

In March 1992, a police SWAT team killed Robin Pratt, an Everett, Wash., mother in a no-knock raid to serve an arrest warrant on her husband. (Her husband was later released after the allegations upon which the arrest warrant was based turned out to be false.)

The Seattle Times reported that the raid began as SWAT team members threw a 50 pound battering ram through a sliding glass door; Pratt was shot in the neck at close range by an officer as she was crouched on her knees, begging the police not to harm her children. …

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