No Knock Cop Shot, Killed

A grand jury has refused to indite Henry Magee for the shooting death of an intruder in his Somerville Texas home in December 2013; despite the fact that the home intruder was police sergeant Adam Sowders, who was reportedly acting on official business.  There are several reactions I have to this.

First, I feel bad for the law enforcement officer that was killed and his family. I never want to see the police killed, even in tv and movies I dislike scenes where cops are getting slaughtered. Several of my friends and former co-workers are law enforcement officers; through them I have a small hint of what it means to be in that profession, which is much more of an understanding than most people. I don’t want to see them being ordered into situations that are more dangerous than they need to be.

I also feel bad for the victim of the no-knock police raid, he was forced into a situation where he felt he had to kill someone in order to defend himself and his family. I can easily see myself being in the same situation and doing the same thing. Most people would, and the members of the grand jury also agreed. Just because we have different preferences in houseplants, doesn’t change the situation enough in my mind.

That brings me to these houseplants. When is the last cop going to die and the last father imprisoned over a stupid plant? I hope soon. Too many have died and too many are in prison over differences in gardening preferences.

Perhaps the most concerning part of this situation is that police felt the need to barge into a house at 6am with guns drawn. Was this guy a hermit that never left his residence? Did the police have enough intel to know that he might have some illegal plants but not enough to know when a safer time was to arrest him. This type of raid must be curtailed; invading a house pre-dawn with guns drawn should not be a first resort nor a preferred method. Arrest him as he pulls out of his driveway, or when he gets out of his car at the grocery store. Sure, it takes a little more surveillance work and it’s not as much fun as a night time raid; but correct me if I’m wrong to believe that it has a higher survival rate.

All these police home invasion stories remind me of two formative cases from my early teen years. In one a man who called himself David Koresh, a cult leader who orchestrated the systematic rape of girls and young teens, was sought by police. Despite law enforcement knowing that he went on a run outside his compound every day, and despite having infiltrated his organization with an undercover agent, the BATFE conducted a frontal assault resulting in the death of four agents. A minimal understanding of centuries old tactics says to avoid attacking the fortified castle when the leaders can be captured outside the gates.

The other case that comes to mind is that of Randy Weaver, where an angry neighbor lied to authorities, and federal informants and agents conspired against him, and where  paperwork and communication errors caused a bench warrant to be issued, and where overzealous feds escalated the situation over eight years with targeted harassment, starting as a non-violent misunderstanding to one agent dead and federal agents killing his dog, his son, and his wife. Weaver was acquitted and his surviving family paid $3.1M in a settlement.

We need leaders who understand that the powers of government are derived from the natural rights of the citizens of that government who choose to invest a portion of their individual sovereign rights into the collective powers of the nation. When this happens new powers are not created, nor is the responsibility abnegated by the source individuals to ensure that power is wielded correctly by their proxies.

As Lt. Governor of Alaska, I hope to work with other Alaskan leaders to ensure our law enforcement officers and agencies are provided with all the tools needed to conduct reasonably safe, prompt, and respectful operations. Equipment is only one factor; and I don’t want our police and troopers to look like an occupying military force. Important too are sound engagement practices, being a cop can be very hard we need to allow officers to use the proper tools and tactics to get the job done in as safe a manner as feasible.