The Dec. 19 death of a SWAT team member, using the ever more popular practice among law enforcement of No-Knock Warrants, brings to the front the need for a reassessment of this warrant.
Such a tool enables the police to enter ones home fast, presumably to confiscate illegal substances before they are destroyed. With upwards of 60,000 of these happening each year from only 3,000 in 1981, perhaps it is time we squared this practice with the Constitution, especially in light of its serious escalation.
Hank McGee, who shot and killed a SWAT team officer because he thought those breaking through his front door were robbing thugs, was acquitted by the Burleson County, Texas grand jury. He acted in self-defense. Although he was lucky and not killed in the exchange of gunfire, this is not the case with others having the same thing happen to them.
In 2006, 80-year-old Kathryn Johnson, with similar fears, unloaded several rounds wounding three officers before they killed her. She, too, was not running a drug house as had been alleged. Nor was Tracy Ingle of Little Rock, Ark., two years later, when he tried to defend himself with an unloaded gun from what he thought to be entering thugs. Later, after four bullets had been discharged into his body and several others into the wall, the gunfire ended. Surrounding police referred to him as Michael. “My name’s not Mike,” he answered before passing out from his wounds. They had the wrong house and man (SWAT Team Member Killed Using No-Knock Warrant, The New American, March 3, 2014).
Ismael Mena, a Mexican immigrant, also the wrong man and wrong address, unlike Ingle who lived, was killed in a no-knock raid. Jose Guerena, presuming home invasion, was shot 22 times. The safety on his gun was still on when found dead. He hadn’t fired a shot.
Certainly these are not normal cases but when intruders break in your door a reasonable person would not first assume that they are friendly. He would grab his gun. This is why initial murder charges against Hank McGee were dropped in the Texas county. In light of a recent Los Angeles robbery ring of 15 led by two former police officers “which used fake no-knock raids as a ruse to catch victims off guard,” today, even if the police announce themselves as the police, uncertainty may justifiably still exist (Wikipedia).
With the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act authorizing the military to kidnap and remove to Guantanamo Bay, without trial and for indefinite detention, anyone the president, or his military, suspect as being terrorists (not defined), the government should expect citizens to fire back. When uncertainty exists with respect to who the good guys and bad guys are coming through his door — often in the middle of the night unannounced and uninvited — how could it not be self-defense?
It is hard to believe that the framers of the Constitution had in mind either the police or the military busting through our doors unannounced with guns blazing, as was the case in the examples just cited. This was essentially what the British were doing prior to the Revolutionary War with their general search warrants. The Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights prohibited such from ever being reinstituted. It reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The home is the most sacred of all places, the place where we sleep for approximately eight hours a day and are the most vulnerable. Where children often reside. It is very difficult to believe that No-Knock Warrants cause the people to be more secure in their persons or houses. And although a judge, and not the police or military, decides what is reasonable, it is hard to imagine this kind of entry as ever being reasonable unless the suspect is in the act of committing a life or death crime. The dead on both sides make that case.
So what if the drugs are flushed down the toilet by those not law abiding because the police knocked first? When weighed against the police losing their reputation as being first a friend and protector of the people, it pales in comparison. In a free society one should not have cause to fear the police or military.
Dr. Harold Pease teaches history and political science from this perspective for more than 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.