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by Peter Moskos

November 5, 2010

Because it's a sin!

A SWAT team busted up a poker game of seniors. One cop and one gambler were shot.

This is not what SWAT teams are for. Actually, unfortunately, it is what SWAT teams are for. So let me rephrase: this is not what SWAT teams should be for.

The shot 72-year old reportedly said, “Why didn’t you tell me it was the cops?” According to WYFF (South Carolina), "After the exchange of gunfire, a standoff ensued that lasted about 20 minutes." The 12 people in the home were ticketed for unlawful betting and released.

Just think, if we legalize gambling... uh, it could lead to dancing? (That's the punchline to joke I can't remember--oh wait, here it is. See the last comment).


Cleanville Tziabatz said...

I am very against serving search warrants with SWAT and battering rams. Believe me, I am.

However, this particular raid may not have been that bad. Unlike the Ryan Frederick case, or the Kathryn Johnston case, there is substantial circumstantial evidence that this particular homeowner knew he was shooting at police.

hotrod said...

Yeah, I don't know what to make of this particular suspect either. I haven't dug into it too much, but there's some indication he was no saint. Doesn't make this all okay, of course, but it does put his firing rounds through a door at a target he couldn't see in a slightly different context.

That said, the larger issue (for me, anyway), is the raw fucking stupidity of doing raids this way, presuming it could possibly be avoided.

I'm going to word this carefully - whatever you call it - Dynamic Entry, Room Clearing, Battle Drill 6, this type of task (there are a lot of variations) is something that is much easier to THINK you're good at rather than to actually be really good at. The national level teams, both here and overseas, just do this over and over and over again. Plus no public service union to squawk when some guy gets kicked off of Delta/CAG back to the Ranger batts.

I have no idea what this teams training was like, but I'd be surprised if Greenville, SC had a dedicated SWAT team training this day after day. Whether part time or not, though, they went into a situation where there are just so many things that can go wrong. It's been seen over and over again, in both military and law enforcement settings. That douchebag in Vegas, that shooting in Ohio - hell, the recent (totally justified) raid in Afghanistan where the Brit aid worker was killed by Seal Team 6 (or DEVGRU or whatever they call themselves now).

There are so many things that can happen - homeowner returns fire, neglgent discharge, kids in the way, shoot the dogs, fire starts, bad recon because you're trying for surprise, cop trips and falls, and on and on and on.

Sometimes you've got to do business that way. The scenarios that would justify it are easy enough to come up with. But raids on CARD GAMES? I think it's an entrenched way of doing business, combined with the fact that American law enforcement tends to select for personalities that like going through doors, especially when statistically nothing is ACTUALLY likely to happen, at least not to the cop.

Take a step back and anyone would understand it's ridiculous and stupidly dangerous. Hell, on this very blog, "Johnny Law" once articulated some very sound guidelines for when dynamic entry would be justified. Then later said that he used to execute raids like this. Not even SWAT, just a Narcotics squad. Just like that asshole in Vegas who just had to "do (his) job".

I don't know, maybe these guys are awesome, well led, well trained cops who did business this way for a good reason. Probably not though.

Whether some interagency pack of douchebags with an alphabet soup "Task Force" name who like going through doors despite not REALLY being trained that way so they can find some shitty little batch of weed so they can get their shitty little bust so they can get the next shitty little federal grant, OR some pack of small agency dickheads working SWAT part time trying to get away from patrol - these clowns really aren't the badasses they tend to think they are and are doing bad policework. Great for enriching civil litigators at public expense though.

PCM said...

I don't think highly of people who run gambling dens and shoot first and ask questions later. I have little doubt this guy is a douche. But he and police officer still shouldn't have been shot.

And he wouldn't have shot if only he knew they were police. Let me put that in all caps because it's important: IF ONLY HE KNEW THEY WERE POLICE.

Too many police have died because of this (Agent Michael Cowdery comes to mind). Too many citizens, too (Jonathan Ayers, to name just one).

Police can get the element of surprise, or you can let people know you're police. You can't do both. So there is a actual real dilemma here.

Here, a uniformed officer should have just knocked (and stood to the side).

And if they don't answer and they start flushing cars down the toilet? Who cares. But then you can bust down the door, if you really want to.

danm said...

if police really want to stop "illegal gambling dens" (personal freedom issues aside) there is a really easy, safe way to do it:

park a police car outside of it.

in the alternative they could try knocking on the door and suggesting they shut down

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Let me clarify that I don't necessarily think that Awtry knew he was shooting at policemen because of his criminal past, or because of the cocain (possibly planted) in the residence. I think He may have known he was shooting at police because:

1. supposedly a police car has lights and sirens going outside the residence prior to the shooting (police should be encouraged to do this -- this is how I knew it was police when they were slamming on my door and shouting incomprehensible things).

2. he had a video monitoring system

3. his video monitoring system was working and at least one occupant of the residence saw it was police

This does not mean that he definitely knew, but it suggests it pending further investigation.

The subtler point is that the police would have been safer if they had called to him with a bullhorn. He probably would NOT have shot at the police (assuming he intended to) absent the plausible deniability the raid tactics afforded him.

Jay Livingston said...

Thanks for the link to this story. I'll try to remember it when discussion turns to the benefits of an armed citizenry.