Drug War Victims
Lives and freedom lost in the crossfire of the war on drugs
This page is a monument to the lives and freedom lost in the name of drug prohibition. The victims of the drug war are diverse, and the reasons and story for each person are complex. To help demonstrate how drug prohibition and the drug war has affected these people, each case is placed into at least one of six categories:
Black Market Violence: Violence resulting from black markets for drugs which would not occur if drugs were taxed and regulated.
Dubious Behavior: Law enforcement acts on false/fabricated information, violates policy, or uses excessive force (like firing at an unarmed individual). Use of confidential informants or intimidation also falls under this category. The actions are generally the result of distorted incentives.
Excessive Punishment: Severe punishments dealt for victimless crimes with profoundly and unnecessarily negative effects both on drug offenders and their families.
Mistake: Police raid the wrong house, target the wrong person, or otherwise act on faulty or incomplete information. Mistakes also include accidents, like guns accidentally firing.
Self-Defense: A person is killed trying to defend themselves or their families or an officer is killed when someone acted in self-defense.
Treatment Denied: Situations resulting from either being unable to obtain the medical marijuana necessary to treat a patient’s condition or from governmental barriers and punishments for users of medical marijuana.
Justin De Sha Overcash– Black Market Violence
Justin DeSha-Overcash’s death was a result of marijuana prohibition policies that actually put young people in more danger than a system of legalization and regulation. DeSha-Overcash, 22 years-old, had a bright future ahead and was slated to graduate in June with a degree in physics and astronomy. The police blamed him for his own death, calling him a “drug dealer” because marijuana was found at his home.
Payton & Chase– Mistake
Prince George County SWAT, intercepting a package of marijuana addressed to Mayor Cheye Calvo’s wife Trinity, and knowing that criminals were addressing packages to innocents and intercepting them, nonetheless burst into the Mayor’s home without even enough investigation to know he was the Mayor or even notifying local police, shot the two dogs (Chase was running away from them when they killed him), and kept the Mayor and his mother-in-law handcuffed on the floor for hours in their dogs’ blood. Dogs like Payton and Chase are commonly killed in drug raids.
Derek Copp– Mistake
Derek Copp’s roommate, Conor Bardallis, was the target of the SWAT raid on his apartment. When police tried to break in through a rear sliding door, Copp went to pull back the curtains and open the door. Police claim that he “opened the door agressively”, which caused one of the raiding officers to shoot Copp in the chest. Copp survived and the offending officer received a misdemeanor charge resulting in 6 months’ probation. Copp and Bardallis both pleaded guilty to the offenses they were charged with, which were so minor that Copp received probation, while Bardallis received probation, a fine, and had his license temporarily suspended.
Jose Guerena– Self-Defense
26 year old Jose Guerena was killed at the hands of a Pima County, Arizona SWAT team just after 9 a.m. May 5, 2011. Guerera, Marine who served two tours in Iraq, had just gone to bed after working a 12-hour shift at a local mine when his home was invaded as part of a multi-house crackdown. Thinking his home was being invaded when the raid began, Jose hid his family and brought out a rifle. Police shot him to death. After the raid, police changed their narrative of what happened that night several times.
Cheryl Miller– Treatment Denied
Cheryl, a sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis, was denied Medicinal Cannabis as a treatment for her condition. Her symptoms worsened and she continued to be denied the medicine she needed, until she succumbed to complications from MS in 2003.
Rachel Hoffman– Dubious Behavior
After police caught Hoffman with drugs, they promised to drop charges if she agreed to go undercover in a drug bust. She was killed during the operation, which an investigation revealed involved 21 violations of 9 different policies on the part of the police. You can read more from SSDP about the tragedy.
LeBron Gaither– Dubious Behavior
LeBron Gaither was recruited by Kentucky police at age 16 to work as a confidential informant following his arrest for an offense unrelated to drugs. At age 18, Gaither was murdered after being sent by police to purchase drugs from a drug dealer whom he had testified against before a grand jury the day before.
Shelly Hilliard– Dubious Behavior
Transwoman Shelly Hilliard of Detroit, Michigan, threatened with the prospect of jail and being sent to a male facility following police catching her with a small amount of marijuana, agreed to help organize a sting operation on her drug dealer to avoid incarceration. The drug dealer was arrested, but was released several hours later. The drug dealer and an accomplice tracked down and murdered Shelly. According to one witness, the police revealed her identity.
Jeremy McLean– Dubious Behavior
Jeremy McLean of Vancouver, Washington began to take pain pills for which he had no prescription after a back injury. He was later caught selling pills to a friend who was acting as a confidential informant to the police. To avoid jail time, McLean, too, agree to become a confidential informant. Police continued to use McLean as a CI, exploiting the vague details of his CI contract, and failed to adequately protect him or take his safety seriously: the target of McLean’s 14th undercover sting operation, released on bail, shot and killed McLean.
Jonathan Ayers– Self-Defense
Reverend Jonathan Ayers was shot and killed in 2009 by undercover police officers during a sting operation. A Baptist minister from Lavonia, Georgia, Rev. Ayers had just dropped off a parishioner suspected of dealing, whom he was attempting to counsel through drug problems. Undercover officers stopped his vehicle at a nearby gas station in Toccoa, Georgia. The officers did not identify themselves properly, and Ayers assumed he was being robbed. In attempting to escape, his car clipped one of the officers and shots were fired in response, fatally wounding Rev. Ayers. No trace of narcotics or illegal substances were found in Rev. Ayer’s car or his body.
Derek Hale– Dubious Behavior
Derek Hale, a veteran of two tours in Iraq, was tasered, shot and killed by Wilmington Police in 2006. Hale was a member of the Pagan Motorcycle Club in Delaware, which was known for sponsoring the “Toys for Tots” run every year. The club was the target of investigation by police and Hale was personally targeted for surveillance. Hale was house-sitting for a fellow club member when he was approached on the steps of the house by 8-12 undercover police officers. He was tasered three times, then shot at point blank range, all while verbally stating that he was attempting to comply with the officers’ demands.
Kathryn Johnston– Self-Defense, Dubious Behavior
Kathryn, an 88 years old living in Atlanta, Georgia, was shot by plainclothes police as they entered her home with a no-knock warrant after cutting the security bars. This warrant was obtained using fraudulent information as the basis for the narcotics raid. Ms. Johnston fired a warning shot, fearing a home invasion, and was shot multiple times in response. Drugs were later planted at the scene by police in an attempted cover up of the fraudulently obtained search warrant.
Gary & Sherri Burton– Treatment Denied
In May 2011, 69-year-old Gary Burton was sentenced to 60 days in in Medina County Jail, 30 days house arrest and two years of probation for growing two marijuana plants. Burton was growing the marijuana to help ease the pain his wife had been going through as she fought breast cancer. Sherri Burton has to postpone her surgery scheduled for June, because of her husband’s jail sentence.
Jacqueline Patterson– Treatment Denied
“My kids and I were homeless in 2007 because of the drug war and anti-cannabis policies. and I lost custody of my son jade because of it” Jacqueline Patterson is a medical cannabis patient advocate well known for her role in the Showtime film “In Pot We Trust”. When the film aired, she and her children, having fled the Midwest for the relative safety of California, were living in a bedbug infested homeless shelter in Marin County. Out of alternatives, she sent her son, Jade, to spend the summer with his father, who used her status as a medical cannabis patient to gain sole custody and secure supervised visitation.
44-year-old Cheryl Lynn Noel was shot and killed in a botched drug raid in Baltimore, MD in 2005. She thought her home was broken into and grabbed a gun. When Officers opened her bedroom door, they were met with Cheryl pointing the gun at them. One of the Officers fired three times, killing Cheryl. There wasn’t enough evidence to keep the rest of her family in custody, but Cheryl’s death serves as a reminder of innocent victims the War on Drugs takes every day. Her case was publicized by Drug Warrant and The Agitator.
Robin Prosser– Treatment Denied
Robin Prosser was a Montanan musician and mother who was using marijuana for medical purposes. She had systemic lupus, which caused severe nausea and chronic pain, and marijuana helped with these symptoms, as she was allergic to many prescription drugs. Police and prosecutors in the state attempted to charge her and put her in prison until Montanans voted overwhelmingly to allow medical marijuana in 2004. However, federal agents continued to go after her and effectively denied her necessary medicine. Unable to deal with the pain, Robin committed suicide in 2007.
Anthony Diotaiuto– Self-Defense
Anthony Diotaiuto was killed by Police, after they received an anonymous tip that marijuana and cocaine was being sold at his home. Neighbors say the Police broke down his front door without identifying themselves. Not knowing the identity of the intruders, Anthony went for his legally owed handgun. The police shot him a total of 10 times in response to his action. Only a small amount of marijuana was found in his residence afterwards.
Bounmy Ousa– Dubious Behavior
Mr. Ousa, a 60-year old father was killed by undercover narcotics officers in 2005. Ousa had gone out of his house to investigate a suspicious car parked in front of his house. Officers in the undercover police vehicle were conducting surveillance of a house down the street in preparation for a narcotics raid. While speaking with the officers, they claim Ousa appeared to reach behind his back. Assuming he was reaching for a weapon, an Officer shot and killed him. They searched Ousa’s house and retrieved a flashlight, which they claimed Ousa had pulled out of his pants in a manner that threatened the police, justifying their actions.
Michael Meluzzi– Dubious Behavior
Michael Meluzzi was in the yard with several children when SWAT police pulled up in a van. Police threw several flashbang grenades despite the presence of children. Meluzzi ran after the the grenades went off and an officer began chasing him. The officer caught up to Meluzzi and tasered him. While Meluzzi was being tasered, the officer claims he reached quickly into his waistband giving the appearance of drawing a weapon. The officer fired on Meluzzi killing him on the spot. No weapon was found on Meluzzi or in his body’s vicinity.
Trevon Cole– Dubious Behavior
Trevon Cole, a 21 year old, was shot and killed during a narcotics raid on the apartment he shared with his pregnant girlfriend in June 2010. Cole was found by officer Yant in the bathroom disposing of some marijuana after the SWAT team busted down his door with a metal battering ram. Police said Cole made a “furtive movement” while crouching near the toilet and Yant opened fire as a result. No weapons were found on Cole or during the search. Officer Yant has twice before unjustifiably discharged his firearm, killing one person and wounding another, and only received one week’s suspension as punishment for his violation of policy.
Isaac Singletary– Dubious Behavior
Isaac Singletary, an 80 year old man living in Jacksonville, Florida, was shot by undercover narcotics officers in 2007. Singletary lived in a poor neighborhood and often had to deal with drug dealers operating near his residence. He saw two individuals which engaging in illegal activity outside his home. When the two refused to leave when he shouted at them, he retrieved his gun from his home in an attempt to scare them off. The two individuals he believed to be drug dealers were in fact undercover officers. Without declaring themselves to be police, the officers demanded that Singletary drop his weapon and then opened fire when he refused. He received multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead after being taken to a nearby hospital.
Tarika Wilson– Mistake
A single mother of six children, 26 year old Tarika Wilson lived in Lima, Ohio. Her boyfriend was under investigation by police for small-scale drug dealing. A SWAT team entered her home and found Tarika, unarmed and on her knees, holding her son and complying with the officers’ demands. They opened fire after being startled by Tarika’s pet dogs, killing her and wounding her 14-month old son. The officers involved were acquitted of misdemeanor charges, though the incident has caused racial tensions, as Lima has a high population of African-Americans, with an almost entirely Caucasian police force.
Patricia Spottedcrow– Excessive Punishment
Patricia Spottedcrow, a 25 year old Oklahoma mother of four, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling $31 of marijuana to a police informant at her home. She was arrested for drug distribution and because Spottedcrow’s children were in the home, an additional charge of possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor was added. She had no previous criminal record. Patricia began serving her sentence on December 22nd 2010.
Delita Starr– Excessive Punishment
Delita Starr, 50 year old Oklahoma woman (mother of Patricia Spottedcrow) handed down a 30 year suspended sentence for the same charges. It was her home that the sale which got Patricia in trouble took place in. Since the justice system is so empathetic, they allowed her to avoid jail time in order to look after her four grandchildren, whose mother is to serve 10 years for selling $31 of marijuana. She lives in near poverty and is being forced to pay nearly $9,000 in fines stemming from the incident.
In their home state of Oklahoma: For 14 of the past 15 years, Oklahoma has locked up more women per capita than any other state. More than 65 percent of the women in prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes and more than 85 percent leave behind children, whose care becomes the responsibility of a family member or the state. Taxpayers also pay a high price, as the cost of the operating the state’s prison system has increased from $188 million in 1995 to more than $450 million.
Marisela Escobendo Ortiz– Black Market Violence
Ms. Ortiz was shot by cartel members outside of the governor of Chihuahua’s office building in December, 2010. She had been protesting the release of her daughter’s confessed killer by a Mexican court, and is believed to have been murdered in response to her protests. She and her daughter are unfortunate victims of the powerful Mexican Drug Cartels, whose funding comes primarily from the Black Market sales of marijuana in the United States.
Corporal Ed Toatley– Black Market Violence
Maryland State Police
Shot and killed in Washington, D.C. on October 30, 2000, 37 year-old Corporal Ed Toatley was working as part of an inter-agency task force “Safe Streets.”
Alberto Sepulveda– Mistake
11 year old Alberto Sepulveda was killed when SWAT team officers on a federal narcotics sweep raided his parents’ home. Police said the shooting was an accident.
Ashley Villarreal– Mistake
14 year old Ashley Villarreal was killed by DEA when she drove around the block supervised by a person authorities believed was their suspect (it wasn’t).
First American citizen to be convicted for selling marijuana. Served four years of hard labor in Leavenworth, died a year after release
Tom Crosslin and Rolland “Rollie” Rohm– Self-Defense
Instead of allowing their land and campground at Rainbow Farm which Crosslin and Rohm to be seized by the government in response to their hosting of pro-marijuana rallies, the two burned the buildings on their property and made a stand for their rights. Crosslin and Rohm were killed by the DEA after a four-day stand-off with government officials.
Crystal Ickes– Mistake
Made to leave the methadone clinic after treatment and barely able to sign her name, 27 year-old Crystal Ickes was also not allowed to stay in the parking lot. On her way home, she hit another car head-on and died. She left behind 3 young children. The man in the other car sustained permanent back injuries.
Esequiel Hernandez– Mistake
Hernandez was shot and killed by a Marine sniper in camouflage who was part of a military unit conducting drug interdiction activities near the Mexican border. Esequiel was out herding his family’s goats and had taken a break to shoot at some tin cans with his antique rifle.
Detective Jarrod Shivers– Mistake
Detective Shivers, an eight-year police veteran, was shot while executing a drug search warrant at Ryan Frederick’s home in Chesapeake, Virginia based on an informant’s incorrect claim that Frederick was growing marijuana.
He died a few days after his family suffered violent raids upon their homes and businesses in Ferndale, Michigan. Both he and his wife were legally registered medical marijuana patients.
Barb Agro– Treatment Denied, Excessive Punishment
Barb Agro was found guilty of manufacturing and distributing marijuana. She was not permitted to use her status as a licensed medical marijuana patient as a defense, though her actions were legal under state law.
John Hartman– Treatment Denied
Ohio cannabis activist denied an organ transplant because he was a medical cannabis patient.
Veronica Bowers– Mistake
an American missionary, and her 7-month-old daughter, Charity, were shot and killed on April 20, 2001 in Peru, when Peruvians monitored by the CIA mistook them for drug smugglers. Her husband, Jim Bowers, and their son, Cory, survived.
The pilot of the small Cessna plane in which they were traveling, Kevin Donaldson, was able to crash-land the plane along the Amazon River despite his own wounds from the attack.
Kiki Camarena– Black Market Violence
In early 1985, the DEA sent Kiki Camarena to work undercover in Mexico. His identity was discovered. He was kidnapped and tortured to death. Some of his DEA comrades have suffered the horror of listening to a recording made of his final agony.
John Adams– Mistake
Shot to death during a SWAT drug raid while watching TV. The house didn’t match the description on the warrant.
Xavier Bennett– Mistake
8 year old Xavier Bennett was shot to death when an officer fired three shots into the closed, shaded window of his bedroom during a drug raid ih his parents’ home. The offending officer, who first denied shooting at the window and then claimed to have fired fewer shots than he did, was suspended for 5 days. Xavier Bennett’s stepfather was initially charged with murder for starting the gunfight that led to his stepson’s death, though he believed at the time that he was being robbed.
Delbert Bonar– Mistake
Shot 8 times by police in night-time drug raid. They were looking for his son.
Rudolfo “Rudy” Cardenas– Self-Defense
Rudy was a father of five who was passing by a house targeted by narcotics officers attempting to serve a parole violation warrant and the police mistakenly thought he was the one they were there to arrest. They chased Cardenas, and he fled, apparently afraid of them (they were not uniformed). Cardenas was shot multiple times in the back.
Jose Colon– Mistake
Jose was outside the house where he had come to repay a $20 debt, when a drug raid on the house commenced. He was shot in the head by SWAT.
Troy Davis– Dubious Behavior
During a no-knock raid to find some marijuana plants he was growing, he was shot to death in his living room. Police claim Davis was holding a gun, but the available evidence conflicted with that narrative.
Annie Rae Dixon– Mistake
Annie Rae Dixon was a paraplegic and bedridden with pneumonia when police conducted a drug raid on her house based on an informant claiming to have purchased drugs from Dixon’s granddaughter. A police officer kicked open her bedroom door and accidentally shot her, but did not even receive a negligence charge for her killing. No drugs were found in the house.
Patrick Dorismond– Dubious Behavior
Patrick was a security guard who wanted to become a policeman. He was off-duty and unarmed when he went out with friends. Standing on the street looking for a taxi, he was approached by undercover police who asked to buy some marijuana from him. Patrick was offended by the request (he didn’t use drugs), and a scuffle ensued. Dorismond was then shot to death by the police.
Shirley Dorsey– Treatment Denied
Rather than being compelled to testify against her 70-year-old boyfriend (Byron Stamate) for cultivating the medicinal cannabis she depended upon to help control her crippling back pain, Shirley Dorsey committed suicide. She saw it as the only way to prevent the forfeiture of their home and property. Despite her suicide, Stamate was sentenced to 9 months prison, and his home, cottage, and $177,000 life savings were seized.
Juan Mendoza Fernandez– Self-Defense
Police found a variety of drugs when they raided the Fernandez’ home. However, Juan apparently believed he was the victim of burglars during the raid, and was shot while trying to protect his 11-year-old granddaughter. He and his wife had been married 36 years and had four children and 13 grandchildren.
Curt Ferryman– Mistake
Undercover agents were attempting to arrest Ferryman, who was in his car and unarmed. A DEA agent knocked on the car window with his gun to get the suspect’s attention, and the gun went off, killing him as he sat in the car.
Willie Heard– Self-Defense, Mistake
SWAT conducted a no-knock drug raid, complete with flash-bang grenades. Heard was shot to death in front of his wife and 16-year-old daughter who had cried for help. Fearing home invasion, he was holding an empty rifle. The raid was at the wrong house.
Clayton Helriggle– Self-Defense
Sleeping upstairs when the no-knock raid by 30 armed SWAT officers began, Clayton Helriggle was startled awake and went downstairs with his gun to investigate the noise. Helriggle was shot to death. The basis for the warrant was a tip from an informant that one of Helriggle’s roommates had sold an ounce of marijuana– an amount which typically warrants only a $100 fine for possession, with no jail time or criminal record.
John Hirko– Dubious Behavior
An unarmed man with no prior offenses was shot to death in his house by a squad of masked police. In a no-knock raid, they tossed a smoke grenade in through a window, setting the house on fire. Hirko, suspected of dealing small amounts of marijuana and cocaine, was found face down on his stairway, shot in the back while fleeing the burning building. When the fire was finally put out, officers found some marijuana seeds in an unsinged plastic bag. The Town of Bethlehem settled the resulting lawsuit for $7 million+ and an agreement to reform police department procedures and training.
Lynette Gayle Jackson– Self-Defense
Shot to death in her bed by SWAT team when she pointed a gun at the men who had broken into her bedroom.
Officer Ron Jones– Self-Defense
Officer Jones was in the process of serving a drug warrant, based on an informant tip. While trying to enter the rear of a duplex, he broke into the wrong apartment and was shot by the resident, Corey Maye, who had no prior record and was protecting his daughter. No drugs were found. Maye was charged with capital murder, and sentenced to death. Fortunately, the sentence has since been overturned and he is now serving life in prison.
Tony Martinez– Mistake
Officers conducted a drug raid on a mobile home in De Valle. Martinez, who was not the target of the raid, was asleep on the couch when the raid commenced. Hearing the front door smashed open, he sat up, and was shot to death in the chest.
Peter McWilliams– Treatment Denied
Peter was a world-famous author and an advocate of medical marijuana, not only because he believed in it in principle, but because it was keeping him alive (he had AIDS and non-Hodgkins lymphoma). After California passed a law legalizing medical marijuana, Peter helped finance the efforts of Todd McCormick to cultivate marijuana for distribution to those who needed it for medical reasons. Federal agents got wind of his involvement, and Peter was a target for his advocacy. He was arrested, and in federal court was prevented from mentioning his medical condition or California’s law. While he was on bail awaiting sentencing, the prosecutors threatened to take away his mother’s house (used for bail) if he failed a drug test, so he stopped using the marijuana which controlled his nausea from the medications and allowed him to keep them down. He was found dead on the bathroom floor, choked to death on his own vomit.
Ismael Mena– Mistake
Mena was killed when police barged into his house looking for drugs. They had the wrong address.
Pedro Oregon Navarro– Dubious Behavior
Following up on a tip from a drug suspect, 6 officers crowded into a hallway outside Navarro’s bedroom. When the door opened, one officer shouted that he had a gun. Navarro’s gun was never fired, but officers fired 30 rounds, with 12 of them hitting Pedro in the back, head, and left hand. The trajectory of the bullets indicated that at least 6 of the rounds fired into Navarro were shot from the doorway as Navarro law on the ground. The police had no warrant for the raid and no drugs were found in the house or in Navarro’s body. Police have not produced any reports to indicate Navarro was ever involved in the drug trade or any other sort of illegal activity.
Mario Paz– Mistake
Mario was shot twice in the back in his bedroom after a SWAT team of more than 20 officers shot open the doors to his home in a drug raid. No drugs were found, and the police chief stated that he was unsure if the officers knew the Paz family was living in the home, and that both before and after the raid they had no information which indicated that anyone in the Paz family was involved in drug trafficking.
Deputy Keith Ruiz– Self-Defense
Ruiz was a husband and father who was a veteran of numerous SWAT raids. In the process of serving a drug warrant, he was trying to break down the door to a mobile home occupied by painter Edwin Delamora, his wife, and two young children. Confused by the raid at night, Delamora yelled to his wife that they were being robbed and shot through the door, killing Ruiz.
Donald P. Scott– Dubious Behavior
Government agencies were interested in the property of this reclusive millionaire. A warrant was issued based on concocted “evidence” of supposed marijuana plantings, and a major raid was conducted with a 32-man assault team. Scott was shot to death in front of his wife. No drugs were found. A later official report found: “It is the District Attorney’s opinion that the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department was motivated, at least in part, by a desire to seize and forfeit the ranch for the government. Based in part upon the possibility of forfeiture, Spencer obtained a search warrant that was not supported by probable cause. This search warrant became Donald Scott’s death warrant.”
Gary Shepherd– Treatment Denied
Gary Shepherd was a Vietnam war veteran who grew his own marijuana to treat the pain from his crippled left arm. When a Kentucky drug task force came to uproot his marijuana plants in August 1993, pot-grower and Vietnam vet Gary Shepherd told them, “You will have to kill me first,” took out his rifle and sat down on his front porch. After a stand-off lasting several hours, Shepherd and his companion Mary Jane Jones were ordered to put their hands in the air. Though Shepherd raised his hands in compliance, his rifle was still in his hand, causing a police sniper to kill Shepherd in front of his four year old son.
Alberta Spruill– Mistake
Police, acting on a tip, forced their way into Spruill’s home, setting off flash grenades. She suffered a heart attack and died. It was the wrong address.
Kenneth B. Walker– Dubious Behavior
Walker and three companions were pulled over in an SUV by police in a drug investigation. Walker, a devoted husband, respected churchgoer and 15-year employee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, was laying on the ground complying with orders when an officer shot him in the head, killing him. No drugs or weapons were found.
Accelyne Williams– Mistake
Accelyne was a retired Methodist Minister and substance abuse counselor. After an informant gave police a bad address, a SWAT raid was conducted on the minster’s home. The door was battered down, Williams was tackled to the floor and his hands tied behind his back. He died of a heart attack.
Isidro Aviles– Excessive Punishment, Dubious Behavior
Isidro received a 23 year sentence for crack cocaine conspiracy based on $52 cash and the bargained testimony of a repeat criminal. 7 years later he died in prison of an undiagnosed and untreated illness. His mother, Teresa, works tirelessly with the November Coalition, Drop the Rock and others to change the laws and help other families shattered by the war.
Lloyd Smalley and Lillian Weiss– Mistake
Minneapolis police conducted a drug raid at the home of the elderly couple Lloyd Smalley and Lillian Weiss on a bad informant tip. They deployed a flashbang grenade in the house and then, certain that no one was inside, made no attempt at rescue. Both Smalley and Weiss died of smoke inhalation. The police had the wrong house. Ten years later, the same police department made a similar mistake, deploying a flashbang grenade and causing the entire building to catch fire, also ruining the two homes surrounding the target of the raid.
Eurie Stamps– Mistake
SWAT raided the home of 68 year old Eurie Stamps in the middle of the night, searching for drugs. Stamps, who was not the target of the warrant, was ordered to lie on the floor. He complied. An officer moved to check Stamps for weapons, but his tactical equipment caused him to lose balance and fall, resulting in the discharge of his weapon. The single bullet fatally wounded Stamps. Just minutes before the raid, police had arrested the target of the warrant, Mr. Stamps’s stepson, who was living in the home and allegedly selling drugs. There were no weapons in the house, but some drugs were found in a sock. No officers were charged in the shooting.
Gonzalo Guizan– Mistake
Gonzalo Guizan was in Ronald Terebesi Jr’s home at the time of a heavily armed drug raid, serving a warrant based on information from an unreliable informant under an assumed name. Guizan, a man with no history of violence or criminal record, may have charged at police believing the home was being invaded, but police only shot after an officer, startled by one of his own flashbang grenades, shouted to his fellow officers that he had been hit. Only a small amount of cocaine residue and some cocaine pipes belonging to Terebesi were found in the home. Terebesi was charged with drug possession and drug paraphernalia, while the officer who believed he had been shot and set into motion Guizan’s death was declared Officer of the Year for his part in the raid.
Christie Green– Mistake
In December 1998, Virginia police conducted a drug raid on a Richmond apartment. Sgt. George Ingram fired five breaching rounds, intended to blow the locks off doors, into the door leading to the apartment’s kitchen. Christie Green, who did not live at the apartment and whom police had no reason to believe was involved in any drug activity, was in the apartment and was struck by a round which went through the door and into her chest, fatally wounding her. Only 8 years later did a jury declare Officer Ingram had been grossly negligent in the raid.
Catherine Capps and James Cates– Dubious Behavior
In May of 1999, North Carolina police performed a drug raid on the home of 73 year old Catherine Capps on the word of a confidential informant, who claimed to have bought crack there. Capps—the only resident of the house—was deaf, had poor vision, and “could not even cook and egg without being extremely out of breath.” James Cates, a friend of Capps, was also in residence at the time of the raid. When police raided the home, they ordered Cates to stand but, crippled by an old war wound and startled, he stumbled into a police officer. Sgt. L.C. Smith, mistaking the 71 year old man’s stumble for a lung at the officer’s piston, punched the elderly man twice in the face. Cates was then not allowed to use the bathroom while police searched the house, causing him to wet himself. Both Cates and Capps were both strip-searched, but no drugs were found in the home or on either Capps or Cates. Capps died soon after from health maladies her family say were incurred during the raid. Police insisted that they had the correct residence, and investigations found no wrongdoing on the part of the police.
Charles Irwin Potts– Mistake
On September 4, 1998, North Carolina police deployed a flashbang grenade, carrying out a no-knock drug raid based on an informant tip. Charles Irwin Potts, who was visiting the raided house to play cards, legally carried a gun. Police claim Potts drew his gun, but the three other men who were in the house at the time maintain that the gun never left its holster. Police did shoot the 56 year old Potts, killing him. No drugs were found in the home, and no arrests were made. The men in the house had thought the armed men breaking into their home were criminals. The police were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Richard Brown– Dubious Behavior
Based on the testimony of an informant claiming that he was selling drugs from his home, SWAT conducted a drug raid on the Miami home of 73 year old Richard Brown. The officers immediately started firing a total of 123 rounds into the apartment and into Brown, killing him while his 14 year old great granddaughter cowered in the bathroom. Police claim that Brown had a gun, but his great granddaughter never saw it, and the gun turned in as evidence did not have Brown’s fingerprints. No drugs were found in the home, and officers were later indicted for lying about the details of the raid, though all officers involved were later acquitted of all criminal charges.
Jeffrey Miles– Self-Defense, Mistake
Jeffrey Miles was sleeping when police began a drug raid on his home, looking for a suspect who had listed the house as his residence two years prior. The police made no further investigations to ensure that the Miles house was the correct address, and Miles, waking to discover armed men breaking into his house, though they were criminal intruders. Miles confronted one of the officers, and in the confusion police say the officer’s gun accidentally fired, killing Miles. Miles had no criminal record. The officer who shot Miles was indicted for manslaughter, but was acquitted.
Stacy Renae Walker– Mistake
Stacie Renae Walker’s home was raided by police on the basis of a “concerned citizen’s” tip that methamphetamine and marijuana were inside. According to police, Deputy Tim Crowe, who had only been on the force for a week, tripped, causing his gun to discharge and shoot Renae in the back of the head, killing her. No drugs or weapons were found in the home, and the police later admitted the raid was “a terrible mistake”.
Barry Hodge– Dubious Behavior
Tennessee police broke into the home of Barry and Sheila Hodge on a no-knock drug raid in search of marijuana. According to Mrs. Hodge, police never announced themselves before breaking in and fatally shooting Mr. Hodge in the arm and chest. Mrs. Hodge was allegedly thrown on the floor and handcuffed while the Hodge’s daughter was locked in her bedroom. It is unknown whether any marijuana was ever found in the home.
Kenneth Baulch– Dubious Behavior
Kenneth Baulch was asleep in the bedroom of his trailer with his 17 month old son when armed police in black clothes and ski masks break into the trailer conducting a drug raid. Michael Baulch Jr., Kenneth Baulch’s brother, is first confronted by the police, and he warns them that his brother was asleep. In a lawsuit filed later, Michael Baulch claimed one officer threatened him, then kicked open the bedroom door and fired three shots into Kenneth Baulch’s back, killing him. Police claimed Baulch used an ashtray in his left hand to attack the officer, but Baulch’s family noted that Baulch was right-handed, a smoker, and that investigations revealed that Baulch was facing away from the door when he was shot. “Michael Baulch was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession, the only charge to result from the raid.” The officer who shot Kenneth Baulch was found to have committed no wrongdoing.
Tommie C. Dubose– Self-Defense
Tommie C. Dubose, a 56 year old civilian instructor at a Naval station, was killed when undercover narcotics police stormed his San Diego home, suspecting his son of drug trafficking. Dubose, who staunchly opposed drug use, charged the invading officer, tossed a glass of wine in the officer’s face, and went for his gun. Another officer shot Dubose once in the face and four times in the back, killing him. A district attorney found the shooting justifiable despite his criticisms of the way the warrant was served, including “the number of times they knocked on the door, how they announced themselves, and how quickly they burst inside.”
Dexter Herbert– Mistake
In March 1989, California police conducted a no-knock drug raid on the home of Lorine Harris. Officer Davie Mathierson, startled by a flashbang grenade deployed by his fellow officers, accidentally fires his gun, killing the unarmed Dexter Herbert, Harris’s 20-year-old son.
Richard Elsass and Sgt. Dighton Little– Self-Defense
On October 20, 1989, police conducted a pre-dawn drug raid on Richard Elsass’s trailer. Elsass, hard of hearing, likely did not hear the police announce themselves before they forced their way into his trailer. Elsass met the police with a shotgun, firing one shot and killing Sgt. Dighton Little. The other officers opened fire and killed Elsass. Investigations found no wrongdoing on the part of the raiding police officers, though no drugs were ever found.
Salvator Hernandez– Dubious Behavior
On August 2, 1996, police conducted a drug raid on the home of 62 year old Salvator Hernandez. Hernandez had no criminal record and had even been a police officer in Mexico before coming to America. Though police claim Hernandez took the knife he was using to make breakfast and lunged at them, Bortolo Pineda, also in the home at the time of the raid, said Hernandez, who was nearly deaf, didn’t hear the police shouts and had turned to get sausage from the refrigerator. Police shot Hernandez five times in the chest, killing him. No drugs were found on Hernandez or in his system. The officers involved were cleared of all charges, as they had reason to believe their lives were in danger. Salem police also refused to apologize for Hernandez’s death.
Luis Carrasco-Flores– Self-Defense
Startled awake when armed police stormed into his bedroom in a no-knock raid, Luis Carrasco-Flores pulled a pistol out of his pillow and was shot dead by police. The apartment next to Flores’s had been robbed just the previous month and the resident there had been murdered- it was likely that Flores believed the armed men breaking into his home at 5:30 am were criminal intruders. No officers were charged or disciplined for the raid, which came just seven months after Salem police shot and killed 63 year old Salvador Hernandez—also not the target—in a no-knock raid.
Shawn Cottrell– Dubious Behavior
Shawn Cottrell was shot and killed by SWAT during a drug raid on the apartment he and one other roommate shared with the subject of the warrant. Though police claimed they announced themselves, several witnesses, including one police officer, heard no announcement. Cottrell emerged to investigate when he heard the noise of intruders breaking down his door. Cottrell was then shot and killed by the police, who claimed that Cottrell was holding a gun. It was later established that Cottrell’s fingerprints were never found on the gun. Joel Duncan, the target of the raid, was unharmed and later charged and convicted of drug crimes.
Erdman Bascomb– Mistake
Erdman Bascomb was shot to death in his home when Seattle police conducted a drug raid based on the testimony of an informant who claimed that there was cocaine in the home. Police waited only a few seconds after knocking to break down the door with a battering ram. A police officer, seeing Bascomb in the dark, mistook the remote control in his hand for a gun and shot him dead. No drugs or weapons were ever found in the home. A federal jury found no wrongdoing on the part of the police and Bascomb’s family received no damages for his wrongful death.
Dep. John Bananola– Self-Defense
Police conducted a drug raid on the home of Brian Eggleston’s parents. Eggleston, believing the police were intruders attempting to harm his parents, fired as he came out of the bedroom, shooting and killing Deputy John Bananola. Eggleston was also shot in the chest, knee, abdomen, and groin, but survived. Eggleston was a small-time marijuana dealer, and only a small amount of marijuana was found at the house.
On January 3, 2001, Deputies James Moulson and Philip Anderson conducted a drug raid on the home of George Timothy Williams, suspected of being a leading supplier of marijuana. It is unclear if they announced themselves before forcing their way inside. Williams met the deputies with a gun and all three were killed. Less than four grams of marijuana were found in the home, and a suit filed by William’s family alleged that the warrant was based on the testimony of a woman who lived with Williams, whose child the police threatened to take from her if she did not produce the information necessary for the warrant.
Officer Arthur Parga and Manuel Ramirez– Self-Defense
On January 22, 1993, police conducted an early morning drug raid on the home of Manuel Medina Ramirez, 62. Ramirez had no criminal record and spoke little English. Startled awake by the armed men breaking into his home and not knowing they were police, Ramirez grabbed his gun and fired blindly, striking and killing Officer Arthur Parga. Parga’s fellow officers opened fire in return, killing Ramirez. No drugs were found at the Ramirez home, which had been raided when a family friend arrested for marijuana possession gave the police Ramirez’s address as his own. Police attempted to claim that the $8,500 in cash found at the home were indicative of drug dealing, but Ramirez’s daughter produced receipts which proved the cash came from the family business of selling jewelry at flea markets.
Officer James Jensen– Mistake
While performing a drug raid on a home that turned out to be unoccupied, Officer James Jensen was shot by a fellow SWAT member who mistook him for a hostile occupant of the house. In addition to the smoke and light from the flashbang grenade, the officer admitted that he had been under the influence of Vicodin.
Officer Tony Patterson– Self-Defense, Dubious Behavior
On October 12, 1995, Kansas police raided the home of a college student whom they suspected to dealing marijuana. The student, believing the people attempting to break down his door were burglars, called 911 and then fired at one of the figures attempting to break in. The shot kills Officer Tony Patterson. Only 12 ounces of marijuana were found, and the warrant used to justify the raid was later determined to be illegal.
Officer David Eales– Self-Defense
Officer David Eales was shot to death by the resident of a home where police were serving a no-knock drug raid. The resident, believing he was under attack, shot at the men invading his home in self-defense. Some firearms and materials for the production of methamphetamine were seized in the raid.
Officer Leslie Early– Self-Defense
Officer Leslie I. Early was killed while conducting a pre-dawn, no-knock drug raid on the home of Edward John Benavides. Not realizing the intruders breaking into his home were police and startled awake, Benavides grabbed his gun and fired at the door. Early was struck and killed. Benavides surrendered himself immediately when he discovered the people in his home were the police.
Officer Stephen House– Self-Defense
Officer Stephen House raided the DiGristine family home on an anonymous tip that the house was being used by armed drug dealers. Charles DiGristine, seeing his home broken into, went to fetch his handgun. House, wearing dark clothing and a black mask and holding a gun, charged into the bedroom where DiGristine shot and killed him. Only a small amount of marijuana belonging to DiGristine’s son was found.
Dep. Joseph Whitehead– Self-Defense
Dep. Joseph Whitehead was shot and killed during a no-knock drug raid when the residents of the house mistook the armed men breaking into their home for gang members.
Agent Samuel Hicks– Self-Defense
Agent Samuel Hicks was shot and killed by a resident of the home at which his he was executing in a knock-and-announce warrant. The woman, who had been upstairs, claimed not to hear the announcement and believed the agents to be burglars, calling 911 after fatally shooting Hicks.
Sgt. Mark Murphy– Mistake
Sgt. Murphy was accidentally shot in the head by one of his fellow officers as they conducted a no-knock drug raid. Murphy died six months later.
Officer Keith Neumann– Mistake
Officer Neumann was killed during a drug raid when a Sergeant also participating in the raid accidentally fired his gun, hitting Neumann in a part of his back not covered by his bulletproof best. The raid turned up $1,200 of cocaine.
Det. Sherman Griffiths– Dubious Behavior
Detective Sherman Griffiths was shot and killed while attempting to break down an apartment door with a sledgehammer as part of a drug raid. The warrant for the drug raid was issued on information later revealed to be fabricated.
Ruben Vega, Jr.– Dubious Behavior
Ruben Vega and his girlfriend, Melanie Flores were sleeping when police crashed through their window, threw a flashbang grenade, and opened fire. Vega was killed and Flores was wounded. Though some methamphetamine and a handgun were in the bedroom, both were unarmed when the police opened fire, and Vega had no prior criminal record.
Manuel Ramirez– Self-Defense, Dubious Behavior
Law enforcement ripped the door of the Ramirez family home off its hinges and shattered its windows, showering glass on an infant child sleeping in its crib at the time. The raid team never announced themselves, and Ramirez reached for his gun. Police shot Ramirez twice, killing him. Though they searched for two days, police found only two marijuana cigarettes in the home.
Alexander “Rusty” Windle– Self-Defense
Accounts differ as to whether the police announced themselves before they came to Windle’s door in the early morning. Windle, woken by the disturbance, came to the door with a rifle. Upon seeing a group of armed men dressed all in black at his front door, Windle took aim. Windle was shot three times, killing him. His rifle was not loaded, and its safety was still on. Less than an ounce of marijuana was found in his home. Others raided that night said that the police did not announce themselves.
Scott Bryant– Dubious Behavior
Scott Bryant was killed in a drug raid on his home after police found traces of marijuana in his garbage. Witnesses to the raid say the police neither knocked nor announced themselves, though the officers claimed that they did. Bryant’s 8 year old son was asleep in the next room when the unarmed Bryant was shot to death by police. Two weeks earlier the same officers had conducted another botched no-knock raid.
Jeffery Robinson– Dubious Behavior
Police stormed Jeffery Robinson’s home in a drug raid and shot him in his bedroom. Though the police claimed that Robinson had come at them with a box cutter, the jury in a federal civil suit brought by the Robinson family demonstrated that the police “shot Robinson without justification, then tampered with the evidence to cover up their mistakes.”
Vinny “Pops” Hodgkiss– Self-Defense
Hodgkiss was shot and killed by police serving a drug warrant at his home. The officer claimed Hodgkiss had a loaded shotgun in hand at the time of the shooting. Hodgkiss had a permit for the gun, no history of felonies, and no history of violence. Less than an ounce of marijuana was found in the home.
Jarrell Walker– Dubious Behavior
Jarrell Walker was shot dead in front of his three year old son during a drug raid on his home. Walker lay prone on the ground, unarmed, when he was shot twice in the back by an officer who had been involved in three other shootings.
Michael Swimmer– Self Defense
Michael Swimmer was killed by SWAT during a drug raid on his home after he confronted them with a handgun, presumably to defend himself from the armed men who had broken into his home in the early hours of the morning.
Cheryl Ann Stillwell– Self-Defense, Dubious Behavior
Police broke into Stillwell’s home in search of prescription narcotics. The police shot Stillwell when she aimed a gun at the raiding officers- presumably attempting to defend herself from the men with submachine guns who had broken into her home. The officers involved in the raid claimed that Stillwell had fired first, but quickly changed their version of events accordingly when autopsy results showed that she fired her gun only after she had been shot.
Chinue Tao Hashim– Mistake
Chinue Tao Hashim was shot and killed during a SWAT drug raid when the glint from his wristwatch was mistaken for a gun.
John Rasanen– Dubious Behavior
Police broke into John Rasanen’s home at 6 a.m. on a drug warrant. Rasanen, who had been sleeping, was startled out of slumber. Accounts differ as to whether Rasanen reached for a gun, which was unloaded at the time, but police did shoot him twice in the chest, killing him. Police then lied to Rasanen’s attorney, claiming for several hours that Rasanen was under arrest despite the fact that he had been pronounced dead at the scene.
Bruce Lavoie– Self-Defense
Police conducted a night-time, no-knock raid on Bruce Lavoie’s family apartment. The unarmed Lavoie was shot and killed by police as he went to confront what he thought were criminals breaking into his home.
Vernard Davis– Mistake
Vernard Davis was killed by police during a drug raid on his home when an officer, stumbling in the dark, accidentally fired his gun into Davis’s chest.