National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

The David Hooks Case

A criminal comes on to your property and steals your SUV.  Later, the criminal, perhaps still under the influence of meth, tells the police that he found drugs on your property.  The police proceed to sneak on to your property and, without announcing themselves, break down your back door.  Frightened that the criminals have returned to your home, you retrieve a gun to protect yourself and your spouse.  The police then open fire and you are killed in your own home.  By the police.

According to the Hooks family attorney, that is what happened to his client.  Here is an excerpt from the attorney’s statement:

On Wednesday, September 24th at 9:56 p.m., drug task force agent Chris Brewer made application for a search warrant before Faith Snell a non-attorney Deputy Magistrate of the Laurens County Magistrate Court. The facts submitted to Deputy Magistrate Snell to convince her that probable cause existed to issue the warrant consisted of the statement by Rodney Garrett a confessed burglar, thief, and a meth addict who was under the influence at the time of his arrest that the approximately 20 grams of methamphetamine, a digital scale, and 2 firearms found on him at the time of arrest had been stolen by him out of another vehicle at the Hooks home. Investigator Brewer also stated information he claimed came from an investigation involving Jeff Frazier. That investigation was in August 2009 over 5 years ago. A search warrant was issued at 9:56 p.m. by Judge Snell. This search warrant is invalid on its face as it does not comport with the requirements of the Constitution of State of Georgia nor the United States Constitution. Armed with an invalid search warrant and with less than an hour of preparation, at approximately 10:55 p.m. several members of the Drug Task Force and the Laurens County Sheriff’s Response Team arrived at David and Teresa Hooks home unannounced by emergency lights or sirens. There is no question the Officers were aware the home had been burglarized only two nights earlier.

David and Teresa were under the impression that the burglars were back and that a home invasion was eminent. David armed himself to protect his wife and his home. Despite the fact that the illegal search warrant did not have a “no knock” clause the Drug Task Force and SRT members broke down the back door of the family’s home and entered firing in excess of 16 shots. These shots were from multiple firearms and from both 40 caliber handguns and assault rifles. Several shots were fired through a blind wall at David with the shooters not knowing who or what was on the other side of the wall. The trajectory of the shots, coupled with the number of shots infers a clear intent on behalf of the shooters to kill David Hooks.

From WMAZ:

Lauren’s County Sheriff’s department says they are not making any more statements on this case. They are directing all questions to the GBI. They’ve not responded.

Neither agencies has identified the deputies involved in the raid, said how many of them fired shots, or said how many times Hooks was hit.

Hooks was buried on Tuesday.

Read the whole thing.

Cato Work on the Militarization of Police

New York Times reporter Matt Apuzzo:

[T]he criticism of the so-called militarization of police has largely come from libertarian quarters for several years. They have kind of been the lone voice on this, folks like the Cato institute.

Yes, even before 9/11, we were trying to draw attention to the trend in American policing: Warrior Cops.  Since then, Radley Balko has written extensively on the problem.  First, with the Cato report, Overkill.  Next, more in-depth, with his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.

Perhaps in time more attention will come to the work we’re doing here on police misconduct.

USA a War Zone?

From the Indianapolis Star:

“We don’t have a lot of mines in Johnson County,” confessed Sheriff Doug Cox, who acquired the vehicle. “My job is to make sure my employees go home safe.”

Johnson County is one of eight Indiana law enforcement agencies to acquire MRAPs from military surplus since 2010, according to public records obtained by The Indianapolis Star. The vehicles are among a broad array of 4,400 items — everything from coats to computers to high-powered rifles — acquired by police and sheriff’s departments across the state….

“The United States of America has become a war zone,” he said. “There’s violence in the workplace, there’s violence in schools and there’s violence in the streets. You are seeing police departments going to a semi-military format because of the threats we have to counteract. If driving a military vehicle is going to protect officers, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

But, to some, the introduction of equipment designed for war in Fallujah, Iraq, to the streets of U.S. towns and cities raises questions about the militarization of civilian police departments. Will it make police inappropriately aggressive? Does it blur the line between civilian police and the military?

And from the New York Times on broader trend around the country:

Pentagon data suggest how the police are arming themselves for such worst-case scenarios. Since 2006, the police in six states have received magazines that carry 100 rounds of M-16 ammunition, allowing officers to fire continuously for three times longer than normal. Twenty-two states obtained equipment to detect buried land mines.

In the Indianapolis suburbs, officers said they needed a mine-resistant vehicle to protect against a possible attack by veterans returning from war.

To protect us against the returning veterans?  Hmm.

For related Cato work, go here, here, and here.

Police Throw Grenade into Home and It Lands in Baby’s Crib

From the Associated Press:

Officers raiding a Georgia home in search of a drug suspect used a flash grenade not knowing children were inside, severely burning a toddler who was sleeping just inside the door, authorities and the boy’s family said.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said the officers were looking for a suspect who may have been armed and followed proper procedure by using the device, which creates a bright flash and loud bang to distract suspects

“It’s a tragic incident,” Terrell said. “The baby didn’t deserve this.”

Alecia Phonesavanh told local media her son was sleeping in his playpen when the raid began Wednesday morning.

“The cops threw that grenade in the door without looking first, and it landed right in the playpen and exploded on his pillow right in his face,” Phonesavanh told WSB-TV.

No one thinks the police set out to hurt this child.  But were the tactics sloppy, reckless, and unnecessary?  Yes.

These raids and injuries are more common than many realize.  Check out the Cato raid map.

Defunding Armed Federal Units

From Newsmax:

Federal agencies are increasingly granting agents the authority to carry weapons and execute search warrants, a trend that one congressman is hoping to reverse.

Rep. Chris Stewart is preparing legislation to defund the law enforcement units of agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency, whose primary purpose is regulatory.

“The fundamental challenge is that people like me simply do not trust the federal government any longer. We see examples of non-law enforcement agencies taking a very heavy hand, using armed SWAT teams against citizens, and that leads to an even deeper mistrust,” the Utah Republican told Newsmax.