Poker Raid Turns Into Gunfight

Once he recovers, a 72-year-old man will be charged with attempted murder after getting into a shootout with the SWAT team who raided the private poker game he was hosting. From the Pokerati blog:

A relatively routine raid of a low-stakes poker game in Greenville, South Carolina turned bloody yesterday night — as police tried to gain entry to a poker house. The game host, now known to be Aaron Awtry, 72, shot through the front door, striking sheriff’s deputy Matthew May with a bullet that went through his arm.

A vice squad in SWAT gear returned fire, hitting Awtry with multiple rounds in his arm and thumb … which was followed by a 20-minute standoff between cops and players, according to a spokesman for the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department. Both shooting victims were taken to the hospital where they are in stable condition.

There were 12 people and Awtry in the house at 502 Pine Knoll Drive when police arrived at about 9:20 pm last night. According to frontline witnesses, they had just finished a small buy-in dinnertime tourney … and a 1/2 cash game was just getting underway when someone saw 5-0 approaching on a security monitor. Before he could clearly vocalize an alert, a battery ram begin slamming the front door and players froze. Awtry, who players say has notoriously bad hearing in his senior years and presumably believed the game was being robbed, began shooting at the door with his pistol, firing “at least once” according to a player, “multiple shots” according to police. At least four officers returned fire at the door with at least 20 bullets from their higher-powered assault weapons.

As Awtry fell back into the poker room entryway, he balked, “Why didn’t you tell me it was the cops?”

Local news coverage of the raid here. Police seized about $5,000 in cash. Everyone but Awtry was issued a $100 fine. Ironically, both the South Carolina Supreme Court and state legislature may soon clarify the state's confusing laws about private poker games.

This is far from the first time police have brought the SWAT team to a poker game. Reason.tv covered a similar raid at on a charity poker game hosted by an American Legion post in Dallas.

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  • Joe M||

    Thank god the police are protecting us from the ravages of... private poker games?! WTF?!?!?!

  • Joe M||

    P.S. Thanks for the usual Friday ball-kick, Radley.

  • Fuck, Balko||

    Another weekend fucked up! Why can't you do this on a Monday or Tuesday?

  • ||

    Wtf, when it's on a monday, everyone bitches about him starting the week off with a nutpunch. Make up your minds, people.

  • waffles||

    Yeah! It's not that hard. Do you want to punched in the nuts now or later?

  • poka kitteh||

    can i haz both

  • ||

    I can haz both?

    (amateur)

  • Xeones||

    Ow, my nutsack.

    At least they caught the guy before he started getting into the heavy stuff. You know, bingo.

  • Yar||

    Making South Carolina safe from the ravages old guys playing Hold 'Em is a good start, but what I want to know is when the SWAT crackdown on the true scourge of the nation is coming. I'm looking at you, Bunco housewives of Minnesota.

  • Xeones||

    Years ago when i was visiting home from college, i got dragooned into bartending a bunco party for my mom and her friends. Most terrifying night of my life.

  • ||

    Did you get some?

  • waffles||

    Most terrifying night of my life.

    I'm guessing yes.

  • ||

    The newspaper account inexplicably leaves out the part where the police knocked politely, announced their presence, and requested entry.

    I'm surprised they didn't just drive through the door.

  • Tim||

    Was a phone call out of the question?

    "I say chaps: we've got fifteen delusional jocks with machine guns ready to bust in there but you can avoid it by coming onto the porch."

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Why are the cops British in your story?

  • ||

    The British cops don't have guns. They have stern looks.

  • reasonistreason||

    Stern looks can only get you so far. Especially if you're also wearing goofy hats.

  • ||

    Good thing it wasn't dogs playing poker.

    It would have been a bloodbath.

  • ||

    Win.

  • ||

    fuck..

  • ||

    Hey, the perps might have had time to flush the cards and chips down the toilet!

  • ||

    Police seized about $5,000 in cash.

    It was a small time poker game. The cops could have instead sent one or two unformed officers to knock on the door and issue the tickets.

    At least four officers returned fire at the door with at least 20 bullets from their higher-powered assault weapons.

    That is what reasonable people call reckless endangerment.

  • ||

    The cops could have instead sent one or two unformed officers to knock on the door and issue the tickets.

    Then what's their pretense for seizing the sweet, sweet, lucre?

    Protecting America from the Scourge of Private Gambling? Please, "Robbing people with the authority of The State" is more like it.

  • Paul||

    It was a small time poker game. The cops could have instead sent one or two unformed officers to knock on the door and issue the tickets.

    Based on Radley's description alone, this probably would have still resulted in Mr. Awtry firing at them through the door.

  • ||

    This assumes the cops would have did a no knock entry with a battering ram.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    And what cops call restraint.

  • PIRS||

    I don't play poker but I do play chess. If a bunch of thugs tried to interupt my game of chess I would defend myslef too. I would STK regardless of the costume he was wearing at the time. If I am on this man's jurry I will vote "Not guilty" regardless of the evidence.

  • Hobie Hanson||

    This is why they need SWAT teams, morons.

  • ||

    SHUT UP DANNY DEVITO

  • Bobaroo||

    Awtry, who players say has notoriously bad hearing in his senior years and presumably believed the game was being robbed, began shooting at the door with his pistol

    Note to self: Develop notoriously bad hearing.

  • ||

    Upside: all the rocking music you get to listen to in the process.

  • ||

    Downside: "will be charged with attempted murder after getting into a shootout with the SWAT team"

    You won't get to hear the jury convict you. You can bet their statist buttholes on that.

  • DJ Drugs||

    What if that just gives you tinnitus?

  • ||

    I thought one of the rules of firearm safety was "don't shoot what you can't see". Shooting through a closed door would seem to run afoul of that.

  • Bobaroo||

    WHAT?!

  • Identify the target||

    Yes, and both parties were guilty of that. Will the cops be facing charges, too?

  • ||

    Looks like they identified the target fairly well since only Awtry was hit by the return fire.

    And of course, you're dodging the main point here -- the attempted murder charge against Awtry is justified.

  • Ska||

    And here I thought the main point was that a small private poker game shouldn't devolve into a shootout with police, nor would it have if people were allowed to freely engage in such activities.

  • Joe M||

    It's called a preemptive strike.

  • Easy Target||

    Much easier, lower risk take down than real gangsters or terrorists.

  • ||

    No, the main point is that Tulpa needs to, in all cases, justify the actions of the police, aka his authoritarian idols. Come on, Ska, I thought you understood these things.

  • Paul||

    And here I thought the main point was that a small private poker game shouldn't devolve into a shootout with police

    It shouldn't, by virtue of the fact that the police shouldn't be there. But if police come to my door, and I have a clear picture in my security camera that the police are coming, and (By Radley's own account) I have a third party warning me that... police are coming through the door, I don't open fire through my door.

    This case is far from a guy waking up at 3am while his 2 yo daughter sleeps in the other room, to someone kicking in the door.

    This is a case where they had a clear image of police approaching the establishment (by Radley's own description) and they chose to fire through the door.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Because dressing up as the police and engaging in home invasions is completely unheard of.

    This entire situation could have been avoided had the police not seen it fit to sent SWAT to an old man's house to raid a fucking poker game.

    Any argument that a private poker game requires SWAT to shut down is a loser from the get-go.

    Unless there is very dangerous stuff happening inside a building that is verifiable, SWAT should NEVER be the first option. Surely a knock on the door by the neighborhood patrol cop would have sufficed.

  • Paul||

    Because dressing up as the police and engaging in home invasions is completely unheard of.

    I agree. Again, bigger picture. I've told my family many times that the cops have created an impossible situation for civilians. They can crash through your door at 3am, and its up to us to figure out when to defend ourselves against a drug-addled home invasion crew with murder on their mind while shouting "Po-leece!", and a cop just "doing his job".

    For the record, I don't believe that this situation called for a no-knock raid.

    We are all in agreement on that. We are on the same page. We call can acknowledge that there is a gross overuse of SWAT teams in America, which is having a secondary effect of escalating violence. full stop.

    Surely a knock on the door by the neighborhood patrol cop would have sufficed.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Awtry, according to Radley's description fucked that up. They were identified as police officers by the associates of Mr. Awtry, who then started firing through the door. So that calls into question what Mr. Awtry would have done had two police officers in uniform politely knocked on the door.

    It's possible Mr. Awtry, a man willing to fire through the door at men identified by his own associates as police officers, would not have fired if Mr. Awtry's associates had shouted "Oh shit! Five-oh is calmly walking up the walk but there are only two of them!"

    We don't know, and now we'll never now.

    Yes, partly because of the state's need to use no-knock SWAT raids for poker games.

  • ||

    It's possible Mr. Awtry, a man willing to fire through the door at men identified by his own associates as police officers

    "Before he could clearly vocalize an alert, a battery ram begin slamming the front door and players froze"

  • Identify the target||

    Did you even read the article? The cops returned fire through the door. They had no idea who they were shooting at. The other players were fortunate not to be in the line of fire at the time because the cops obviously weren't worry about who got shot. The cops should face the same charges as the old guy.

  • ||

    ""The cops should face the same charges as the old guy.""

    Cops are super-citizens that have a greater expectation of life than us regular citzens.

  • Little kid||

    Daddy, what's all that noise?

  • TheFamilyDog||

    I'm outta here!

  • ||

    The difference is that the cops knew that someone behind the door was shooting at them. A little different from interpreting banging on the door as an attack.

  • ||

    No, there is no difference. You do not shoot without knowing your target. EVER. Both parties in this case failed in this.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Epi,

    I have been watching that new documentary Hawaii 5-0 and from that I have seen that the cops are very good shots.

    McGarrett managed to shoot at least 2 bad guys while swinging on a chain from a balcony to the floor of a garage. I'm sure that anyone who is that good of a shot can probably pick the bad guys out of a crowd even if there is a door in the way just by using disturbances in The Force.

    Off topic, but Hawaii 5-0 (the new one) is almost as good as Cobra.

  • ||

    Off topic, but Hawaii 5-0 (the new one) is almost as good as Cobra.

    The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985?

    (contorted Frisky Dingo reference)

  • ||

    If you're being shot at from behind a hedge of bushes, how again are you supposed to defend yourself? Ask whoever's shooting to nicely stop it?

  • ||

    "If you're being shot at from behind a hedge of bushes, how again are you supposed to defend yourself? Ask whoever's shooting to nicely stop it?"

    Easy. Don't show up unannounced, trespass, destroy property, and with a clear intent of escalating the situation. Also, keep your fucking dogshit off my azalias, Jenkins.

  • ||

    A little different from interpreting banging on the door the door being busted down as an attack.

    Ftfy

  • ||

    ""the attempted murder charge against Awtry is justified.""

    I don't know I would go that far. Why that vs manslaughter?

  • Zeb||

    Why that vs manslaughter?

    I think you already know the answer to that.

  • JD||

    Some animals are more equal than others.

    (Was it just a coincidence that the ruling class in Animal Farm were pigs?)

  • Amakudari||

    Using a battering ram on a private residence engaged in an extremely minor, entirely victimless crime = getting shot at is justified

    Not backing off this. What, did they think he would flush the cards or the cash down the toilet?

  • ||

    And of course, you're dodging the main point here -- the attempted murder charge against Awtry is justified.

    You're just being a dick here, channeling your inner MNG, right?

    Because there's no way any rational person could defend a police raid that shouldn't have existed in the first place. For old men playing poker? Fucking POKER?

  • ||

    Because there's no way any rational person could defend a police raid that shouldn't have existed in the first place. For old men playing poker? Fucking POKER?

    "Liquor in the front, poker in the rear." Why do you support sexual assault, JW?

  • ||

    1) Courts have ruled that you cannot sue the police for failing to show up. They also have no obligation to protect individuals, just the general public.

    2) So why is it attempted murder when you shot a cop who is acting like a criminal? Do we have to choose between that and waiting to see if we get murdered by non state sanctioned criminals?

  • ||

    You're not allowed to protect yourself until you've already been murdered, duh.

  • chrispy||

    The rule is not to point your gun at anything you aren't willing to destroy. If someone starts knocking down my door with a battering ram, I'm willing to destroy them, whether I can see them or not.

  • Identify the target||

    before you pull the trigger. Sounds like both the cops and the old guy need to go take some gun safety courses. Of course, I'd expect gun safety training to be a requirement for a badge, but I guess my expectations for LEOs are too high.

  • ||

    "" I'd expect gun safety training to be a requirement for a badge, but I guess my expectations for LEOs are too high.""

    They probably do, along with a defensive driving course. But that doesn't stop them from running red lights.

  • ||

    Vic, you clearly don't understand just how dangerous red lights are. Those cops running the lights are just being defensive against a legitimate threat.

  • Ayn_Randian||

    He identified the target. It was the person or persons breaking down his door. Nothing in any rules of engagement prevents you from defending yourself. It sounds like the Range Warriors who think they know a lot about split-second shoot/no shoot scenarios need courses in common fucking sense.

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    Common sense would tell me not to waste bullets because there is a door in the way and I have nothing to aim at. I have no idea if I'm hitting my intended target or spraying bullets all over the neighborhood.

  • ||

    Please explain how a battering ram beating against the door was harming him.

    If someone is firing at you from behind cover, I agree you're justified in shooting in the direction from which the fire is coming, because you don't have a choice. This guy could have waited until the door opened so he could see what he was shooting at.

  • Jordan||

    Please explain how a guy holding a knife running towards you is harming you.

  • ||

    If there's a closed door between you and him, you're probably safe for the moment.

  • ||

    "If there's a closed door you're holding a piece of saran wrap , you're probably safe for the moment"

    Just trying to keep your argument consistent.

  • Ayn_Randian||

    This guy could have waited until the door opened so he could see what he was shooting at.

    Did you manage to write this without laughing? I fail to see how.

  • ||

    Police seized about $10,000 $5,000 in cash.

    Taxation without representation and all.

  • ||

    Dumbasses forgot to toss the flashbangs and teargas cans through the windows before stormtroopering the frontdoor. Rookies.

    The real bitch of it is that the pigs won't question their own strong armed tactics. They won't question the necessity of a swat raid on a little poker game. They will probably decide that they need some kind of armored vehicle for breaching such dens of iniquity. and obviously they will need to get bigger guns that are fully automatic.

  • ||

    Most of the 'SWAT' consists of fat-ass patrolmen with no real military or weapons training. They'd be suitable for taking down a Golden Corral, not a hostage situation.

  • Billy Shakespeare||

    No dog was shot? I thought those SWAT guys were professionals?

  • Blind & lame 19-year-old rover||

    Why did they shoot me?

  • ||

    Good thing they crashed the door before they had time to flush the cash, cards and chips down the toilet.

  • Wind Rider||

    If our "moron with badges" class would spend a few more man-hours on surveillance or infiltration, I'm fairly certain it would cost a whole lot less in both payroll and dead bodies to be a hell of a lot more effective.

  • ||

    ""spend a few more man-hours on surveillance or infiltration,""

    That's boring work, they want action.

  • ||

    The extra sleep is always welcome though.

  • ||

    A pile of pistachio shells blocking the car door comes to mind.

  • ||

    I ain't fallin for no 'banana in the tailpipe'?

  • ||

    Why wouldn't the guy just assume it was girl scouts selling cookies bashing his door down?

    I would.

  • ||

    I swear to god, the next time those little bitches use their "High Pressure Sales Tactics", they're paying for my door.

  • I know it's stupid to ask||

    Why isn't AG Holder doing something about this?

  • Intimidation||

    Because this type of thing fits the New Order Law Enforcement Template. Inure the citizenry to military-like SWAT raids for relatively trivial offenses.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I remember back in 1981, the FBI raided a penny-ante poker game of about 6-8 retirees (no one was shot).

    The agents became a laughing stock, and the retirees were given free trips to Vegas. Today, it seems people just have much lower expectations of competence for cops.

  • Jerry||

    But this is Baptist country, where poker is the game of the devil.

  • ||

    ""But this is Baptist country, where poker is the game of the devil.""

    Now BINGO, that's a game!

  • ||

    You are apparently unfamiliar with the kerfuffle over electronic BiNgO in Alabama with the baptits squealing about that unGodly gambling.

  • Harsh||

    It's tough to get those pennies down thru the garbage disposer.

  • ||

    only Awtry was hit by the return fire.

    Cops are notoriously poor marksmen. Don't assume they were actually aiming at anything in particular.

  • ||

    I was in the backyard at the time.

  • Tim||

    Nuke the site from orbit- that's the only way to be sure.

  • Paul||

    I don't want to be a contrarian dick, but to be a contrarian dick, it was a small-stakes poker game with $5000 in cash (around Paul's house, that's high stakes) with a security monitor pointing outside where "they saw five-oh approaching".

    The suggestion here is they were trying to hide something, anticipating police involvement, and had prior warning that police were incoming, and still opened fire.

    I'm having trouble jump-starting my normal anti-police sympathies.

  • ||

    Yeah, the security monitor couldn't be protection against a robbery...oh, wait, it was, since the cops robbed them and the monitor gave them a heads up. I lost track of my argument.

    Obviously, they shouldn't try and protect themselves against other civilians robbing them. Since the likelyhood of being robbed by the state is much greater. And you can't protect yourself from that.

  • Paul||

    That wasn't the description. The description was clear: Their security camera (whose purpose could be perfectly legitimate-- don't miss my point purposely) gave them clear warning that police were approaching.

    So the shooter knew he was shooting at police. This is not in any way the same as the many other cases where the person had no reason to believe they were shooting at police.

  • ||

    1. the guy doing the shooting didn't actually look at the monitor. yeah, might've been a good idea.

    2. "whose purpose could be perfectly legitimate", until the cops show up, and then it's a piece of terrorist equipment.

    When do we get to see the footage from the monitor, or will it be conveniently lost? (Yeah, I know, it's entirely possible they weren't recording...dumbasses. But last I checked, being a dumbass was not justificatino for being shot.)

  • Anonymous||

    YES! It was recording!!!

  • Paul||

    1. the guy doing the shooting didn't actually look at the monitor. yeah, might've been a good idea.

    2. "whose purpose could be perfectly legitimate", until the cops show up, and then it's a piece of terrorist equipment.

    Wylie, you and I agree on all of this stuff in the big picture.

    These speculations of yours are projections, and those things might come true during the charging or trial phase. I think all the H&R regulars are on the same page when it comes to a kid with a pipe bomb being charged with having "weapons of mass destruction".

    But as for #1, I'm sorry, I have a security camera over my door. If my friend and I are are in the basement, playing a low stakes card game with $5000 on the table, and he looks over at the security camera and says "Oh shit bro, FIVE-OH!!!11!!", I'm not going to draw any one of several firearms I own and unload through the door-- without looking at the security camera myself.

  • ||

    So the question remains: Did Awtry look at the monitor himself, or did any of his guests inform him of the details thereon before he opened fire.

  • Cyto ||

    Let's see if there's anything in the article that might illuminate the subject:
    game was just getting underway when someone saw 5-0 approaching on a security monitor. Before he could clearly vocalize an alert, a battery ram begin slamming the front door and players froze. Awtry, who players say has notoriously bad hearing in his senior years and presumably believed the game was being robbed, began shooting at the door with his pistol, firing “at least once” according to a player, “multiple shots” according to police. At least four officers returned fire at the door with at least 20 bullets from their higher-powered assault weapons.

    As Awtry fell back into the poker room entryway, he balked, “Why didn’t you tell me it was the cops?

    Hmm.. One guy saw the cops. Didn't have a chance to say anything before they started knocking the door down with a battering ram. Old deaf guy grabs gun and starts shooting. Old deaf guy is informed that it was the cops. Old deaf guy asks "why didn't you tell me it was the cops?"

  • Paul||

    Old deaf guy asks "why didn't you tell me it was the cops?"

    Oh, he may be wondering that for the rest of his life.

  • ||

    The story says that before the person who noticed the cops could verbalize their existence, the battering ram had started. Awtry effectively had no idea and (he thought) no time.

  • ||

    Beaten TWICE...argh.

  • Paul||

    The story says that before the person who noticed the cops could verbalize their existence

    "Clearly verbalize" their existence.

    I admit we may be splitting hairs here.

  • Paul||

    "clearly vocalize" to be 100% exact on what how the account read.

  • Paul||

    This is also why when I have low-stakes poker games at my house with $5000 on the table, a security camera with people assigned to watch the security monitor, I ask my senior players with notoriously bad hearing to please unass their firearms as they may not be able to tell the difference between cops coming through the door and an invasion robbery. You know, to avoid the possible problems.

    Problems like when my drunk neighbor comes to the game late, starts banging on the door and shouting, that way he won't get shot through the door by Mr. Awtry who can't tell the difference.

  • Paul||

    I wrote: So the shooter knew he was shooting at police.

    I would also like to apologize to the group for this characterization. I did not mean that. What I meant to say is that a guy knew they were police, not the shooter.

    So I understand the disagreement with my premise.

    All I'm trying to say is that Mr. Awtry is probably going to face some kind of ugly charges out of this, and he acted in a rash manner- especially when the group had the means to detect incoming threats.

  • ||

    I'm sayin, Paul rocks. Excellent disagreement. *High Fives all'round*

  • Paul||

    At this point, may we all hope Mr. Awtry has Johnny Cochrain as his defense attorney.

  • Apogee||

    He hopes not. Cochran died in '05.

  • ||

    Were these cops in uniform with visible badges? I don't automatically assume that someone in black clothes with a gun is a cop. Anybody can buy black clothes last time I checked.

  • Anonymous||

    No, they weren't. Camo, mask, gloves, and guns.

  • Paul||

    Absolutely. No disagreement, except the residents of the establishments, according to Radley's description were able to identify them as such.

    Again, there's nothing in Radley's description that suggests that this was the obvious and clear cut case of the guy asleep at 3am waking to the sounds of wood doorframes caving in.

  • ||

    Why does the sleep/waking state of the person matter when the sounds of wood doorframes caving in causes a reaction?

  • Paul||

    Wouldn't the disoriented state of the resident come into play at all?

    A disoriented person, in my opinion, even gets some slack (well, should, we all know the courts won't give him any) if police identify themselves.

    It's harder for someone at 9:20 in the evening to claim they were asleep or in a subconscious state.

    I have faith in Mr. Balko's reporting. So we'll see how this case shakes out.

    I just find it troubling that a person with a security camera to protect against being surprised would shoot at an unidentified target. Had there been no security camera, I'd give Mr. Awtry more room.

  • ||

    I just find it troubling that a person with a security camera to protect against being surprised would shoot at an unidentified target. Had there been no security camera, I'd give Mr. Awtry more room.
    reply to this

    Personally, I'd make the guy with the gun be the guy watching the monitor. And this is why I don't play poker: too much like a job.

  • Cyto||

    A disoriented person, in my opinion, even gets some slack (well, should, we all know the courts won't give him any) if police identify themselves.

    I would add to this that no one's model of the universe should have to include potential responses to their door being knocked in. I have a hard time expecting that, asleep or not, one can expect well-thought-out rational responses to a battering ram suddenly taking your front door out.

    Let's just follow that line of reasoning for a moment - the one that the prosecution will enforce with the full power of the state. You are sitting on the couch watching Jeopardy with your wife. You keep a gun near the couch because you and the wife are getting old and frail, and the neighborhood is pretty rough. A couple of friends got mugged at the Kroger last week!

    Suddenly, the room is shaken by a series of very loud bangs. You look to the source and your front door is splintering to pieces, glass is showering in from the little skylight.

    Do you think to yourself - "hey, I bet this is just the police executing a no-knock search warrant on the wrong house. I'll wait here on the couch with my wife while they let themselves in."?

    Or do you go "Holy shit, run to your room Honey!" as you grab your gun, certain that a couple of those rough looking thugs you saw down on the corner are kicking your door in?

    Which response is more rational? Is it at all rational to expect (with the full force of law) that faced with such circumstances one should stop and fully consider what is happening? Take a moment to calmly assess your assumptions as the door is coming in... Hey, it might not be those thugs...It could be a rapist!... or it could be some guy from down the street who thinks I'm having an affair with his wife... Oh, wait, it might be the police! Because the police come busting in front doors all the time, so I expect that this could happen to me! I'd better calm down and try to have a conversation with them to fully ascertain who is coming through my door with a battering ram, just to be safe.

    Because that makes sense....

    We really need to re-evaluate our police procedures and legal structure with this in mind. If you put citizens in a situation where the only sane, rational response puts people's lives at risk (both police and citizens) as a matter of policy, your policy must change. It is reprehensible to routinely place people in a fight-or-flight scenario in their own home and expect that they will instantaneously process what is happening and fall prostrate before the police. Sure, in a majority of cases the police will be able to enter the dwelling quickly enough to take advantage of confusion and the resultant inaction on the part of the residents, but in the minority of cases someone will respond as they reasonably should in such circumstances - grabbing a weapon, sprinting for an alternate exit, generally responding as if they are being threatened with immediate and severe violence. And then even if he doesn't grab a gun you are expecting that every one of the police officers present will respond with restraint when presented with someone jumping over the couch, or running for the fire poker, or digging in the chair for a phone. The entire policy is criminally stupid.

    The only rational thing to do is to end all raids on private dwellings unless a violent standoff is already under way. The marginal chance that some evidence might be destroyed while you are standing on the front porch knocking is not worth the risk to life and property and liberty posed by no-knock or announce and enter raids.

  • Cyto||

    Holy crap, that was a long-winded rant. sorry about that..

    But I'll add the observation that we ended the "fleeing felon" rule that allowed the police to shoot anyone running away who was suspected of a felony offense. We can end this much more recent practice of paramilitary raids on private homes for the same reasons.

  • ||

    Holy crap, that was a long-winded rant. sorry about that..

    I reject your apology. That was well written and thought-out, thereby disqualifying it as a rant.

  • ||

    Full agreement with wylie - not my definition of a rant.

  • Paul||

    Nah, it was all good. I don't disagree with a single point.

    I will say that the unfortunate response from the predictable sector is: This is why citizens shouldn't own guns... because if citizens didn't own guns, no-knock raids wouldn't be necessary in the first place, because the cops would have no fear of being shot when executing a warrant.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    So having a security camera means the cops get to skip the part where they actually show a warrant? Where is that in the constitution?

  • Paul||

    According to Radley's description, Mr. Awtry was firing through the door before said agents of the state were able to alert the inhabitants of the establishment as to their intentions and warrants.

    However, there is still such thing as a 'no-knock' raid, upheld repeatedly by the SCOTUS.

    This has nothing to do with what I think about cops/swat teams being used to break up a card game. Those are two different subjects.

    But once the police are on site, and have been identified, justifiable or not, my advice is don't start shooting through the door when your friends look at your security camera monitor and shout "Motherfucker, five-oh comin' up the drive!"

  • ||

    and have been identified

    That part is still in doubt according to my reading.

  • Paul||

    There were 12 people and Awtry in the house at 502 Pine Knoll Drive when police arrived at about 9:20 pm last night. According to frontline witnesses, they had just finished a small buy-in dinnertime tourney … and a 1/2 cash game was just getting underway when someone saw 5-0 approaching on a security monitor. Before he could clearly vocalize an alert

    Wylie, you may be right. "Clearly vocalize an alert" leaves things ambiguous. And I too wanna be the first one to stick to five-oh.

    It's just that the basic description here makes me nervous. Whenever I find myself reflexively supporting or railing against something, I always want to be careful about why I believe something.

    This case is just a little too fishy for me to automatically endorse Mr. Awtry's actions.

    I remain open to changing my opinion on this entire case.

  • ||

    Whenever I find myself reflexively supporting or railing against something, I always want to be careful about why I believe something.

    That's (part of) what the booze is for.

  • Paul||

    I never drink at home without firearms by my side.

  • ||

    I wonder if part of the delay in vocalizing the alert was in figuring out who the intruders were. By the time the witness told the story he knew they were cops. Did he know this instantly upon seeing them, or is his mind "filling in the details" post event? We can only speculate on that.

  • ||

    @ Sandwich @ 4:18

    So, how much of this thread might help in Awtry's defense? Can Radley send it to his lawyers? Just the good parts obviously, you can leave out all my smartassery.

  • Kristen||

    I have a webcam pointing at my door, and I don't even play poker for fucking M&Ms;.

  • A Different John||

    Awtry was not the 'someone who saw 5-0'

    the battering ram was used on the door before the 'someone' could vocalize a warning.
    The article clearly states that Awtry thought he was being robbed, not that he thought he was being robbed by the police.

  • ||

    So the shooter knew he was shooting at police.

    I'm not sure this conclusion is justified; as I read it, some *other* person(s) saw who was at the door, and unsuccessfully tried to tell Awtrey.

    Something tells me the time span here was pretty brief.

    Fortunately, we all know he'll get a fair and reasonable opportunity to present his side of the story. And the District Attorney will be completely impartial and reserve judgment until all the facts are in.

  • Highway||

    Besides, how do you know that it's the police? Did this SWAT team have a different outfit than they usually wear, i.e. black body armor, maybe an identifying 'POLICE' stencil across the back (which you wouldn't see if they were approaching the house)?

    Sounds like thugs to me.

  • Paul||

    Fortunately, we all know he'll get a fair and reasonable opportunity to present his side of the story. And the District Attorney will be completely impartial and reserve judgment until all the facts are in

    Unfortunately, my guess is things are stacked against Mr. Awtry.

    Since Mr. Balko has posted dozens of cases of the 3am raid with disoriented resident with no criminal history being put in jail for life WITH witnesses backing the story that they never heard police identify themselves, the fact that Mr. Awtry fired through a door at the cops under the circumstances laid out here, is going to be a very uphill battle.

  • ||

    And on this, we're in 100% perfect agreement.

  • Cyto ||

    This is particularly insightful given that we have at least a couple of people here on this thread who have read similar stories in the past and are still unable to pull the 3 or 4 relevant mitigating facts from an article snippet that is only 3 paragraphs long.

  • Randian||

    Right... if a bunch of Balko readers can't follow a half-page of text, what hope do random jurors have after a week of obfuscation from a prosecuting attorney? He'll be lucky if he gets to spend the rest of his life in a state prison facility for old-timers rather than a violent felon supermax.

  • Paul||

    I admit I'm curious to see how the followups to this article go.

    Will the stories change? Will Mr. Awtry's story change, or will (as we've seen in dozens of Mr. Balko's reports) the police official story change... multiple times?

  • Bob||

    Since gambling is outlawed in Sharia law, these guys should move to Oklahoma where it will be legal now, right?

  • waffles||

    I really just don't understand SWAT tactics. What is the best possible outcome for the police? They break in, everyone cowers, book them and take the cash? Do they compare the utility of an armed raid versus a polite knock?

    Paramilitary raids just aren't justified. However, in some catch-22 logic each botched raid provides justification for more force.

  • Cop Thinker||

    Step 1: Initiate violence with a paramilitary raid on a poker game.

    Step 2: Engage in gunfight after not clearly identifying ourselves as police before we use the battering ram.

    Step 3: Blame it on the guy at poker night, and use it as justification to use even more violent tactics next time, and use this as an example as to why SWAT raids are necessary for all public encounters because they are so dangerous.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It's a good thing the cops moved to stop this offense to civil society before it turned into something serious; like a baccarat tournament.

    If the people of South Carolina would just learn to get their gambling fix through the proper state channels (the South Carolina Education Lottery) things like this wouldn't happen.

    It. Is. For. The. Children.

  • Kristen||

    Right on! Only filthy Europeans play baccarat!

  • ||

    Just incase it was too deep in the thread where i posted it:

    wylie|11.5.10 @ 5:28PM|#

    I'm sayin, Paul rocks. Excellent disagreement. *High Fives all'round*

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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