'Do Two Ounces of Marijuana Constitute a Death Warrant?'


What would you do if masked, armed men burst into your home early in the morning? Anthony Diotaiuto, a 23-year-old bartender in Sunset*, Florida, ran to his bedroom and got his pistol, whereupon he was gunned down by two members of a SWAT team. Police had a search warrant alleging "drug-related activity." In addition to Diotaiuto's corpse, the search produced two ounces of pot, a scale, and some plastic bags.

Police, who knew Diotaiuto had a handgun permit, claim they announced their presence before invading the house. The neighbors say they didn't:

Next-door neighbor Rudy Strauss told the Sun-Sentinel he and his wife were awake when the raid occurred and heard the crash of Diotauito's door being smashed in, but heard no yelling announcing the presence of police. There were no words spoken outside, he said, adding that he and his wife watched the raid unfold from their window. "I heard this loud bang, and I saw a flash," Strauss said Tuesday. "I never heard them say 'Police.' If somebody were pounding on the door, I would definitely hear that, or if they yelled, 'Police, police!'"

Residents outraged by the raid attended a city council meeting this week. "Do two ounces of marijuana constitute a death warrant?" one of them asked. The Drug War Chronicle notes that the police say "they sent in the SWAT team to lessen the possibility of violence. They did not explain why they thought a surprise attack on the home of an unsuspecting but presumably armed man would produce a nonviolent result."

[*As ed points out, the city is Sunrise, not Sunset, although the latter seems more fitting.]