War on Drugs

SWAT Weekend

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I spent much of my Thanksgiving weekend behind the computer, thanks to unfolding events in the Kathryn Johnston case, and testy, sometimes petty blog exchanges with defenders of these types of invasive police tactics.  If you're interested, visit TheAgitator.com and scroll.

Unfortunately, there was also more bad news on the SWAT front over the weekend.  First, we learned of yet another raid on an innocent, elderly woman.  Sixty-eight year old Merced County, California resident Mary Silva was on the receiving aid of a 6:30am raid because a distant relative police were looking for in connection with drug activity listed Silva's address as his own after a previous arrest.  Fortunately, Silva escaped Johnston's fate.  She escaped with only some fright, a broken door, and damage to her home.  The local sheriff's attempt to deflect responsibility rings rather hollow, though:

"Let's point the finger where the blame really belongs, at the individual who's using (Silva's) residence to conceal where he's really living," Pazin said. "It's unfortunate (Ramirez) was using some type of elderly relative to hide his true residence."

That is unfortunate.  It's also unfortunate that Pazin's officers didn't conduct a more thorough investigation before kicking down an elderly woman's door.

Meanwhile, there was also a major development in the case of Sal Culosi, the Fairfax, Virginia optometrist shot and killed last January when a SWAT team apprehended him for suspicion of gambling on football games with friends.  Someone leaked the results of the recently completed internal police investigation to the Washington Post — over Thanksgiving weekend, naturally.  The internal investigation recommended that Officer Deval Bullock, who says he accidentally shot and killed Culosi when his gun unexpectedly discharged, be suspended for three weeks without pay, and removed from the SWAT team.

That's at least something.  But you wonder what Culosi would have gotten if he'd have mistaken the SWAT team for intruders, met them with a gun, and accidentally shot one of them with an inadvertent discharge of his weapon.  I doubt that three weeks without pay would be the worst of his concerns.

If you can believe it, Bullock's fellow officers are apparently "outraged" at the punishment, calling it excessive, and "off the charts" in relation to other punishments meted out for previous infractions.  A man is dead because of his mistakes.  Three weeks seems rather lenient, if you ask me.  Of course, you could make a good case that Fairfax County police are a bit spoiled.  Local prosecutor Robert Horan hasn't brought charges against a police officer a single time — in more than 40 years on the job.

It's also unfortunate that more than ten months after the shooting, Culosi's family had to learn about the results of the investigation from a newspaper reporter, and not the paid public officials who allegedly serve them.