War on Drugs

Kathryn Johnston Was Murdered


If this report turns out to be true, it's time to start think about murder charges:

An Atlanta police narcotics officer has told federal investigators at least one member of his unit lied about making a drug buy at the home of an elderly woman killed in a subsequent raid, according to a person close to the investigation.

In an affidavit to get a search warrant at the home Nov. 21, narcotics officer Jason R. Smith told a magistrate he and Officer Arthur Tesler had a confidential informant buy $50 worth of crack at 933 Neal St. from a man named "Sam."

But narcotics officer Gregg Junnier, who was wounded in the shootout, has since told federal investigators that did not happen, according to the person close to the investigation. Police got a no-knock warrant after claiming that "Sam" had surveillance cameras outside the Neal Street residence and they needed the element of surprise to capture him and the drugs.

The resident at the home, Kathryn Johnston, who is reported to be either 88 or 92, was startled by the sound of her burglar-bar door being battered in, and she fired her revolver at the officers. She was killed and three officers were wounded by gunfire or shrapnel.

Let's hope Atlanta officials don't now declare this an isolated case of a few cops gone bad, and thus conclude that there's no need for reform. I doubt this is the first time these particular officers took shortcuts.  If these officers thought they could get away with it, others almost certainly do, too.

Atlanta needs to look at how this could have happened, and why this particular search warrant was allowed to go forward, despite the fabricated evidence. That these narcotics cops pulled this off without much thought—and did so successfully—is indicative of a much larger problem.  Everyone, including judges and prosecutors, needs a close look.