Drug Policy

Drug Raid/Self-Defense Case Brewing in Columbus, Ohio

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Last Thursday night, police in Columbus, Ohio raided what they thought was a crack house. Though initial reports say some illicit drugs were found, the police thus far haven't been forthcoming about what type or how much. It's starting to look like the place was instead a gambling house.

When the police busted in, two men—who now say they thought they were being robbed—fired at the door. Two police officers were wounded. Both are likely to survive. The two men are being charged with attempted murder. The police say they announced twice before battering down the door, but at least one witness not in the house at the time says he only heard an order from one officer for "knockers" to break out the windows.

One of the two men who fired at the officers is a former Ohio State University football player named Derrick Foster. Foster says he was playing dice at the house when he heard a loud bang at the door, then heard someone say the place was being robbed. That's when he fired his gun at the men breaking down the door.

Foster hardly fits the profile of a crazed cop killer. He has no criminal record. He isn't suspected of drug activity. He has a legal concealed carry permit for the gun he used in the raid. He works a $60,000/year job as a code inspector for the city of Columbus. His last performance review described him as "an asset to the Near East Side." The other suspect's record is quite a bit more spotty. Still, if Foster genuinely thought the place was about to be robbed—and I think it's more than reasonable to believe him when he says that he did—it's reasonable that the other man would too, criminal record or no.

One again we have a someone facing serious charges for shooting at police during a volatile, confrontational forced entry raid to serve a drug warrant. Again we have injured cops, and again we have a guy who otherwise would have no motivation to want to harm a police officer. But instead of questioning if it's a wise policy to put an ordinary citizen in the perilous position of having to determine in the heat of the moment if the men breaking in on him are cops or criminal intruders, the state has again decided to prosecute the citizen—for making the kind of error in judgment it rarely prosecutes police for making under similar circumstances. And the raids will undoubtedly continue.