War on Drugs

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Arthur Tesler is the only officer involved in the Atlanta drug raid that killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston to fight the charges against him. The testimony to so far come out of his trial really only confirms what we knew about the narcotics division at Atlanta PD from the federal investigation into Johnston's death, but it's still pretty striking stuff:

A former Atlanta police officer testified Thursday that narcotics officers routinely lied under oath when seeking search warrants, a practice that led to police killing a 92-year-old woman.

Former Detective Gregg Junnier told a Fulton County jury that detectives would tell judges that they had verified their informants had bought cocaine from dealers by searching them for drugs before the buy took place.

"I have never seen anyone searched before they go into the house, I've never seen that done, even though officers always swear to it," Junnier said. "It's done that way in 90 percent of the warrants that are written."

But it wasn't just lies to get the warrant to search Kathryn Johnston's home that made Junnier uneasy, he said. He had an inkling something was wrong when he and Officer Jason R. Smith were leading the narcotics team to the front door. He said the northwest Atlanta house differed from the informant's description.

"I said, 'Man, this doesn't look right,' and he said, 'I know,' " Junnier testified. " 'I said what do you want to do.' He said, 'Hit it.'"

A minute later, Johnston was lying on her floor, dying.


He said the chance to seize a kilo (2.2 pounds) of cocaine also drove the officers, who normally made arrests for much smaller amounts.

In the raid, police fired 39 shots. Junnier was shot in the face, chest and leg. Two other officers were also wounded. Investigators determined Johnston had fired one round from a revolver; the officers were shot in their own crossfire.

Junnier described entering Johnston's house: "She was still alive. She was gasping for air. I heard … the order to cuff her."

Later that day, he said, the cover-up began.

It would be pretty näive to think these kinds of shortcuts only happen in Atlanta. Prior reason coverage of the Johnston case here.