More on the Botched Drug Raid in Massachusetts


Here's a statement from the Framingham, Massachusetts Police Chief Steven Carl on the botched drug raid I blogged about this morning:

At 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 5, the Framingham Police SWAT Team served a search warrant at 26 Fountain St. in Framingham. During the service of the search warrant Mr. Eurie Stamps was tragically and fatally struck by a bullet which was discharged from a SWAT officer's rifle. Despite immediate intervention by tactical medics, he died at the scene.

The officer involved has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the District Attorney's Office's independent investigation into the justifiability of the shooting.  Our condolences are with Mr. Stamp's family for the heartbreak they are understandably enduring and we will await the findings of the investigation before taking any additional administrative action.

According to the Middlesex District Attorney's Office, the investigation will take three to four weeks and the identity of the Framingham officer who shot Stamps will not be released until the investigation is complete.

Interesting wording. Stamps wasn't killed by a cop. Rather, Stamps was "fatally struck by a bullet which was discharged from a SWAT officer's rifle." I'm also fairly certain that if Mr. Stamps had been the one whose gun discharged a bullet that fatally wounded a SWAT officer, Mr. Stamps' name would have been released to the public rather quickly. And Carl's initial statement to the press would have been less ambiguous.

It now seems clear that Stamps wasn't the target of the raid, and that he wasn't armed. These raids are dangerous, they're volatile, and they have a very thin margin for error. I report on a lot of wrong door raids here. But this one shows why they're an inappropriate use of force to serve warrants for nonviolent crimes even when the police have the right house, and they actually find their suspect with illicit drugs. SWAT tactics are appropriate when you're using their inherent violence to defuse an already violent situation. When they're used to serve drug warrants, you're creating violence where none existed before. The consequences are predictable. People die—cops, drug dealers, people mistaken for drug dealers, and bystanders.

Even if you support the drug war, it isn't any more difficult to get high in Framingham, Massachussets today than it was last week. So what purpose do the 150 or or so drug raids per day in this country serve, other than to inflict government-sanctioned violence on people suspected of consensual, ultimately political crimes?

If this case plays out like most of those before it, Eurie Stamps' death won't change a damn thing. His will be just another body on the growing pile of drug war collateral damage.