War on Drugs

Cops Raid House, Kill 72-Year-Old Woman Who Was Asleep, Woke Up, Tried to Defend Herself with a Pellet Gun

"You killed my mother."


Screenshot via Tulsa World

Police officers in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, killed a 72-year-old woman during a raid on her home. According to her 50-year-old son, who was arrested on drug charges during the raid, Geraldine Townsend was sleeping when police entered. She woke up, grabbed a pellet gun, and shot at the cops—and one of the cops shot back.

Two of the officers suffered minor injuries, Bartlesville Police Captain Hay Hastings told local reporters. Townsend was transported to the hospital where she died from the gunshot wound to her chest.

The body camera footage of the altercation is blurry, but the audio is revealing. The raid began in the dark, at 9:30 p.m. Officers knocked on the door and said, "police department, search warrant." Five seconds later, they entered the premises. Townsend's son, Mike Anthony Livingston, immediately surrendered. He was the target of the raid, suspected of distributing marijuana.

Livingston warns the officers, "That's my mother, man." An officer is heard to shout "put that fucking gun down!" presumably at Townsend, who fires. Livingston insists "it's a BB gun" as additional shots ring out. At this point about 10 seconds have elapsed since the cops entered.

Over the next few minutes, Livingston repeatedly says, "You killed my mother, it was a BB gun." Eventually, one of the officers snaps at him, "She shot me, shut up!"

The officer who shot Townsend explains his actions to the officer wearing the body camera: "I fucking saw her pointing that fucking gun. It looked like she stopped and shot Steven, and then I come back around to cover him, she pointed it at me again and then, blam, I fucking shot her."

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations will look into whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of the officers. The agency may well conclude that the officers had cause to shoot Townsend, since she fired a weapon at them. But where is the logic in conducting the raid at night, when no one can see anything, and shouting "put the fucking gun down" at a confused, half-asleep old woman? Police put her in a position where she might have reasonably thought she was fighting for her life against robbers, giving her no choice but to fire and them with no choice but to retaliate with deadly force—all to bust her son for selling some weed.