Criminal Justice

He Allegedly Killed a Cop During a No-Knock Raid. Will the Jury Agree It Was Self-Defense?

Almost 10 years after his arrest, Marvin Guy will soon learn if he'll spend the rest of his life in prison.


BELTON, TEXAS—A man in small-town Texas is facing life in prison for allegedly killing a police officer. But the trial—which commenced Monday after a nearly decade-long wait—is a confluence of police use of force, the war on drugs, and the right to self-defense. Its outcome will in part answer the following question: How far does a self-defense claim go when it's exercised against the state?

At around 5:45 a.m. on May 9, 2014, a SWAT team in Killeen, Texas—consisting of about two dozen officers—descended on Marvin Guy's modest apartment on Circle M Drive. They were there to execute a no-knock drug raid, a controversial approach that allows law enforcement to forcibly enter a residence, usually with a fabulous display of force, without first announcing themselves. An informant had reportedly told police that Guy was dealing cocaine.

The raid did not go as planned.

Officers smashed Guy's bedroom window and attempted to breach the door with a battering ram. But something appeared to be lodged behind the door, preventing police from immediately gaining entry and leaving them clogged outside the residence. In the rapidly unfolding mayhem, Guy fired several shots outside of his broken window, allegedly hitting four officers. Police quickly fired over 40 rounds in return. One officer, Detective Charles Dinwiddie, died.

Guy was arrested and ultimately charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted capital murder. But he says he believed the police to be intruders when he was awoken and disoriented early that morning. Witnesses for the prosecution yesterday described the neighborhood as one that was known for its high crime rate. Less than a week before the raid, someone broke into Guy's neighbor's residence across the street in similar fashion, forcing entry via a first-floor window and choking a female resident nearly to death.

A series of protracted delays—stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, Guy's declining health, disputes over the district attorney's office releasing all the evidence, and a slew of defense attorneys either quitting or being fired—have lengthened Guy's stay at the county jail, where he has been held for almost a decade on $4 million bond. For years, the state sought the death penalty, which also slowed trial preparations, as proceedings with the ultimate punishment on the table take more time. Prosecutors withdrew that last year, instead opting to pursue life in prison, to speed the process.

The case is not the first to pit self-defense against no-knock raids. The tactic has come under intense scrutiny in recent years. In 2020, Breonna Taylor was killed by police during a similar raid after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, grabbed a firearm he legally owned and fired one shot at police, believing them to be intruders. (Police claim they announced themselves before breaking down Walker's door; Walker says he didn't hear them.) Charges against him were ultimately dismissed. In 2021, a Florida man went to trial facing three counts of first-degree attempted murder of a law enforcement officer after he shot at deputies during a 2017 drug raid targeting his father. The government also charged the defendant, Andrew Coffee IV, with murdering his girlfriend, Alteria Woods, who was shot and killed by police, as prosecutors posited that Woods died as a result of Coffee's actions. A jury acquitted him of those charges.

The topic is particularly relevant in Guy's case, as Texas has the Castle Doctrine, a legal principle grounded in the eponymous idea that someone's home is their castle. As such, they have no duty to retreat when they believe they're facing a deadly threat. An exception: It does not apply when the person in question is engaged in illegal activity. The Killeen Police Department (KPD) allegedly found traces of white powder in Guy's car, on the floor of his apartment, and in the trash, amounting to 1 gram of "suspected cocaine." He was not charged with a drug crime.

But even if the jury decides Guy is not entitled to protection via the Castle Doctrine, they could still find he acted in self-defense. The state, however, has a radically different theory: At trial yesterday, Bell County Assistant District Attorney Fred Burns laid the groundwork for the notion that the problems cascading from the raid weren't a result of Guy not having enough information. On the contrary—it's because he knew too much, Burns said.

That theory began to take shape during the testimony of David Daniels, a retired SWAT officer with KPD who was hit by a bullet during the raid. In this telling, Guy had barricaded the door to his apartment not because he was afraid of intruders but because he knew SWAT was coming and plotted to kill the police when they arrived. "We were ambushed," Daniels said. It was not yet clear how the state would prove Guy's clairvoyance about the department's plans.

The subject of no-knock raids has been a fraught one for KPD. The city recently reached a settlement with the family of a man who was killed during a 2019 raid. In 2021, the local council voted to ban the tactic. Unfortunately, that came too late here.