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Jury Frees Man Charged With Shooting at Cops Who Raided Wrong House

Brandon WatsonWAVYCops raid the wrong house, shots are fired...You know where this is going, right? It's another innocent person plugged by police officers who can't read street addresses, or another sleepy homeowner charged with murder for shooting an intruder who happened to be a government employee with a bad sense of direction.

But this story has a happy-ish ending. Nobody was injured. And the man who fired at the late-night wrong-way raiders was ultimately cleared by jurors who thought the police behaved poorly.

From KHON2:

Brandon remembers, "We ran upstairs very quickly … she saw guys in all black from right here in this window looking down." Watson said he couldn’t immediately find his cell phone to call 911 so he ran downstairs with his firearm and stood at the foot of the stairs, shielded by a wall.

"I announced myself, ‘Who is that? Who is that? I have a gun.’ And as soon as I said that, two red laser beams were on my chest," Watson said. "so I looked at the red laser beams on my chest, and I fired a warning shot."

A single shot through a window, and then Watson ran to get help from his neighbor across the street, a Virginia State Police deputy.

As I came out of the house … they said, ‘stop,’ and I said, ‘Who?’ They then said, ‘Who just fired the shot out the back window?’ I said I did … and I was holding a gun, and they said, ‘put down the gun.’"

Watson dropped his handgun and said he received shocking news.

"They said, ‘we just got news you shot at an officer.’ I said, ‘An officer? Nobody came to my door. What do you mean an officer? I didn’t know there were any officers in my backyard,’" he told WAVY.com.

Then he learned the dark figures in his backyard were Portsmouth police officers who had not announced themselves.

Watson was charged with misdemeanor reckless handling of a firearm for the shot he fired, after a warning, at assailants who hadn't identified themselves.

His first trial, before a judge ended in a guilty verdict. He appealed.

The second trial ended in a mistrial.

The third trial took place before a jury, which found Brandon Watson not guilty.

Jurors believed Watson showed restraint by firing one shot, and that police had no business raiding the wrong address (they counted down houses along the block rather than check number plates). They also thought the laser sight indicators on Watson's chest proved the cops were full of shit when they claimed to have their weapons aimed at the ground.

"The police kept saying they had their weapons pointed at the ground at all times. At the same time, they said they were using their TAC lights on the gun to illuminate whatever they were looking at," Barnes said. "You can’t be doing both at the same time, that’s contradictory."

WAVY asked Chief Hargis if a light could have gone into the window.

"Yes, but I don’t think it was there for any long period of time," he said.

We asked him if the red lights appearing on Watson’s chest were possible.

"It is possible, sure," he replied.

The incident could have ended a lot worse. Cory Maye, whose case was highlighted by Radley Balko in Reason, spent 10 years in prison for killing a police officer during a wrong house raid. Kathryn Johnston was among those killed for trying to defend their homes.

Watson essentially lost a year of his life. But he's free. When cops screw up, it's rare for the subject of the screwup to come out the other end so relatively unscathed.

Maybe public attitudes toward police raids are changing. Earlier this year, a Texas grand jury declined to indict Henry McGee who killed a police officer during a raid actually targeted at his house.

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  • Hugh Akston||

    Watson essentially lost a year of his life.

    He's lucky it was only one.

  • ||

    He's lucky he's still alive.

  • Brandon||

    It's going to be amazing how many of these jurors turn into drug dealers in the next few months.

  • umh||

    You and your homies going to plant evidence?

  • Cdr Lytton||

    "The police kept saying they had their weapons pointed at the ground at all times. At the same time, they said they were using their TAC lights on the gun to illuminate whatever they were looking at," Barnes said. "You can’t be doing both at the same time, that’s contradictory."

    And when you say it under oath, it's perjury.

    Three bites at the apple against Watson. The prosecutor sounds like a tenacious bulldog. I'm sure he'll be going after the perjurers next. Right after the prosecutions for breaking and entering, negligence, and conspiracy.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And the man who fired at the late-night wrong-way raiders was ultimately cleared by jurors who thought the police behaved poorly.

    And that's the worst punishment law enforcement can expect for their bad acts.

  • Dweebston||

    You're such a cynic. I'm certain they feel just awful about the mix-up.

  • From the Tundra||

    ...(they counted down houses along the block rather than check number plates)...

    This pisses me off so much. Armed raids and you can't even be bothered to check the fucking house numbers?

  • ||

    They're developmentally retarded. Give them a break.

    When they couldn't go to college, they tried to join the military. When their applications were denied, they tried for work at Wendy's. When that didn't work out, they tried sucking homeless men's cocks for a dime a piece. Homeless men weren't impressed.

    They were out of options. They HAD to join their local police force.

  • From the Tundra||

    It gets worse. From what I understand, DHS cops and air marshals are pulled from the group that couldn't get jobs in the local PDs.

    Best and the brightest!

  • ||

    They drink Brawn.

  • ||

    There are no consequences, so why would they bother? They're fucking sociopaths.

  • Homple||

    How long would a pizza delivery guy last in a job if he used these cops' technique of address finding?

  • Cunning Linguist||

    Zero accountability for mistakes will tend to make one careless. Awfully dangerous when the potential for harm to law abiding citizens is so high. Eliminate unions (really do this in all public service sectors).

  • ||

    How about prosecuting the cops for reckless endangerment and trespassing?

  • From the Tundra||

    Serious question: when did cops get this nearly blanket immunity?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Check this guy out. He wants the heroes in blue to fight the drug war with one arm tied behind their back.

  • From the Tundra||

    Even worse. I'd like them to be fired en masse and replaced with private contractors who have to answer to their fucking employers.

    Oh, and a pony. I'd like a pony, too.

  • Christophe||

    You know the government will have Universal Ponies before dialing down organized violence.

  • TopherB||

    Will my free pony come with free food, stable and health care? Or at least a freezer large enough to store him?

  • ||

    Federal courts and their qualified immunity bullshit, and state and local courts operating under the supposed authority of the federal courts' pursuant precedents. Also, deferential, cock-sucking public officials and juries.

  • John Thacker||

    Although it's not as strong as the absolute immunity of judges-- who can secretly carry on an affair with a woman while presiding over her child-support case, including texting back and forth about how to put the squeeze on her BD interspersed with sex talk.

  • MegaloMonocle||

    a Texas grand jury declined to indict Henry McGee who killed a police officer during a raid actually targeted at his house.

    There's a law on the books in Texas that specifically authorizes killing cops under some circumstances as good self-defense.

    (c) The use of force to resist an arrest or search is
    justified:
    (1) if, before the actor offers any resistance, the
    peace officer (or person acting at his direction) uses or attempts
    to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest or search;
    and
    (2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably
    believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself
    against the peace officer's (or other person's) use or attempted use
    of greater force than necessary.

    http://law.onecle.com/texas/penal/9.31.00.html

  • Dweebston||

    That's gratifying, but of course it's no guarantee the prosecutor will decline to press charges anyway.

  • MegaloMonocle||

    The way its drafted, though, you are allowed to resist just about any late-night SWAT goon assault with deadly force.

    Because those are all, with very few exceptions, the "use or attempted use
    of greater force than necessary". There are very few SWAT deployments these days where a SWAT team is really the minimum use of force anyone would call for.

    The truly great thing about this statute is that it makes no diff whether the cops announce themselves or not. Unless you are holding a hostage or something like that, SWAT goons stacked up outside your front door is a license to use deadly force in self-defense. Period.

    I don't see any other way to read it.

  • CopAndLibertarian||

    You left out sub d:

    The use of deadly force is not justified under this
    subchapter except as provided in Sections 9.32, 9.33, and 9.34.

  • ||

  • Paul.||

    "The police kept saying they had their weapons pointed at the ground at all times

    Oh those fucking liars. Lying fucking liars lie. Liars. Fuck them, those fucking liars.

  • datcv||

    That dude's head is disproportionately gigantic.

    And yeah, he actually got lucky to only lose a year of his life, as sad as that reality is.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Cops know where he lives and know he's out.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    "charged with misdemeanor reckless handling of a firearm"

    When that's the only charge, the cops are basically admitting it's BS. I mean, they couldn't even bothered to charge a felony-level offense?

  • ||

    How the fuck do you blame someone for handling a firearm in a reckless manner when a gang is surrounding your house with laser sights on your chest and you don't know why because they never said they were the cops?

    Unfucking beleiveable that after what these government employees wrongly put him through they then have to add the insult of filling charges against HIM.

    Fuckers.

  • ||

    This guy is SOOOO lucky those incompetent dopes didn't blow him away.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    The cops asked "who fired that shot". I bet they were thinking it could have been one of their own, feeling twitchy.

  • TopherB||

    That was my first thought.

  • mr lizard||

    Who wants to bet that this guys will have constant police patrols around his house at all hours. Not too mention they'll just get their "informants" to constantly vandalize his house and car. And speaking cars, virginia has that awesome inspection requirement. I'm sure there is enough vagueness in that to allow the pig fuckers to "safety check" his car for hours on end.

  • Vulgar Madman||

    Dude just pissed off the worst gang out there, he needs to get lost.

  • Redmanfms||

    And speaking cars, virginia has that awesome inspection requirement. I'm sure there is enough vagueness in that to allow the pig fuckers to "safety check" his car for hours on end.

    Yeeeaaaahhhhhh, see, that's not how it works guy.

    You go to a licensed inspector of your choice (which is nearly every garage in the state) and they make sure your lights and brakes work (well, there's a little more to it). No cops involved, at all.

  • ||

    The inspection itself doesn't matter. Five minutes after you leave the bay your license plate light goes out. You can now be pulled over at any time. When was the last time you checked to see if your license plate light is working? (It probably isn't.)

  • Professor Woland||

    If I were he, I would move to a different part of the country.

  • ||

    Fuck that entire cesspool of an area called "Hampton Roads".

  • Ron||

    Hurray for the Citizen

  • MarkinLA||

    He was lucky - even more lucky than a powerball lottery winner. Normally people on those juries do what is expected of them and usually the only evidence allowed is related to the letter of the law meaning the guy is "guilty" of something.

    Good for him. These raids have to stop somehow.

  • Biggbear54||

    For all you youngsters out there that think there is no justice in this country. Try reading this really good. This happens daily as it should.

  • ||

    The jury finally saw thru the lying cops.

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