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Teenager Charged With Attempted Murder Says Drug Cops Seemed Like Armed Thugs

Austin police take stupid risks and blame the victim.

KVUEKVUEPolice in Austin, Texas, say Tyler Harrell, an 18-year-old who was charged with attempted capital murder after he shot an officer in the knee during a drug raid last April, must have known the armed men storming his house before dawn were cops. After all, they used a "long-range acoustical device" (L-RAD) to announce themselves, and a neighbor said he heard them. Then again, the raid happened before 6 a.m., when Harrell and his parents presumably were asleep. And as the Austin American-Statesman explains, "the warrant authorized police to make a 'no knock' entry into the home, allowing officers to breach the doors of Harrell's home...without notifying any of the occupants prior to entry who they were and why they were there." The L-RAD announcement came "as police breached the doors." Meanwhile, "officers set off three flash bang grenades to disorient the home's occupants."

In short, police deliberately woke people up in the middle of the night, deliberately broke into their house without knocking first, and deliberately disoriented them. But it is inconceivable to the police that Harrell is telling the truth when he says he mistook these violent home invaders with badges for violent home invaders without badges.

KVUEKVUE"They came in like storm troopers," Harrell's mother, Lisa, told KVUE, the ABC station in Austin. "[Tyler] came running out with his gun, thinking someone was intruding in our house, and he started shooting down the stairs." The teenager told police he ran to the stairwell with his (legally owned) semi-automatic rifle after he heard his mother scream that someone was breaking into the house and heard the grenades that the cops had set off, which he thought might be gunfire directed at his father. According to Harrell, he stood at the top of the staircase and fired 10 to 15 rounds at the men invading the house before realizing they were police officers, which happened when he heard someone say "APD" over the loudspeaker.

Harrell's account may or may not be true. But it is completely plausible in the dangerous circumstances that police recklessly created—something they are loath to admit, since it would call into question tactics that drug warriors commonly use, no matter how many times they lead to the injury or death of cops, suspects, or bystanders.

As is often the case, the justification for this paramilitary operation was absurdly inadequate. The American-Statesman reports that police began to suspect Harrell was a drug dealer after they got a tip from someone who said he had seen a third person posing on Snapchat with "large quantities of marijuana and an AK-47." Harrell supposedly was the source of the marijuana. Sifting through the Harrell family's garbage, police "found evidence that Harrell was involved in the distribution of illegal drugs, including plastic bags that contained marijuana and a substance that tested positive for cocaine." They also found "plastic package casings for assault rifle ammunition," which apparently was the basis for seeking a no-knock warrant.

KVUEKVUEBoth the American-Statesman and KVUE inaccurately call Harrell's gun an "AK-47," which is a military weapon capable of firing automatically. I suspect those news outlets copied the term from police, who used it to make Harrell seem like more of a threat—the sort of threat that might justify dispatching a SWAT team. "The search warrant [affidavit] states APD secretly sifted through the family's trash, and found marijuana residue and empty [ammunition] boxes for high-powered weapons," KVUE says. "Based on the chances of guns being inside the home and the potential dangers to officers, police opted for the SWAT team to run the operation." 

In other words, police knew that at least one person in the house had a gun, and they reacted to this information by purposely creating a frightening, confusing situation in the middle of the night—exactly the sort of situation in which the weapon's owner would be apt to reach for it in self-defense. They did so supposedly to guard against "potential dangers to officers" and thereby magnified those dangers, in this case sending Officer Jason Pittman to the hospital. He is lucky he was not killed, and so are Harrell and his parents.

But don't worry: All the risk to life and limb was totally worth it. Police found 34 grams (a little more than an ounce) of marijuana in the house. As KVUE notes, it was "just enough to charge someone with a misdemeanor."

[Thanks to CharlesWT for the tip.]

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  • ||

    And he was right!

  • Agammamon||

    including plastic bags that contained marijuana

    So, what? This was really old weed that he couldn't sell anymore? Is that what the police are going to go with to get us to believe someone tossed weed in the trash?

  • Agammamon||

    Police found 34 grams (a little more than an ounce) of marijuana in the house.

    Well of course that's all they found - he had apparently thrown out his stash earlier, according to police.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Police found 34 grams (a little more than an ounce) of marijuana in the house.


    Police found planted 34 grams (a little more than an ounce) of marijuana in the house.

    I'd lay odds there's not a house in Austin containing less than an ounce of weed. Just the roaches inside the drywall from the framing, insulating, sheetrock, tape & float and painting crews would supply murdering prohibitionists and their trained Nazi shepherds with enough pretext to crash into the Governor's mansion, hurl grenades and firebombs in all directions and (realizing the mistake) dash away shrieking Marinus Van der Lubbe Firebombing Society slogans!

    Come to think of it... hmmm... this may be worth some followup.

  • pan fried wylie||

    I'm going to assume they mean "organic debris clinging to bags that smelled of marijuana", otherwise there would be additional weight to charge him with beyond what they found in the house.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I'm not sure. Since they were digging through their trash in secret without a warrant, I'd think anything found wouldn't be admissible .

  • Rozko||

    Anything you place in the trash can is no longer considered your property and is free for the taking by anyone.

  • prolefeed||

    I believe the legal theory is that trash in a container curbside is considered abandoned and no longer the property of the house nearby.

    If you put stuff curbside, next to a trash can, and someone comes by and takes it home, would you consider that theft?

  • WTF||

    People walking by can also drop their trash in your trash can, so they can't necessarily prove what was in there is yours.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    It's an oldie, but still my favorite in the trash snooping stories. Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs.

  • BYODB||

    That was actually pretty amusing, and it definitely highlights the socialist bent of 'rules are for the little people'.

    Portland is pretty damn socialist, so I'm really not surprised, and those 'reporters' would have been shot in a real socialist government. I wonder if they get that now? It sure didn't seem like it.

  • generalisimo14||

    Loved the article linked. I would give to an organization that surreptitiously does this to random public officials to let them taste the same medicine we are forced to take for our own good.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The narcs would consider it dope pushing and send a True Christian™ SWAT team to fire warning bursts through every wall of the house before tossing grenades into the nursery. Their Prosecutor, like Solicitor Chrissy, would swear in their courts that the meth-ramped kid had attacked the SWAT team a block away, chased them into what, by coincidence, turned out to be his home, and riddled brave Officer Pittman with bullets before other officers heroically overpowered him. The Austin American Statesprole would recite this verbatim and KVUE nod sagely in agreement with the Austin Chronicle demanding all homes be searched on no-knock warrants to make sure no more weapons could endanger "our" illiterate Gestapo.

  • ||

    Just as much in the same vein; how does:

    They also found "plastic package casings for assault rifle ammunition," which apparently was the basis for seeking a no-knock warrant.

    pass any sort of Consitutional muster?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Because FYTW?

  • prolefeed||

    It passes "Constitutional" muster, according to the legal theory that said document means whatever a majority of SCOTUS judges say it means.

  • R C Dean||

    "Look, here's evidence that he owns something he has every right to own! If that isn't probably cause, I don't know what is! To the SWATmobile!"

  • prolefeed||

    They may have contained trace amounts of marijuana, as in, "We found some empty plastic baggies in the trash, and think we may have smelled weed in them - or maybe oregano. Whatever. Probable cause!"

    Kind of like containers for high powered rifle rounds = an empty box for .22s

  • Zeb||

    They can probably test the residue. The warrant (maybe not the no-knock) was probably legit as far as that goes (though issued because of terrible, immoral laws).

  • dantheserene||

    Field tests tend to be as accurate as a blind guess, and that's on the rare occasions that they are used correctly.

  • Brian||

    These cops are so lame.

    When you go no-knock, with your super bad tactical gear, you're supposed to surprise the victims so thoroughly that they can't respond. Clearly, they weren't being bad ass enough.

    And, if the victims fight back, you kill them. You don't get shot in the knee, whine about "PD" in a blow horn, calm them down, and charge them for attempted murder. Really? Charged with attempted murder? Pussy much? Did you at least flash bang his kid on the face?

    Im taking their man card away until they get tough.

    * goes back to reading Soldier of Fortune *

  • You Sound Like a Prog (MJG)||

    Live and learn. In the next raid, they'll start by driving an MRAP into the house.

  • BYODB||

    Now you're talkin'! Lets knock that structure over!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Teenager Charged With Attempted Murder Says Drug Cops Seemed Like Armed Thugs

    Seemed like? They pretty much are.

  • sarcasmic||

    Not to mention all the steroids they take to stay all bulked up like that.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Both the American-Statesman and KVUE inaccurately call Harrell's gun an "AK-47,"

    Of course. The story wouldn't be complete without some gun mis-identification idiocy.

    In other words, police knew that at least one person in the house had a gun, and they reacted to this information by purposely creating a frightening, confusing situation in the middle of the night—exactly the sort of situation in which the weapon's owner would be apt to reach for it in self-defense.

    Probably in the hopes that they would, which would then give them an excuse to execute everyone in the home. I'm actually shocked they didn't kill everyone in sight.

  • WTF||

    Well the kid actually had tactical advantage firing down a stairwell, and had wounded one cop attempting to advance. So they really had no incentive to try to take the stairs and risk getting killed or seriously wounded, so they let the kid surrender once the kid realized they were actually cops.

  • Horatio||

    Unfortunately but good example of why gun rights aren't about hunting. A well trained swat team who could've killed the guy with little recourse was held at bay once they realized he had serious equipment. Private gun ownership is the only check on government tyranny

  • Hank Phillips||

    The teevee stations in Austin gave me probable cause to snap off the antenna, hook up a tape player and never watch teevee again. This freed up enough time to read an extra 400 books. I am grateful to the lying bootlickers for that much.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Throw out the charge against the teen, put the cops on trial.

  • WTF||

    Yup.. If they thought the kid was actually dangerous, they should have waited until he left his house in the morning and grabbed him, then presented the search warrant to his parents.

  • ||

    That's the part I don't get. If you're an actual paramilitary force going after a target who has an arsenal and minions to bring in supplies and defend the grounds, you do a paramilitary-style raid. If you have an active shooter or a hostage situation -- time sensitive and high harm, do a raid. If some criminal who may have an arsenal at his house, but leaves regularly, stop him at the end of the street, away from most or all of his guns, and serve the warrant if you actually care about safety.

  • sarcasmic||

    Obviously they didn't think he was dangerous, or they would have done exactly that. I mean, that's how they got Whitey Bulger. They do these raids because they take pleasure in causing terror.

  • Irish Mafia||

    Nah, these guys just want to pretend to be SEAL's and kick some ASS. Far too common these days.

  • Cyto||

    Normal people don't think like this. For some reason, most people cannot empathize with a family that is aroused in the night by a SWAT raid. When most people hear this story they empathize with the police officer who is trying to protect us from the violent drug dealer.

    Most people hear this story and are moved at the officer's sacrifice. They are angered that the violent thug drug dealer shot at one of their protectors in blue. And they want him brought to justice.

    I've had this discussion many times. Most people cannot handle the cognitive dissonance that this scenario creates, so they flat refuse to picture themselves laying in bed and being awakened by loud crashes and explosions as a group of armed men bursts into the house yelling incoherently. They will not even attempt to picture what it must be like hearing 5 different men shouting angrily at them at the same time. They refuse to examine the concept that it would be very difficult to figure out what is going on.

    To even have a chance at getting the average person to think about it from the homeowner's point of view, you have to have a case where the homeowner is pristine, an upstanding member of the community and is unarmed. Like when the Mayor got raided because of a package drop scheme.

    Other than that, even a second cousin who might be involved in taking drugs is enough of a fig leaf for most people to write off the entire family. That's just how the brain seems to work.

  • Kevin Sorbos Manful Locks||

    For some reason, most people cannot empathize with a family that is aroused in the night by a SWAT raid

    Love is love is love.

  • AlgerHiss||

    You've done a great job of describing things. I used to be one of these sheeple that automatically shrug their shoulders when learning of these "raids". But no more.

    Radley Balko's work on the Cory Maye case was a game-changer for me.

    http://reason.com/archives/200.....-cory-maye

  • toolkien||

    Dissociation. A mental disease in the individual, good public policy in the collective

    But what I can't figure out, is how is this article supposed to stimulate my optimism? Things aren't THAT bad. Being numbed to military raids on a small time pot dealers is normal, right? It's part of moving in the right direction, right?

  • You Sound Like a Prog (MJG)||

    I'm sure they were asleep at the time, but repeating that 6 am is "the middle of the night" is pushing it.

  • Horatio||

    Ugh, you must be a morning person

  • Hank Phillips||

    If Jacob had mentioned the marauders were armed with assault rifles in addition to the type of grenade used to mutilate babies, looter prohibitionists would say that was shoving it. But for this to happen where I usually live and then the veevee vidiots lying to protect the assailants and perpetrators is WAY over the top. Austinites, join the Texas and Travis County LP, for you could easily be next on the ku-klux dry-killer hitlist.

  • ULOST||

    "..You must be a morning person." Is that your subtle way of telling everyone you have a job? Elitist braggart. For the masses of unemployed, 6 AM has become the middle of the night. Those weed bags and ammo boxes do not empty themselves, don't you know.

  • IceTrey||

    Meanwhile around Graberville CA there are 1,000 1,000 pound cannabis grows going on.

  • Irish Mafia||

    Is that worth killing Americans over? How much marijuana is? How much marijuana is worth one life?

  • ULOST||

    An un-taxed loosey of tobaccy was worth it for some. So, by my math that would be one toke worth of that loco weed for those same people. I use the word "people" loosely.

  • Ted S.||

    If I were a criminal and wanted to engage in a home invasion, I'd announce myself as the cops.

  • ULOST||

    But, but there are laws against impersonation and no self-respecting home invader would cross that line.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The same thing happened March 25, 1929, when Deputy Sheriff Roy Smith brought a John Doe warrant for a hip flask NOT found at the home where he fatally shot housewife Lilian De King who was on the phone to her lawyer. After witnessing his mom's murder, 12-year-old Gerald De King shot the pig in the leg. The Aurora, Illinois city council demanded an inquiry into the raid, and the State Attorney-General also investigated the raid, and President Herbert Hoover announced April 5 that no feds participated in the murder. This was 3 days after the Coast Guard murdered a seaman in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico by firing on the I'm Alone, for whose family the Canadian government demanded and got reparations.

    This was the result of superstitious fanatics voting in Herbert Hoover's Republican party and declaring beer and liquor a federal felony. I am proud of fellow Austinite Tyler Harrell for defending his home against marauding thugs. I am also proud of the Travis County Libertarian Party for offering a democratic alternative to rule by robbers and murderers.

  • Irish Mafia||

    Really tired of the War on Americans. Really tired of the militarization of our police to execute that war.

  • ULOST||

    You obviously need to gain strength from Hitlery Cliton when she told a black audience in a fake southern accent that, "I don't feel no-ways tired." I have included the link to bolster it's impact. I am not responsible for any resulting projectile vomiting.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHnrr1ok03g

  • JimBob7||

    If Harrell has an AK-47 he has a rare weapon. The Russians quit making AK-47 in 1957, and all AK pattern rifles made since then are AKMs. If it has a wire folding stock it is an AKMS. Which doesn't address the NFA taxes an 18 year old would have to pay to get a select fire AK.

  • Johnimo||

    Thank God! This is really cool that they've arrested and charged this dangerous criminal. Maryjane will the end of ALL we hold near and dear. We simply can't allow anyone the radical freedom to smoke stuff, huh?

  • ULOST||

    Why would pigs not wait until Tyler left his home and picked him up then? Did SWAT have a news crew following them to Tyler's compound and could not wait for him to get ice cream like he did every Wednesday.

    I'm pretty sure that "AK-47" would make an even bigger bulge in his pants than his big dick, to warn them. Found ammo boxes in the garbage? How long were they picking his garbage? Weed bags and ammo boxes in the same garbage. Wooowhoo. With timing like that one would think they would have found pounds and a tunnel to Mexico in the home.

    Tyler is my hero for the day for protecting his family. Best of luck, Tyler. Do not plead. I know it is risky.

  • sgreffenius||

    I agree. If you think a person has a gun in the house, isn't a surprise attack the last thing you would think of doing? We have at least three explanations for this kind of behavior. Police are stupid, incompetent, or imbued with a martial mindset where they'll look for any excuse they can find to bring out their military weapons and gear. I don't think think police are any more incompetent than other public servants. As stupid as this attack appears, a desire to stay on a war footing is the best explanation.

    Who will stop issuing these no-knock warrants? Who _does_ issue them?

  • Jason Vick||

    Austin police take stupid risks and blame .
    Tyler Harrell

  • sarahevelynn||

    Check out this article about the present state of bills around the US pertaining to the War on Drugs and another overview of the issue. It gives great context to the current state of this war in US legislation.
    http://bit.ly/28YHQJR

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