In this post I will accumulate information on S.W.A.T. (special weapons and tactics) and/or Tactical Teams.
Let’s start here with a report from the Washington Post:
In January 2011, a SWAT team raided the Framingham, Mass., home of 68-year-old Eurie Stamps at around midnight on a drug warrant. Oddly, it had already arrested the subject of the warrant — Stamps’s 20-year-old stepson — outside the house. But because he lived in Stamps’s home, the team went ahead with the raid anyway. When the team encountered Stamps, it instructed him to lie on the floor. He complied. According to the police account, as one officer then moved toward Stamps to check for weapons, he lost his balance and fell. As he fell, his weapon discharged, sending a bullet directly into Stamps’s chest, killing him.
As bad as the story is as written, I visualize the scene and a question comes to mind. When I see Mr. Stamp lay on the floor, I imagine he is on his belly. If you’re lying face down, how do you get shot in the chest?
You can’t get far on this topic before you run into the excellent work of Radley Balko.
From the folks at the Cato Institute a map of Botched Paramilitary Police Raids:
Title: Bruce Lavoie
Type: Death of a nonviolent offender.
Description: Police conduct a late-night raid on the Hudson, New Hampshire apartment of unarmed Bruce Lavoie, 35, his wife, and their three children. Police Sergeant Stephen Burke kicks open the Lavoie’s front door with such vigor, his gun accidentally goes off in his hand, waking the Lavoies. When Bruce Lavoie rises from his bed to confront what he thinks are criminal intruders, he is shot and killed in front of his wife and three small children. Police find one marijuana cigarette in Lavoie’s apartment. A subsequent investigation found police in the raid to be “blameless,” though investigators did call the raid a “serious breach of police protocol.” In the end, however, the investigation blamed Lavoie for his own death, concluding that he’d never have been shot had he “obeyed clear and concise commands to get down on the floor.” In 1990, however, a judge ruling on a separate raid found that Hudson police “flagrantly” violated New Hampshire’s state ban on no-knock drug raids, and ensuing newspaper reports found that police in Hudson and nearby communities routinely served drug warrants without first announcing themselves, a violation of state law. The city of Hudson eventually settled with Lavoie’s family for $800,000. Sources: Tom West, “Hudson Police Blameless in Report,” Manchester Union Leader, November 7, 1989. Pat Grossmith, “Police Didn’t Knock First; Judge Rips Hudson Drug Raid. Chiefs Say Ruling Has Little Effect,” Manchester Union Leader, July 31, 1990, p. 1. Pat Grossmith, “Some Police Use No-Knock Search Warrants,” Manchester Union Leader, August 1, 1990, p. 1. Kris Frieswick, “Hudson Will Pay Widow $800,000; Bruce Lavoie Shot During 1989 Drug Raid,” Manchester Union Leader, November 17, 1990, p. 1.
Date: Aug 3, 1989
So, should we have grave concern?
“If a widespread pattern of [knock-and-announce] violations were shown . . . there would be reason for grave concern.”
—Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Hudson v. Michigan, June 15, 2006.
Of course, if we keep no records on the use of tactical teams we will never see a pattern of violations.
I see Chris King has a piece about Bruce Lavoie, I’ll bet he has a few stories.
More as research continues…