Monday, November 27, 2006

More on the Johnston Shooting

It's beginning to look like it was more than unfortunate circumstances that led to Ms. Johnston's death:

The confidential informant on whose word Atlanta police raided the house of an 88-year-old woman is now saying he never purchased drugs from her house and was told by police to lie and say he did.

Chief Richard Pennington, in a press conference Monday evening, said his department learned two days ago that the informant who has been used reliably in the past by the narcotics unit -- denied providing information to officers about a drug deal at 933 Neal Street in northwest Atlanta.

"The informant said he had no knowledge of going into that house and purchasing drugs," Pennington said. "We don't know if he's telling the truth."

Balko goes on to say:

At this point, Atlanta police have no good options. They're screwed.

Attack the informant's credibility and you admit that you conducted a high-risk, forced-entry raid based entirely on a tip from an informant you now say is unreliable. You admit you did no corroborating investigation. You admit you didn't even send an officer to check to see if the informant was right about, for example, an external surveillance system. And all of this ineptitude led to the death of an innocent woman, not to mention to three officers getting wounded.

And that's if the guy's lying about the cover-up. If he's telling the truth? Now you're talking about a major-league shit storm. If this guy's telling the truth, not only did the officers originally investigating this case lie, but the officers investigating after the shooting then lied to cover it up. That means you not only have corruption problems with your narcotics officers, but you have problems with your internal affairs unit, the cops who are charged with investigating the other officers.

I believed initially and incorrectly that the warrant was of the knock-and-announce variety. It was not. It was a no-knock, meaning the police were entitled to knock down the door without announcing their presence in advance. So it would appear that Atlanta police may have made a very grave error, violently (from the perspective of the person inside) breaking into a house at night, based on a search warrant that might have been inherently flawed. One woman died and three officers were wounded as a result, for what appeared to be no good reason even when it seemed the officers acted correctly pursuant to the warrant. The FBI will investigate the shooting, but it's already becoming clear what happened here.

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