Last week I touched on a handful of stories concerning police and civilian interaction that ended in tragedy. This week I’d like to focus on a story that should serve as a wake up call to anyone who has ever thought “not my problem” because “that stuff only happens to shady characters or people who hang around shady characters.”
David Hooks, 59, of East Dublin, Georgia was the poster-boy for least likely to be associated with a criminal element. He owned a construction company that routinely worked on military bases. Such work required numerous background checks at both the state and federal level (Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms). Short of being vetted by the CIA you couldn’t ask for anyone with a cleaner background. This is not to suggest that those with “clean records” are incapable of committing crimes but rather that such people are statistically as likely to commit a crime as any of us are (I presume my readers also have clean records!).
So what irresponsible action on his part resulted in him becoming yet another casualty of Prohibition (the war on drugs)? Why he allowed his truck, sitting in his driveway, to be broken into and his SUV to be stolen. It turns out the guy who stole the truck, Rodney Garrett, (a self-described thief and meth addict) turned himself in to the cops claiming he found a bag of methamphetamine in the truck and thus “became scared for his safety.” So, based solely on this hearsay of a tip, a warrant was issued to search Hook’s home. Now, if the cops had executed this warrant the way the 4th Amendment intended (and the way it used to be done) there would have been no problem. They would have sent one or two squad cars over to the house, politely knocked on the door, served and then executed the warrant. They would have found nothing, hopefully apologized for the trouble, cleaned up after themselves and left.
But that is not what happened. Those accused of drug crimes, even mere possession, are presumed to be clones of Al Pacino’s “Scarface”, AK-47 at the ready 24/7. So, under a presumption of Hook’s guilt, the Laurens County Drug Task Force silently rolled up his driveway around 11 pm with no flashing lights, jumped out of their vehicles and rapidly approached the back door of the house. David’s wife, seeing dark shadowy figures moving about their house late at night logically concluded that the burglars had returned to possibly steal more vehicles or enter the house. It had only been two days since the first theft and being unaware the thief was in custody they had no reason not to suspect a repeat event.
So David grabbed a shotgun and prepared for a confrontation. What happened next is unclear because there are conflicting stories. The official version is that the police did approach with sirens and lights, they did loudly knock on the door and that when no one answered they broke the door down, saw David holding a shotgun and thus had no choice but to unload their weapons. David’s widow (and the physical evidence) beg to differ with that narrative. There were no lights, sirens or knocking. David was not shot near the back door but rather through an interior wall. In other words, they blindly shot at a wall not knowing what was behind it. Brilliant. Good thing his grandchildren weren’t visiting that night. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. His grieving widow and family had to endure a 44-hour search of the residence. The result? Not even a trace of narcotics was found. Oops.
So, the next time you think you are safe from brutal police actions, just remember, you are just one blame-shifting-meth-head’s “tip” or wrong address away from having black-helmeted thugs appearing in your doorway unannounced and unloading an entire clip into you or a loved one because they moved their hand the wrong way or came around the corner too quickly. No one is safe if everyone is just an utterance away from a weapons-drawn raid on his or her home. Due process is not the Gestapo breaking down your door in the middle of the night and claiming procedure was followed because they left a warrant on your corpse. This is not America. But if this is what America has become, then there is nothing exceptional about it. Prohibition must end. Again.