Mur­der or self-de­fense if an of­fi­cer is killed dur­ing no-knock raid?

Use of forcible-en­try raids to serve search war­rants ques­tioned.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Sack ©2017 The New York Times

Joshua Aaron Hall had been a res­i­dent of the Burleson County Jail for about a week when he re­quested a meet­ing with Gene Her­mes, the sher­iff ’s in­ves­ti­ga­tor who had locked him up for vi­o­lat­ing pro­ba­tion. The stocky law­man ar­rived in the fea­ture­less in­ter­view room the morn­ing of Dec. 13, 2013. He asked whether they would be talk­ing about Hall’s case.

“No,” said Hall, a metham­phetamine user and petty crim­i­nal who was fac­ing his most se­ri­ous jail time.

“I know of an il­le­gal grow op­er­a­tion,” Hall vol­un­teered.

Her­mes nod­ded. “Big grow, small grow?”

“It’s kind of small,” Hall said. “But that ain’t the point. It’s il­le­gal. Weapons are in­volved.”

The scruffy in­for­mant told the in­ves­ti­ga­tor that he had a friend named Henry Magee who lived in a dou­ble-wide trailer off Deer Run­ning Road in Somerville. Magee,

he said, had been cul­ti­vat­ing mar­i­juana hy­dro­pon­i­cally in the front left bed­room. When Hall had last been there, he had seen a dozen 6-foot stalks ready for har­vest.

He told the in­ves­ti­ga­tor that Magee went by Hank, and that he was white and about 30.

Had Magee ever said what he would do if law en­force­ment showed up?

“He’s a laid-back guy; he re­ally is,” Hall an­swered. Then again, he said, he had seen two ri­fles and three hand­guns at Magee’s place.

Her­mes shared a video of the in­ter­view with a col­league, Fredrich Adam Sow­ders.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors knew Hall was untested as an in­for­mant. But there is noth­ing in court doc­u­ments to sug­gest that they took steps to cor­rob­o­rate his story.

Nonethe­less, five days af­ter get­ting the tip, Sow­ders con­sulted the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice and typed an ap­pli­ca­tion for a search war­rant. He closed by ask­ing for au­thor­ity to raid the res­i­dence with­out first knock­ing on the door, a tac­tic al­lowed by the Supreme Court when po­lice demon­strate a “rea­son­able sus­pi­cion” that an­nounc­ing them­selves be­fore­hand would be dan­ger­ous or risk de­struc­tion of ev­i­dence.

The deputy omit­ted Hall’s de­scrip­tion of his “laid­back” friend, and wrote, “Hall ad­vised that Magee has made the state­ment that he is not afraid to use the weapons that he has.”

The af­fi­davit also did not dis­close, be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tors did not know, that Magee’s girl­friend, Kori White, was four months preg­nant.

That af­ter­noon, the deputy had the war­rant signed by a district judge, Reva L. Towslee Corbett. It au­tho­rized him “to dis­pense with the usual re­quire­ment that you will knock and an­nounce your pur­pose be­fore en­ter­ing.”

BELL COUNTY Demon­strat­ing sus­pi­cion

Three months later, 85 miles to the north­west, another in­for­mant found cause to give up an ac­quain­tance. This time, it con­cerned a ca­reer crim­i­nal named Marvin Louis Guy, who the in­for­mant said was deal­ing co­caine from his car in Killeen.

Guy, then 49, had stayed out of prison for nearly four years and moved to Killeen. Although un­em­ployed for the past few months, Guy had other­wise man­aged to find steady work as a night­shift dish­washer.

Best of all, he had met an at­trac­tive and spir­ited widow named Shirley Whit­ting­ton.

“He was get­ting him­self to­gether,” his half brother Garett Gal­loway said.

By Guy’s own ad­mis­sion, that did not mean he was not smok­ing weed and, on oc­ca­sion, con­sum­ing co­caine. The in­for­mant said it went fur­ther. He told a nar­cotics in­ves­ti­ga­tor, Of­fi­cer John A. Mose­ley, that a heavy­set black man known to him as “G” sold drugs from a blue Crown Vic­to­ria on Cir­cle M Drive, ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit.

Un­like his coun­ter­parts in Burleson County, Mose­ley fol­lowed up with some ba­sic leg­work. He eye­balled the Crown Vic in front of the apart­ment build­ing at 1104 Cir­cle M and traced the li­cense plate to Guy.

Agents watched the apart­ment in­ter­mit­tently dur­ing April, not­ing heavy foot traf­fic and en­coun­ters with Guy in his car. They sent the in­for­mant back to con­firm that Guy still had co­caine, but did not ar­range for a buy. He re­ported that Guy reg­u­larly car­ried a hand­gun.

On the af­ter­noon of May 8, Mose­ley typed up an af­fi­davit and re­quested a no-knock search war­rant and a mu­nic­i­pal judge signed it.

BURLESON COUNTY Big risks and ‘min­i­mal’ train­ing

Magee, 28 at the time of the raid, had been see­ing Kori White, then 21, for about a year and a half.

White said that he never told her ex­plic­itly what he was do­ing be­hind the locked door, and that she never wit­nessed a trans­ac­tion.

The Burleson deputies of­ten sum­moned a SWAT team from a larger agency on the rare oc­ca­sions when high-risk search war­rants were to be served.

But for the raid on Magee’s trailer, they went it alone.

They had a de­scrip­tion of the trailer’s in­te­rior from the in­for­mant. But be­cause they con­fused his di­rec­tions, they thought Magee’s bed­room was to the left when in fact it was to the right. When the first flash-bang det­o­nated out­side the wrong end of the trailer, it did not im­me­di­ately awaken the cou­ple.

Then came a crash­ing thud at the door. “Hank, what was that?” White asked.

“Who is it?” Magee shouted, ac­cord­ing to White. “Who’s there?” No an­swer, then another thud at the door.

Magee scram­bled into his bed­room and re­trieved an AR-10 semi-au­to­matic ri­fle from a closet.

As he re-en­tered the liv­ing room, the front door burst open, fol­lowed by a deaf­en­ing ex­plo­sion. White screamed as a dark fig­ure crossed the thresh­old.

Magee raised the ri­fle and fired sev­eral times to­ward the door, just above White on the couch. She crawled into the bed­room.

Only then, she said, did she hear the an­nounce­ment: “Burleson County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice! Come out with your hands in the air.”

Magee dropped the ri­fle and com­plied. White fol­lowed him out the door, step­ping over a broad-shoul­dered body as blood pooled on the wooden floor­ing. Adam Sow­ders had been struck in the head.

At the county jail, Magee in­sisted that he had not heard the deputies an­nounce them­selves and that he had fired in self-de­fense when he saw some­one burst­ing through the door. But an in­ves­ti­ga­tor ex­plained that Magee would be charged with killing a peace of­fi­cer, a cap­i­tal crime.

State in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ to­tal haul, ac­cord­ing to an in­ven­tory, con­sisted of 10 cannabis plants and a few Ma­son jars and bag­gies of mar­i­juana.

BELL COUNTY ‘I’m hit’

Marvin Guy re­calls hav­ing an eerie feel­ing about that night.

By 3 a.m., Guy had po­si­tioned a green re­cliner un­der the front door­knob of the apart­ment to de­ter in­trud­ers. He and Whit­ting­ton ar­gued again, heated enough that she stayed in the master bed­room in the back while he re­tired to the spare bed­room look­ing onto the street. He fell asleep on a mat­tress

on the floor, two semi-au­to­matic hand­guns within reach: a 9 mm and a .45-cal­iber.

Not long af­ter, De­tec­tive Charles D. Din­wid­die, a leader of Killeen’s SWAT team, be­gan brief­ing his men.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­cerpts from po­lice re­ports, six of­fi­cers sur­rounded Guy’s car, think­ing he might be in­side. On the back side, a three-man team broke the master-bed­room win­dow.

Guy says he had his back to the win­dow when he was awak­ened by shat­ter­ing glass. He in­sists that he did not hear any an­nounce­ment and thought he was be­ing robbed. He grabbed one of his guns, sprang to his feet on the mat­tress, gripped the weapon with both hands and be­gan fir­ing, he says.

Of­fi­cer Odis Den­ton, the sixth man in the en­try for­ma­tion, felt a sear­ing pain in his up­per left thigh. “I’m hit; god­damn it, I’m hit,” he said.

As the smoke cleared, the team could see a sec­ond of­fi­cer on the ground. It was Din­wid­die, ly­ing on his left side, about a dozen feet from the door.

Two of­fi­cers dragged Din­wid­die’s mo­tion­less body out of the line of fire, and a third pulled Den­ton to safety.

Guy says he even­tu­ally heard shouts that it was po­lice.

Doc­tors dis­cov­ered that a sin­gle slug had moved through Din­wid­die’s jaw, throat, first ver­te­bra and spinal cord be­fore lodg­ing near the base of his brain. Af­ter a two-day vigil, his fam­ily agreed to re­move him from life sup­port.

Tests con­cluded that the bul­lets re­moved from Din­wid­die’s spine and Den­ton’s leg had been fired by Guy’s Taurus Mil­len­nium 9 mm Luger, ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit.

The to­tal take from the raid, ac­cord­ing to Mose­ley’s af­fi­davit, amounted to “ap­prox­i­mately 1 gram of sus­pected co­caine.”

BURLESON COUNTY Con­sid­er­ing the al­ter­na­tive

Al­most two months af­ter the killing of Adam Sow­ders, 12 grand ju­rors con­vened on the third floor of the Burleson County Court­house to de­cide whether Hank Magee should be in­dicted on a charge of cap­i­tal mur­der.

Magee’s fa­ther hired a prom­i­nent Hous­ton de­fense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin. DeGuerin be­gan mak­ing the case that the use of force had been dis­pro­por­tion­ate for a mi­nor drug sus­pect, and that Magee, “like any home­owner,” had fired in self-de­fense.

The district at­tor­ney, Julie Renken, be­lieved that the no-knock war­rant had been le­gal. But to con­vict Magee of cap­i­tal mur­der, she would have to prove that he had known his vic­tim was a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer. Other­wise, he had an ar­guable right to de­fend him­self against a per­ceived threat of deadly force. On that score, Renken, in her first year in of­fice, saw trou­bling flaws in the chaotic ex­e­cu­tion of the raid.

The ev­i­dence in­di­cated that the deputies had not an­nounced them­selves clearly be­fore smash­ing through the door, she said.

The grand jury in­dicted Magee only on a count of pos­ses­sion of more than 4 ounces of mar­i­juana while us­ing a deadly weapon, a third-de­gree felony pun­ish­able by two to 10 years in prison.

He is still await­ing a trial.

BELL COUNTY In the name of safety

Marvin Guy faces a much more omi­nous fate than Hank Magee.

Guy is black and poor and un­like Magee could not af­ford pri­vate lawyers. He had a far length­ier crim­i­nal record. And when the Bell County grand jury met, there were no sym­pa­thetic wit­nesses to sup­port Guy’s as­ser­tion that he had not known he was fir­ing at the po­lice.

Typ­i­cally in no-knock raids, of­fi­cers yell “po­lice, search war­rant” only as they storm into a res­i­dence. In the af­ter-ac­tion re­ports viewed by The Times, eight Killeen of­fi­cers are recorded as say­ing they gave such no­tice while 14 said they heard oth­ers do so.

But a dozen more of­fi­cers did not men­tion any an­nounce­ment.

The grand jury in­dicted Guy on counts of cap­i­tal mur­der and at­tempted cap­i­tal mur­der. Four months later, the district at­tor­ney, Henry Garza, an­nounced that he would seek the death penalty.

Guy has frus­trated sev­eral court-ap­pointed lawyers by in­sist­ing that they present a nar­ra­tive that ob­scures ques­tions of self-de­fense: that po­lice and pros­e­cu­tion have framed him to cover up a death by friendly fire.

Nearly three years af­ter the shoot­ings, Guy still does not have a trial date.

GE­ORGE ETHEREDGE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Henry “Hank” Magee sits out­side his dou­ble-wide trailer home off Deer Run­ning Road in Somerville. The home still shows bul­let holes from a Burleson County raid in which a deputy died. Magee was not in­dicted on a cap­i­tal mur­der charge.

GE­ORGE ETHEREDGE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Cur­tains from the apart­ment of Marvin Louis Guy show bul­let holes from a raid by Killeen’s SWAT team in which an in­ves­ti­ga­tor died. A Bell County grand jury in­dicted Guy on counts of cap­i­tal mur­der and at­tempted cap­i­tal mur­der.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Marvin Louis Guy “was get­ting him­self to­gether,” his half brother said; he was dat­ing Shirley Whit­ting­ton at the time of the raid. De­tec­tive Charles D. Din­wid­die (right), a leader of Killeen’s SWAT team, was killed in the op­er­a­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.