One of the themes I keep hitting over and over here at Windypundit is that SWAT raids for drug crimes are a bad idea. Of course, I think the whole War on Drugs is a bad idea, but fighting that war through an endless series of armed home invasions is a plan that will only lead to carnage and tears.
It’s simple statistics. The more times you send armed teams to break into people’s homes, the more times people will get killed. It’s the inevitable consequence of such a policy. No amount of propaganda and posturing can beat the math. So sometimes the victim is a 92-year-old grandmother, sometimes it’s a mother with her baby in her arms, and sometimes it’s a United States Marine.
But last Wednesday, on January 4th, police in Ogden, Utah raided the house of Matthew Stewart, and something unusual happened: The cops lost the gunfight. Stewart is a military veteran, and unlike the aformentioned Marine, when the SWAT team came through his door, he apparently didn’t hold fire. Officer Jared Francom was killed, and five other cops were wounded. Stewart is still alive.
When cops win the gunfight and kill an alleged offender during a drug raid, there’s usually a complete news blackout while they “investigate.” Months may pass before they even release the name of the cop who pulled the trigger, if they ever do. In this case, however, the roles are reversed, and it’s a cop who’s dead, not a lowly civilian, so the law enforcement establishment has gone into high gear. Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith has already announced that he will seek to have him executed.
I guess the investigation proceeds a bit faster when the deceased is someone the cops care about, and the shooter isn’t a cop.
(By the way, if you’ve been following the excesses of the War on Drugs, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the police officers conducting this raid were part of a multi-jurisdictional task force. In this case, calling it a “task” force must not have sounded macho enough to the commander, so it’s something called the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force.)
Other than the reversal of victim and shooter, however, the shooting of officer Francom was a pretty typical drug raid death. By which I mean it was completely unnecessary. From media reports, the raid appears to have been executed to serve a search warrant for a marijuana grow operation. Not only is that an inherently non-violent activity, it’s not even the sort of thing where a criminal could dispose of the evidence if the cops moved too slowly. There was no point in turning this into a violent incident.
DEA Agent Charge Frank Smith doesn’t see it that way:
“It’s not a legalization issue, it’s not an immigration issue, it’s a public safety issue. If someone is willing to shoot it out with police, who is self-medicating on marijuana, what’s to say he’s not willing to walk out his house and start shooting his neighbors?” Smith says.
Well, there’s the fact that he didn’t walk out of his house and start shooting his neighbors. From all the reports I’ve read, he didn’t start shooting until armed cops invaded his home.
Agent Smith is doing a little something called “moving the goalposts.” This was originally an attempt to serve a search warrant. It should have been one swift assault with, at worst, a dead dog or two. Instead, it turned into a clusterfuck, and the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Stike Force has gotten a cop killed. So now Agent Smith is trying to reframe this as if taking out a violent threat to the community was what they planned all along.
Smith says the shooting case will be reviewed and he hopes lessons will be learned to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.
I doubt it. Police departments have been doing raids like this for decades, and they keep getting people killed.
To head off a few objections, note that I’m not saying Stewart was a good guy. For all I know, he’s an evil fuck who’s been waiting for a chance to kill a cop. Maybe he saw the raid team coming and decided to try to kill them. That still wouldn’t change the fact that it was a bad idea to send cops charging into his home.
With one officer dead, four others wounded, and a suspect who is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison, this raid has caused an awful lot of misery. And if this is a typical year, there will be another 40,000 raids in the War on Drugs.
So expect more dead bodies.