Radley Balko has an article about the killing of Cheryl Lynn Noel, who died from gunshot wounds during an early morning SWAT raid of the house where she lived. When the officers burst into her bedroom, she pointed a gun at them and they shot her down. Given that the raid only found small personal-use quantities of marijuana, it seems likely that Noel, a wife and mother of several teenage children, had no idea the home invaders were the police and was just trying to protect her family.
I’m just guessing. I could have that wrong. Cherly Lynn Noel’s home could turn out to be a distribution center for half the drugs in Baltimore, for all I know. I guess we can expect the truth to come out in all the media coverage of the investigation, right? Well, maybe not.
All this happened last January. I remember reading about it, and you might too if you follow these kinds of stories like I do. But we didn’t read very much about it, did we? Armed government agents storm a family home and kill the mother, and the news story runs just a few days? That makes it kind of hard to find out what’s happening.
Balko has this to say:
…[T]he lack of follow-up coverage of the Noel shooting is disturbing for another reason: It’s typical. With just a few exceptions in very high-profile cases, these shootings almost always trigger one or two pieces shortly after they happen, then the press falls silent. You’d think that when police storm a home in the early morning, then shoot and kill an occupant who is at best a nonviolent drug offender, and at worst completely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever, it’d be worth some extended media attention. If we’ve reached the point where it isn’t, how very sad for us.
I’m guessing that the media just doesn’t see a hook for one of it’s standard story outlines. Perhaps there’s no racial angle, no way to blame a mayor or governor, no way to tie it to the war in Iraq. And for the same reasons, the story doesn’t attract the professional outrage crowd—where’s Al Sharpton when you need him? Where’s the rap star accusing the police of hating people like Cheryl Noel?
I guess police killing someone in a low-level drug raid just isn’t big news. As Balko says, that has unfortunate consequences:
I think a big part of the reason why the ubiquity of no-knock raids and the trend toward police militarization have gotten so out of hand is that the media has dropped the ball in its coverage of them. When the people in charge of protecting us start terrorizing, invading our homes, and killing us, that ought to be big news.