No Knock and No Crack
By Jordan Smith,
1:15PM, Fri. Dec. 1, 2006
The FBI has begun an inquiry into the police shooting death of 88-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who was killed in her Atlanta-area home during a questionable drug raid last week. Reportedly, Atlanta narco squad cops busted into Johnston’s small home armed with a so-called no-knock warrant, allowing them to forgo announcing their presence before busting down the door. By the time they busted in, Johnston was there, armed with a revolver, which she fired, striking three officers. Predictably, that led police to unload on Johnston, who died from a bullet wound to the chest. (The wounded officers are expected to recover, reports The New York Times.)
Originally, police said a confidential informant told them he’d purchased crack cocaine at the house, and in a warrant application Officer Jason R. Smith reportedly explained that police needed approval for a no-knock approach because the drug dealer supposedly living there – identified only as “Sam” – used surveillance cameras to monitor the property. But on Monday, the unidentified CI came forward to rebut the police version, telling the local Atlanta Fox affiliate that he’d never even been to the house – where, it turns out, Johnston lived alone – nor had he ever purchased drugs there. Instead, he said the narcos contacted him after the shooting, telling him that they needed him to back up their version of events – the CI said he came forward only after hearing that Johnston had died. “They (the police) were going to pay me just to cover it up,” the CI reportedly told Fox. “They called me immediately after the shooting to ask me, I mean, to tell me, ‘This is what you need to do.’”
Atlanta Police Chief Richard J. Pennington on Nov. 28 suspended all eight members of the narcotics team and said the department is reviewing its policies on the use of CIs and of no-knock warrants. Pennington said the officers involved have given conflicting statements about what happened, and that it isn’t clear if Sam the drug dealer even exists. In contrast, Pennington said the CI in question has been reliable in the past and that his statements – to reporters and to police investigators – have remained consistent.
Meanwhile, police reportedly found a small amount of pot in Johnston’s house, but, notably, no cocaine.