Monday, February 16, 2009

Innocent victim of police raid convicted for act of self defense


In Chesapeake, Virginia, Ryan Frederick was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a burglar who was breaking down his door. It could have been worse; Frederick faced capital murder charges in the case, since the burglar was Jarrod Shivers, a police detective who was participating in a misfired marijuana raid on Frederick's home. But it also could have been better. Frederick could have received the same slap on the wrist that police officers usually get for killing innocent people during SWAT raids gone wrong.

The case has been mired in controversy since the beginning. The raid was apparently sparked by a report from a freelance burglar who had earlier broken into Frederick's residence during the course of his work as a police informant who served as Fourth Amendment-evading eyes and ears for local law-enforcement.

That burglar reported seeing marijuana plants growing in Frederick's home. In fact, while the resident apparently did grow a few illegal plants at one time for his own use, the crop the burglar spotted appears to have been an unrelated and perfectly legal plant -- at least, police found only a small baggie of grass when they raided the place.

And raid they did. Ryan Frederick was in bed when he heard his door being knocked down. Fearing a return of the earlier burglars, he retrieved a gun and opened fire on his assailants, killing Shivers. During the trial, Frederick's neighbors testified that police made no audible announcement of their law-enforcement status, giving the man inside no warning of who he faced.

For his act of self defense, Frederick was convicted of voluntary manslaughter by a jury, which rejected stiffer charges, but also recommended a maximum sentence of ten years.

It's impossible to treat this incident outside the context of similar violent, paramilitary raids, which have resulted in dead people, dead pets, terrorized familes and growing divisions between good people and the law-enforcement officers who use such tactics. In the past few days, I've heard from Anita Culosi, whose son Salvatore, an optometrist, was gunned down by police in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the course of a SWAT raid over alleged sports gambing. I've also heard from Cheye Calvo, Mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, whose two dogs were killed during a misfired SWAT raid on his home.

Both Culosi and Calvo are pursuing justice in their respective cases, as well as reforms to ensure that nobody else has to go through what they've suffered.

Which brings us back to Ryan Frederick. Frederick was lucky; unlike Salvatore Culosi, he survived the ordeal. But whereas Officer Deval Bullock was suspended for three weeks without pay for killing Culosi -- a penalty many of his fellow officers found too harsh -- Frederick will likely spend years in prison for killing Shivers.

Treat people as if they're the equals of police officers? What a radical idea.

Here's a more radical idea: Curtail the use of D-Day-style SWAT raids for the enforcement of laws against nonviolent activity.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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