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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Winning the War on Drugs

posted by on April 9 at 12:10 PM

This is terrible…

Family members of a man fatally shot during a no-knock raid last week say he was schizophrenic, so reclusive and paranoid that he rarely spoke to other people and couldn’t have dealt drugs as police suggest.

Nathan Aguillard, a Hurricane Katrina refugee, was shot by Denver police Officers Ronald Fox and Thomas Mc Kibben on Friday morning when they broke through his apartment door at 4754 Peoria St. with a warrant to search for drugs.

Police say Aguillard confronted the SWAT officers with a gun and was shot to death. They say they found guns and drugs in the apartment. The two SWAT team officers each have 21 years of experience.

The warrant signed in support of the no-knock search was not available at the courthouse Tuesday, nor was a listing of items found in Aguillard’s apartment.

Denver attorney Craig Skinner said the Aguillard family has hired him to review the Police Department’s actions in the shooting. “We’re going to try and find out if the police did anything inappropriate,” Skinner said Tuesday. “I do see several red flags. It does seem curious (police) haven’t been more open about this shooting and the warrant.”

Whenever I post these Winning the War on Drugs pieces, there are mixed reactions of rage at the officers, rage at the drugs, and rage at me. The theme in most of the posts Ė that someone was shot and killed in a drug raid Ė is enraging. But I keep posting them to pose a question.

The question isnít whether or not cops should shoot people who pull a gun on them. They must. The question also isnít whether armed raids are ever appropriate. Sometimes they are. And itís not whether drugs or guns should be outlawed. Thatís a bigger ball of wax. It is this: Is raiding a private residence with guns drawn an acceptable way to enforce suspected nonviolent drug-law violations?

During no-knock drug raids, innocent bystanders are shot and killed, like this one-year-old baby and his mom; cops are killed, like this officer raiding a house for marijuana that turned out to be maple trees; and other times, as in this story, a suspect who could have been apprehended without gunfire is left dead.

Some might say that this armed raid was justified because Aguillard allegedly pulled a gun. But he pulled his gun because armed strangers were breaking down his door. Law-abiding people would do that, too. Each year police arrest hundreds of thousands of people—suspected of nonviolent and violent crimes—without resorting to armed raids. On the street, in cars, at the suspect’s place of employment, etc.

But emphasizing COPS-style raids for nonviolent drug offenses is theatrics, with deadly consequences. And police are in denial about the risk involved—like when officers in Florida last week brought their kids to see the show.

Two SWAT officers are being counseled after bringing their young children along with them on a drug raid.

The Orange County SWAT team searched a house on Napoleon Street Friday, arresting three people and recovering guns and drugs.

The two officers who brought their children on the raid will not be disciplined.

We need to wake up and smell the blood. Drug treatment reduces drug abuse. Even arrests followed by mandatory treatment is fairly effective. But no-knock drug raids are anything but winning the war on drugs.

RSS icon Comments


Very well said. Fwd'ing this link on.

Posted by mackro mackro | April 9, 2008 12:29 PM

"Is raiding a private residence with guns drawn an acceptable way to enforce suspected nonviolent drug-law violations?"


Posted by Hernandez | April 9, 2008 12:58 PM


Very sad.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 9, 2008 1:00 PM

Yes! We need to stop the creeping militarization of our police forces. SWAT-style enforcement of non-violent drug crimes is a travesty created by bureaucracy wanting to expand their budgets and get better toys, the dehumanizing of drug criminals, and a media frenzy of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Posted by NaFun | April 9, 2008 1:01 PM

If sellimg drugs is such a "non-violent" crime, how come they always find a stash of guns in these raids?

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 9, 2008 1:33 PM

@5: That have to have some reason to have opened fire don't they?

Posted by Jerod | April 9, 2008 1:37 PM

@5 - Save the stump speech for Charlton Heston's memorial service, dude.

Posted by Hernandez | April 9, 2008 1:41 PM


Good point. With all the lucre local LEA's take in from drug raids, and subsequent confiscation of assets, they nevertheless feel compelled to justify their massive expenditures on body-armour, high-powered assault weapons, sophisticated communications gear, et al, to the public, which generally means putting the afore-mentioned goodies on public display once-in-awhile.

These types of high-profile COPS-style raids are, from the LEA's standpoint, ideal opportunities to show off all their flashy hardware, while at the same time generating additional press coverage (quiet arrests of alleged perps not generating quite the same level of media attention as does a dozen SWAT team members in full regalia bashing down a tenement door), which in turn continues to feed the public "hysteria" over drug crimes, which in turn creates a vicious cycle of escalating violence all around; dealers and manufacturers feel compelled to arm-up in response to the increased likelihood of defending themselves against a literal army coming through their doors, which in turn gives the cops even more excuse to continually upgrade their own arsenals.

And of course the public sees all this and naturally comes to the conclusion that there's some sort of war between the cops and the druggies going down on the street, which is probably true, but it begs the question of whether, if LEA's used less violent means for taking down perps in the first place, would such an escalation even occur at all?

Posted by COMTE | April 9, 2008 2:13 PM


Aren't you the gun rights guy? So what if there's a stash of guns, that doesn't automatically make the person violent, does it? Other than, you know, when people charge into their house with no warning.

Posted by NaFun | April 9, 2008 3:04 PM

What exactly is involved in a no-knock raid? By the sound of it I assume no announcement is given whatsoever until the door is taken down. I must say if I had a gun on me I'd sure as hell draw it when someone kicked my door in. I wonder how much of a chance he was given to drop it?

I do like to give the police the benefit of the doubt but things like this always look like incredibly dumb ideas in hindsight.

Posted by Sven | April 9, 2008 10:44 PM

I seriously disagree with your ideas on drug rehabilitation and the idea that the state has any right to bring the force of law into controling drug "abuse". I think the idea of rehabilitation is fundamentally wrong, not as bad as incarceration for drug "offences" but still wrong.

But, at the same time, I appreciate what you do with collecting the drug-war news. I look forward to the week on drugs and your "winning the war on drugs" posts as much as Savage posts.

I'm high as a kite on completely legal whiskey right now and I hope someday all your preferred highs will be as legal.

And maybe when I'm sober, I can tell you about the problems I have with the idea of rehabilitation.

Posted by Luke Baggins | April 10, 2008 10:36 PM

Was this killing justified no they killed him in his house I do't sell drugs but i have a gun and if you kick y door in i will try my best to make sure you don't kick another one in.?why didm't they just knock on the door like they did the first time when they brought the drugs from him seems easier he would've been arrested not killed end of story.I hope those 2 cops that are responsible burn in hell for what they did.God will deal with them in his own special way i just wish i could see how

Posted by drell | April 11, 2008 3:59 PM

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