At least 20 SWAT raids initiated over the past few years in an attempt to bust suspected marijuana dealers have led to fatalities, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
Although some people might be of the opinion that a dead drug dealer is the best kind of drug dealer, the latest report shows the majority of the folks killed by SWAT teams are people in possession of small amounts of marijuana – not even enough to be charged for more than a misdemeanor in most states. In some cases, no drugs were found at all.
The report shows that out of the 85 fatal raids that have been conducted since 2010, a whopping 70 percent of them were instigated based on suspicion of drug activity. A lot of times this suspicion is based solely on a tip from a confidential informant.
Even cops are being killed because the law in prohibition state dictates that they sometimes pull a blitzkrieg attack on a suspect. In 2013, an early-morning raid got a rural Texas SWAT team member shot and killed by homeowner Henry Magee, who thought he was being robbed. Although there happened to be a pot cultivation operation on the premises, Magee was later acquitted of the capital murder charge.
“All of us felt that if I were in bed and heard anything that made me get up and get a gun, and all of a sudden my door explodes in, I’m shooting,” one juror told the New York Times. “Why in the world would you do a full-out assault on a guy growing pot?”
All in all, the report is a reminder that the War on Drugs is still in full swing, despite the fact that marijuana is legal in some form or fashion in over half the nation.
Still, some of the law enforcement officials charged with running these types of operations believe the military approach to busting pot dealers is absolutely essential to protecting the well being of civil society.
“These are dangerous people we’re dealing with,” an Arkansas SWAT commander told the New York Times. “If you have a dope house next door there’s probably nothing the police can do that would be overreacting.”
Marijuana isn’t a dangerous drug in the same way as meth or heroin is. Even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, one of the key agencies responsible for keeping the herb classified a Schedule I drug, admits, “no death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.”
It is also important to remember that not everyone who sells marijuana on the black market is a gun-toting thug with a violent streak. In many cases, these raids never uncover any firearms whatsoever.
As the Washington Post points out in their coverage, SWAT teams were originally created to deal with extremely hostile situations, such as active shooters or a hostage crisis. But there was apparently not enough work to keep these soldiers busy, so they eventually took over a large majority of the warrant work, especially those pertaining to drugs.
Now, only around 7 percent of SWAT deployments are for “hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios,” reports the ACLU. Somewhere around 80 percent of them, assault weapons and all, are to serve search warrants.