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Title: Cops: People In Their Own Homes Are In The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time Whenever A Cop Enters Unlawfully
Source: TechDirt
URL Source: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/2 ... er-cop-enters-unlawfully.shtml
Published: Oct 30, 2019
Author: Tim Cushing
Post Date: 2019-10-31 22:42:45 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 49

from the dear-sirs-or-madams:-get-fucked dept

It's not a trend. It's disturbing, trend or no trend. It just is. You're the enemy, even when you're in your own home. That's the arguments cops are making for killing or maiming people who had no idea law enforcement officers had entered their residence.

Part of the problem is "no-knock" raids. Saying they need the element of surprise to ensure officer safety and prevent the destruction of evidence, cops are engaging in a hyper-aggressive form of warrant service that sacrifices officer safety on the altar of evidence preservation. There's no evidence no-knock raids are safer. In fact, many high-profile stories show the opposite: performing an armed home invasion can often result in an armed response. The residents don't know cops are entering their house violently. All they know is people with guns are suddenly in their home shouting threats. They respond appropriately.

This is a direct result of the militarization of police, aided greatly by the Defense Department's 1033 program, which encourages cops to partake of the military's surplus. The addition of military gear, tech, and vehicles has allowed cops to view themselves as combatants in a war zone, with everyone who isn't a cop a potential enemy.

Even when they don't have the explicit permission to enter a residence without knocking and announcing their presence, cops do it anyway. What are the odds anyone would find out? Whose testimony is going to stack up against that of sworn officers of the law?

"Wrong place, wrong time" is living in your own house when cops show up unexpectedly. And that's almost always how cops show up: unexpectedly. In Julian Betton's case, cops served a warrant by crashing through his front door unannounced and shooting at him 29 times (hitting him nine times) when he confronted the home invasion with a gun in his hands. The gun was at his side but it made no difference to officers who kept firing until they felt he no longer "posed a threat." Betton was paralyzed from the waist down and suffered numerous injuries to his internal organs.

What the task force failed to notice during its "dynamic entry" was Betton's security camera. The recorded footage flatly contradicted multiple officers' sworn testimony. They claimed they knocked and announced their presence before entering. The tape shows no knock, no hesitation, and not a single officer moving their lips to announce their presence. A total of nine seconds elapse between the officers' arrival and their entry into Betton's home.

Betton sued and won, but Officer David Belue of the Myrtle Beach PD appealed the stripping of his immunity, arguing that he had every right to shoot Betton, even if the officers' entry was illegal.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals seems skeptical, to say the least. Belue's lawyer argued that the illegal entry was not an issue for this appeal, so the court didn't need to waste its time relitigating that aspect of the case. The Court disagreed, pointing out Betton likely had every reason to protect himself from armed intruders that did not identify themselves as cops and were wearing gear that made it much more difficult for Betton to clearly identify them as officers of the law.

To paraphrase the oral arguments concisely, this is what was said:

OFFICER BELUE'S LAWYER: Citizens have no right to defend themselves from armed intruders in their home.

COURT: What the actual fuck

The oral arguments should be listened to in their entirety to enjoy the thorough reaming of Belue's representation, who attempted to argue the particulars of the shooting do not matter. According to Officer Belue's lawyer, the only thing that matters is a cop's view of the situation. If a cop increases the chances of an armed response by performing an illegal entry, it's on the resident if they get shot at 29 times by officers for choosing to grab a weapon before confronting the intruders.

This argument upends the Castle Doctrine. The Fourth Amendment holds the home above all else when it comes to Fourth Amendment protections. Citizens are given wide latitude to defend their home from invaders -- and that includes those who might be carrying badges. Officers like Belue are arguing that law enforcement's invasion of a home tips the scale in favor of law enforcement, allowing them to do whatever they want without repercussion simply because of their profession.

This is wrong. But it's not the only time this perverse argument has been made.

On September 6, 2018, Dallas police officer Amber Guyger entered the wrong apartment and killed Botham Jean, the actual resident of the apartment Guyger thought was hers. Guyger may have made an honest mistake but it ended in the death of a person who responded like anyone would to an unexpected intruder: he got up off his couch and moved towards the front door. Guyger handled her own illegal entry by killing Jean within a few seconds of entering his apartment.

She claimed Jean ignored orders to show his hands. (This is disputed by neighbors' account of the shooting.) But why would he? He was in his own apartment and Guyger was the intruder. The threat was posed by Guyger. She walked into the wrong apartment and drew her gun when she spotted someone she didn't expect to be there. Jean responded to Guyger by trying to get her out of his apartment. For that completely explicable reaction, he was killed.

So, who has the right to defend themselves in a situation like this? Well, a witness for Officer Guyger claimed it's the person who entered the wrong apartment.

A Texas judge barred explosive testimony Wednesday by a lead investigator who said he believes fired Dallas police officer Amber Guyger did not commit a crime when she entered the wrong apartment and killed the unarmed black man inside.

The "lead investigator" was former Texas Ranger David Armstrong. His take on the Botham Jean shooting? Guyger had the right to defend herself against an intruder even as she intruded into someone else's residence.

On the witness stand, Armstrong disputed prosecutors’ argument that Jean was seated on his couch in front of the TV eating vanilla ice cream when Guyger shot him. Instead, Armstrong said Jean was 13 feet from the door and posed a “deadly threat” to Guyger.

Outside the presence of the jury, Armstrong said Guyger acted “reasonably” and that he does not believe she committed any crime.

Living in your own home turns you into a "deadly threat" the moment an officer enters a residence unannounced. That's what cops want the legal standard to be.

Fortunately, it isn't, at least for the most part. There's a lot of immunity being spread around carelessly (the Fourth's oral arguments include one judge saying with some irritation "we grant immunity to everyone") but it's still police officers who are the interlopers when it comes to situations like these. The Appeals Court doesn't sound like it will give Belue a pass on his decision to use bullets to handle a situation he made more dangerous by refusing to follow the specifications (knock and announce) of his search warrant. And Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder, albeit the variety that results in a 10-year sentence rather than life.

Make no mistake: law enforcement officers are just as willing as any of us to do whatever it takes to preserve their livelihoods. The problem is that -- unlike most of us -- they occasionally engage in unjustified killings. And yet, they still want people to believe these deaths are a response to threats posed by citizens minding their own business in their own homes, even when all evidence points to the officers being in the wrong. When we screw up at work, we inconvenience people. When cops screw up at work, people end up dead. The arguments are not just weak, they're inexcusable. We deserve better. But it seems unlikely we'll ever get what we deserve.

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