May 17, 2010

" was determined that it would be in the best interest of public safety..."

Detroit SWAT team shoots seven year old girl dead while executing search warrant.

"As is common in these types of situations, the officers deployed a distractionary device commonly known as a flash bang," [Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee] said in the statement. "The purpose of the device is to temporarily disorient occupants of the house to make it easier for officers to safely gain control of anyone inside and secure the premise.

More here. Just awful. Posted by Dr. Frank at May 17, 2010 02:48 AM | TrackBack


I believe that in this situation, the murder suspect could be held responsible for the death of the girl, being that his alleged actions were the cause of the search warrant and its execution. Of course, it would depend on whether or not he was actually charged with the murder.

Posted by: Vox at May 19, 2010 10:33 AM

I get that, Vox. At least in this case, they were trying to apprehend someone suspected of actually doing something wrong. And it appears that they (probably) got the right guy, and were at least in more or less the right house.

Even granting any version the police's shifting story as the truth, and accepting that they had to go in and get this guy, the risks to innocent people in this kind of middle-of-the-night no-knock entry are quite serious. Is it any wonder people get killed when when you throw in grenades and start shooting?

There's a lot of dispute and confusion about this case. Among the allegations against the police are that (a) they got the wrong half of a duplex and the guy was actually hiding in the other half; (b) the shot came not from the confusion upon initial contact with the residents, but from the outside; (c) that the grenade actually set the little girl on fire, and police fired at her through the window and not accidentally in the course of entry as they initially claimed. And regardless of anything else, the attempt to pin it on the grandmother seems indefensible, though depressingly unsurprising.

It was all being filmed for a reality TV show. That part is true. So there's video evidence and we'll have to see whether it shows what the family's lawyer says it shows.

I think the point is that these tactics are inherently dangerous, and they routinely cause more damage and risk to public safety that we should accept. They could quite easily have got the wrong house. It happens all the time. Maybe it'll turn out to be justified in this case, but I can't see it is possibly worth the shooting of an innocent little girl even so. It should surprise no one that these tactics lead to this sort of outcome.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at May 19, 2010 03:00 PM

Sadly, the tactic of gently knocking at the door and saying, "Um, excuse me, Mr. Fugitive Murder Suspect, would you mind coming outside?" tends to yield sub-par results.

Posted by: Mars vs Hollywood at May 22, 2010 09:16 PM

That is sad, Mars, you're right. Setting a little girl on fire and shooting her is also sub-par, by my reckoning, even if they do get the bad guy in the process. Surely "par" is located somewhere in the middle there.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at May 22, 2010 09:34 PM

You're certainly right. But I think when awful things like this happen, people are too quick to say, "Well, these sort of tactics are naturally going to have this result."

Fact is, the whole point of late-night no-knocks in cases like this is to surprise the target of the warrant, and make it less likely to result in a gunfight, which would put everyone in the house at risk as well.

And certainly, less aggressive warrant operations can end badly as well:

They just don't generate the same level of attention.

BTW, I'd like to say that "Mr. Ramones" is one of my favorite songs. :)

Posted by: Mars vs Hollywood at May 23, 2010 08:19 AM

From what I've seen on the TV show (The First 48), Detroit is one of the scariest cities in which to be a police officer. It's reminiscent of the wild West, and sadly, the death of an innocent bystander there isn't that surprising to me. It will be interesting to see the truth possibly present its self on video. I know that every time I'm in Detroit, It's scary as hell...

Posted by: Vox at May 23, 2010 02:53 PM