SWAT team kills unarmed man during drug raid
A police video of a September drug raid in Utah provides graphic evidence of the sometimes dire consequences of SWAT-style drug law enforcement. In the video released by the Salt Lake Tribune, a member of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force repeatedly shoots and kills resident Todd Blair as Blair steps into a hallway holding a golf club like a baseball bat.
According to a Tribune article in December, Blair, while a methamphetamine user and familiar to police, was not the target of the raid and was not supposed to be in the house. In fact, police had earlier seen a man they thought was Blair leaving the house and pulled him over so he wouldn't be present during the raid. But the man was not Blair and was released, at which point police began to prepare a "dynamic entry" or no-knock raid.
Police had received a warrant for a no-knock warrant after claiming in their affidavit that the house had "lookouts" who would warn of their arrival and that their suspect -- not Blair -- might attempt to destroy the evidence. The affidavit did not mention that their suspect had already moved out of the house.
Because they had expected to raid an empty residence, the police SWAT team had not prepared a "dynamic entry" plan. Instead of falling back and creating one in the standard procedure, they retreated to a nearby retirement home and improvised one. They had also forgotten to bring along a copy of their search warrant -- not a legal failing in a no-knock raid, but another indication of a drug squad fraying at the edges.
The video show police yelling, "Police! Search warrant!" and breaking down the door in a matter of seconds. Ogden police Sgt. Troy Burnett was the first officer through the door when Blair, shirtless, stepped into a hallway brandishing the golf club. He was eight to ten feet away and not advancing when Burnett, without uttering a warning, shoots him three times in the head and chest. As he collapses, Burnett yells "Get on the ground!"
Utah authorities determined the shooting was justified.
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