Police/Suspect Altercations

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Indianapolis Man Killed in Drug Task Force Raid

Members of the Indianapolis Metro Drug Task force shot and killed a man early Thursday morning while serving a warrant. Jose Guerrero, 36, becomes the 34th person to die in UN domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to WISH TV, citing police sources, officers with the Carmel Police Department serving on the drug task force had entered an apartment in a Westside complex around dawn Thursday when Guerrero pulled out a gun and refused to put it down. They then shot and killed him.

"We had two veteran narcotics officers in this residence who did what they needed to do when they were confronted with an armed individual," said Carmel Police Chief Tim Green.

There is no word on whether the raid was a no-knock raid or not.

The raid was part of a two-year undercover operation known as "Operation Five Dollar Foot-Long," with the DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement, participating. On the day of the killing alone, police seized 100 pounds of marijuana, 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine, seven guns, 26 vehicles, and more than $80,000 in cash.

The two Carmel police officers involved in the Thursday morning shooting have been placed on administrative duty pending the result of IMPD's investigation into the shooting. That is standard procedure.

Indianapolis, IN
United States

Tennessee Cops Kill Man in Meth Lab Raid

Sullivan County sheriff's deputies shot and killed a man attempting to flee in a vehicle Friday night as they conducted a raid on a residence where a meth lab was suspected to be operating. Kenneth Ray Clark, 47, becomes the 33rd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Bristol Times-News, citing police sources, officers with the Sheriff's Office Vice Unit, the 1st Judicial Drug Task Force, and the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force were dispatched to a Bristol residence after receiving information that a meth lab was operating there and that a person with outstanding warrants was there.

Upon arriving at the property, officers found Clark in a vehicle. Police said he refused to get out of the vehicle and, in an attempt to flee the scene, "tried to run over at least two officers." Officers then opened fire on the vehicle, striking Clark. Clark managed to drive approximately a mile, where police found him dead in his vehicle.

Clark was wanted on a probation violation warrant in Sullivan County. He also reportedly had an unspecified outstanding warrant from nearby Bristol, Virginia.

Although Clark allegedly "tried to run over at least two officers," there was no mention of any injury to any of the officers involved.

The shooting will be investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Bristol, TN
United States

Two More Drug War Deaths

A Texas marijuana grower and a California man who might have been a drug dealer were killed by police in separate incidents last week. The two men become the 31st and 32nd persons killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to News 4 San Antonio, citing police sources, Gonzales County sheriff's deputies were raiding a marijuana grow last Wednesday when a shootout erupted, leaving one of the suspected growers dead. Sheriff Glen Sachtleben said one of the growers fired at the deputies, and the deputies returned fire, killing the man, who has not been identified but is suspected of being a Mexican national.

"There were six that were actually in the gunfight," the sheriff said, referring to his deputies. None of them were injured.

A second man, also suspected of being a Mexican national in the country illegally, was arrested.

The sheriff described the grow as extending across several acres of a remote area of the county.

"Probably the largest in my 40 years in this county we've ever encountered," Sheriff Sachtleben said. "In our estimation, this is not in the local use at all. We're pretty sure it's flowing into Houston from here."

Texas Rangers are investigating the killing.

The following day, according to the Long Beach Post, citing police sources, a Long Beach, California, man was shot and killed by an undercover officer conducting a narcotics investigation. The man has been identified as 39-year-old John Del Real.

According to police, they were in the area investigating reports of drug dealing in the neighborhood when Del Real approached an officer "in a threatening manner." Del Real then reached for an object in his waistband, at which point the officer identified himself and gave several commands before opening fire.

Police attempted to render aid at the scene, but Del Real was pronounced dead after arriving at a local hospital. A metal bat he allegedly had tucked in his waistband was found at the scene.

Del Real's killing was the third shooting by a Long Beach Police Department officer in five days. It is being investigated by department homicide detectives and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Armed Drug Suspect Killed in Houston SWAT Raid

A drug suspect was shot and killed by a member of a Houston Police Department SWAT team early Wednesday. The as yet unnamed man becomes the 30th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Houston Chronicle, which cited police sources, SWAT team members were executing a narcotics search warrant at dawn in northeast Harris County when they encountered the man, described as a Hispanic in his 40s or 50s. As SWAT members entered the home from the side and front, "the suspect produced a handgun when confronted and was shot by a member of the team." The shooter was identified as Houston Police Officer SJ Hamala.

The dead man was one of four people named in the warrant. The other three were not found at the residence and remain at large.

Police said they used a SWAT team to conduct the raid because they had information the suspect had many weapons in his home.

At last report, narcotics officers were on the scene and conducting an investigation. No word yet on what, if anything, was seized.

Houston, TX
United States

Big Payout in Drug Raid Killing of Ex-Marine

An Arizona county and several towns will pay big-time for the killing of homeowner Jose Guerena in a 2011 SWAT drug raid. The jurisdictions will pay $3.4 million to his widow to settle a lawsuit she filed after his death, the Associated Press reported last Thursday.

Jose Guerena
Guerena was gunned down in the hallway of his home by invading SWAT officers as he crouched defensively with an AR-15 in his hands. Five SWAT officers fired 72 shots at him, hitting him 22 times and killing him on the spot.

He had returned early that morning from working an overnight shift at the ASARCO mine, and was asleep in bed when his wife warned him that armed assailants were surrounding the house. He instructed his wife and four-year-old son to hide in a closet while he grabbed his rifle and went to confront the intruders. Police initially claimed he fired first, but that turned out not to be the case.

The case became a cause célèbre for critics of aggressive police tactics, even roiling the waters of the local Republican Party. A Google search for "Jose Guerena" now returns more than 62,000 hits.

His widow filed a $20 million lawsuit against Pima County and the towns of Marana, Sahuarita, and Oro Valley, all of which had officers on the SWAT team. She alleged that the SWAT team acted negligently throughout, beginning with the signing of the search warrant and extending to the period after Guerena was shot, when police left him lying on the floor for more than an hour before allowing medical treatment to begin.

Pima County prosecutors could find no fault with the raid or the SWAT team.

"Under the circumstances, and based upon our review of all the available evidence, we have concluded that the use of deadly force by the SWAT Team members was reasonable and justified under the law," ruled Pima County District Attorney Barbara LaWall. "Accordingly, the Pima County Attorney's Office finds no basis to prosecute," she concluded in her report.

Tucson, AZ
United States

Texas Trooper Cleared in Chopper Drug War Killings

A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper who opened fire from a helicopter on a fleeing pickup carrying what he thought was a drug load near the US-Mexico border, killing two Guatemalan immigrants, will not face criminal charges. A grand jury in Edinburg declined Tuesday to indict him in the deaths.

Hidalgo County prosecutors had presented the case to a grand jury after the killing stirred outrage not only from the Guatemalan government, but also among people concerned about lax rules for law enforcement use of deadly force from the air.

In the October 2012 incident, Trooper Miguel Avila was aboard the Department of Public Safety (DPS) chopper as it participated in the pursuit of the pickup. DPS said Avila believed the truck, whose bed was covered with a cloth, was carrying drugs, and that he opened fire to disable it because the fleeing vehicle was headed toward a school zone. (The shooting took place on an unpaved rural road.)

The truck crashed after being fired upon. Police found no drugs, but instead found nine Guatemalan immigrants and a teenage driver. Six of the Guatemalans were in the bed of the pickup covered by a cloth. Two of them, Marco Antonio Castro and Jose Leonardo Coj Cumar, were fatally wounded by Avila's gunfire.

While the two men's killer escaped criminal charges, the killing did force DPS to revise its policies on the use of force from the sky. Since February, troopers have been prohibited from shooting from the sky unless they are facing deadly force.

"A firearms discharge from an aircraft is authorized only when an officer reasonably believes that the suspect has used or is about to use deadly force by use of a deadly weapon against the air crew, ground officers or innocent third parties," the revised policy says. Reckless or aggressive driving doesn't count as use of a deadly weapon, the policy states.

Edinburg, TX
United States

Texas Man Shot and Killed in Drug Raid

Texas sheriff's deputies executing a narcotics search warrant shot and killed a Hidden Harbor Hills man Monday night. Daniel Richard Vasquez, 33, becomes the 28th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year and the second in the past week.

According to the Athens Review, relying on police sources, Henderson County Sheriff's Office investigators were serving the search warrant when a "confrontation" occurred between Vasquez and the officers. "During the course of the search, an HCSO investigator shot Vasquez," the newspaper reported.

Vasquez was transported to the East Texas Medical Center in Gun Barrel City, where he was pronounced dead. His body has been shipped to Dallas for an autopsy.

The sheriff's office has not released any further details, including whether Vasquez was armed or whether any drugs were found.

The killing will be investigated by Texas Rangers. Any further information will be released by the Rangers and the Henderson County District Attorney's Office.

Hidden Harbor Hills, TX
United States

California Cops Gun Down Unarmed Meth Dealer

Undercover police in Sunnyvale, California, shot and killed an unarmed alleged methamphetamine dealer last Wednesday afternoon. Juan Ruelas, 34, becomes the 27th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to NBC Bay Area News, citing police spokesmen, Ruelas was being investigated by the Santa Clara County Specialized Crimes Action Team (SCAT) and members of a DEA drug task force, whose undercover officers had purchased meth from him several times over the past month. Police set up another buy Wednesday afternoon at a Hobee's restaurant in Sunnyvale, and an undercover officer had just purchased a pound of meth from him when the shooting occurred.

Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Captain Dave Pitts said that after the deal went down, Ruelas suddenly threatened the officer and said he had a gun. Then, Pitts said, Ruelas "made a movement that led the officer to believe he was reaching for a gun." No fewer than six officers on the scene then opened on fire on Ruelas, mortally wounding him. He died later the same day in a local hospital.

No gun was found.

In an earlier NBC Bay Area News report, a manager at the Motel 6 next door to the restaurant provided a different account. He told reporters that it looked like a driver had been pulled over for a traffic violation. The manager, John Carroll, said officers were shouting at a person in the vehicle to get out of the car. When that person began to comply, police gunfire broke out, he said.

Ruelas' family wants to know what happened, members told ABC News 7. "Our question was, you know, 'Was he armed?'" said Ruelas' sister, Maria Bunker. "And he just told my brother, 'no, we never found a weapon.'"

Bunker also questioned the police narrative of events. "The pictures that we see all over the media, they show his truck being boxed in," Bunker said. "He had a stroke recently so it's like, he wasn't going to run from them."

Police spokesman Pitts said the shooters were five Santa Clara police detectives and a sheriff's detective. The shooting is being investigated by Sunnyvale public safety investigators, who will forward their findings to the county district attorney's office for review.

Sunnyvale, CA
United States

DEA Must Pay $3 Million in 2010 Killing of LA Teen

A federal judge Tuesday awarded $3 million to the family of an 18-year-old Los Angeles honors student who was gunned down by undercover DEA agents in a parking garage in 2010. But the judge also ruled the officers were not negligent in their actions.

Zachary Champommier (justiceforazac.blogspot.com)
Zachary Champommier died when he drove into a Studio City shopping center parking lot to meet a friend. Also in the parking lot were a group of undercover officers, including DEA agents and LA County sheriff's deputies and LAPD officers who had been deputized by the DEA.

The cops were discussing a search warrant they had just served when they observed Champommier's friend walking in the parking garage. Suspecting the friend was breaking into cars, they detained him. When Champommier drove up, he saw his friend being accosted by people he didn't know and attempted to drive away from possible trouble.

Officers claimed that Champommier's vehicle struck a deputy as he attempted to leave the scene. Officers opened fire, killing the 18-year-old honor student and "band geek."

Both the DEA and the LA County Sheriff's Department said the shooting was justifiable because Champommier had tried to run down an officer.

"The nature of [Champommier's] aggressive actions, actually hitting the deputy -- that is not someone who is without some degree of fault," Sheriff Lee Baca said shortly after the shooting.

Champommier's mother, Carol, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, charging that federal and local drug enforcement officers were reckless in shooting at her son, who she claimed posed no reasonable threat.

US District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald ruled that the DEA agents did have reason to believe they were in danger, but acted recklessly in shooting at Champommier's vehicle as it passed them because at that point they were no longer in danger.

Los Angeles, CA
United States

South Carolina Man Is Latest Drug War Fatality

A Summerville, South Carolina man was shot and killed by police after allegedly engaging them with gunfire as he fled a traffic stop turned drug bust. Travis Miller, 22, becomes the 26th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to WCSC-TV Live 5 News, citing police sources, the incident began as an attempted traffic stop by city of Hanahan police. They were trying "to stop a motorist for a window tint violation a little before midnight" Monday, but the driver refused to stop. Instead, he led police on a short pursuit before pulling over.

When the vehicle stopped, police then said they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and ordered the driver and three passengers to exit the vehicle while they searched them and the car. Miller took off running with police in pursuit. Police said Miller opened fire on them as they pursued him. They returned fire.

Shortly thereafter, police found Miller dead in a wooded area. A handgun was found on him, police said.

The driver and the other two passengers were charged with marijuana possession, and the driver was cited for the tinted window violation. All three had prior drug arrests, and Miller also had an arrest history, but it wasn't clear what offenses he had been charged with.

The police officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Hanahan, SC
United States

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