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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Collateral Damage of the War at Home (Part I of II)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Collateral Damage of the War at Home (Part I of II)

It Could Happen to You
After a long day’s work of remodeling your brother’s home, you decide to spend the night. Suddenly, you awaken to a noise that sounds like gunfire. You look out the bedroom window and see that men dressed in dark fatigues have killed your two dogs. You run downstairs to exit the back of the house to call for help. One of the men notices your attempt to escape, orders you to the ground at gunpoint, kicks you in the side, and ties you up with a rope. The man then picks you up and takes you back inside the house with the gun pointed directly at your head.

The hostage-taker leads you into the front lawn where other men dressed in the same manner are congregated. You notice a faint symbol on one of the men’s sleeves which appears to be a sheriff’s patch. You then realize that your brother’s home is being raided by the police but have not been told why.

Suddenly, you hear gunshots inside, followed by automatic weapon fire, then the sound of a shotgun. You realize that your brother is still inside and you fear for the worst.

The gunfire stops and the police gain control over the situation. You learn that one of the officers saw his own reflection, mistook his reflection for an armed person and fired his weapon. These shots set off a chain reaction: other officers entering the home opened fire and your brother fired his shotgun which hit one of the charging officers in the neck and shoulder.

So much has happen in such a short span of time. Surely the authorities will realize they made a mistake. You have never been suspected of a crime; they should know you are only an innocent bystander…right?

Unfortunately for you, the nightmare is far from over. Even though you never fired a weapon and cooperated with the police, you find yourself before a judge being charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault on a police officer, and two counts of committing a crime of violence. You spend the next nine months in solitary confinement before a police cover-up is exposed. You are freed from prison but this experience continues to haunt you…

This is not a work of fiction and this did not happen in Red China. This real life terror occurred on March 26, 1987 in Jefferson County, Colorado. The name of the victim was Pete Garcia. Pete was not the primary target of the raid but his brother was suspected of drugs activity.

An Isolated Incident?
Is it possible that what happened to Pete Garcia is just an isolated incident? That depends completely on what you consider ‘isolated.’ Radley Balko of The Agitator has put together an interactive map (where you can find additional details about the above story) as a companion to his policy paper he completed for the Cato Institute titled Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids. Balko found some 292 botched police raids nationwide dating from 1985 to 2006. Of the 292 raids, 40 involved the death of innocent people, 22 deaths of police officers (including the Cory Maye case Pt. 1 and Pt. 2), and 20 deaths of non-violent offenders. Fortunately, not all of these raids ended in the loss of life; Balko further breaks the numbers down as follows: 143 raids of innocent suspects, 14 raids on doctors and/or sick people, and 53 other examples of excessive use of police force.

Sure, 292 bad raids over 21 years nationwide does not sound like a whole lot but how many of these kinds of mistakes are we willing to tolerate? Isn’t the death of just one innocent person, let alone 40, be enough for us to be concerned over the use such tactics? Isn’t this the sort of thing the Fourth Amendment is supposed to protect us from?

In the War on (some) Drugs, these incidents are merely collateral damage. The War on Drugs must be won at all costs!

For Part II of this series, click here.
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