SWAT Team Raids House, Shoots Dogs over 'Small Amount of Marijuana'
A SWAT team raided Jonathan Whitworth's house in Februrary looking for a "large amount of marijuana." They shot his two dogs, killing one. All they found was a pipe, a grinder, and a "small amount" of weed. Now there's video.
With an almost admirable efficiency, the Columbia, Missouri SWAT team knocked down the Whitworth family's door, shot both dogs, and handcuffed Jonathan against the floor while hustling his wife and kid out the door. They were acting on information that Whitworth had a significant amount of marijuana he intended to sell. What they found instead was some stoner paraphernalia—a pipe and a grinder—and a "small" (i.e. misdemeanor) amount of the drug.
This unfortunate (and unfortunately common) experience with the war on drugs—one that was shared by the entire Whitworth family, including the seven-year-old son—made the internet rounds when it happened in February, but without some kind of audiovisual stimulation it's hard to communicate the sheer terror of a dozen heavily armed men breaking into your house at night and shooting your dogs. Now we have video. Via Radley Balko, here's what it's like to be raided by the police:
As Balko points out, there are as many as 100 of these terrifying paramilitary raids per day in the U.S., conducted under the aegis of "the war on drugs," theoretically targeting drug traffickers and other "enemies." Some of the raids turn up significant amounts of illegal substances; others turn up even less than the "small amount of marijuana" the police were able to find at Whitworth's house. Many wind up targeted innocent people. This map of "botched raids" gives some indication of the disturbing frequency not just of the operations themselves, but the mistakes, often fatal, that occur during their execution.
Whitworth's pit bull died (according to the YouTube description, the dog was caged), and his corgi (yes—a corgi, like the furry little sausages owned by the Queen of England) was shot in the leg and injured. It was a horrifying, tragic experience, but by some fucked-up calculus he was lucky—none of his family members died, which is more than can be said for (for example) Tarika Wilson, who was killed while holding her one-year-old son in a raid intended for her boyfriend, or Gonzalo Guizan, who was killed during a raid based on a single tip from a neighbor—a raid that produced
three glass pipes and a Ziploc's worth of cocaine some cocaine residue, five pills, and a prescription bottle of Vicodin in addition to Guizan's body (see update below).
Whitworth was charged with possession and "child endangerment." The Columbia police's inquiry into the raid is ongoing, as is the war on drugs, which we are likely to win any day now.
Update: Archeologist/journalist/blogger Jackson Kuhl, who wrote an excellent article about the Gonzalo Guizan case for the Fairfield Weekly located here, wrote to point out that there wasn't even as much evidence found at the scene of Guizan's death as we had originally reported:
While the warrant specified that the police were searching for crack cocaine, when all was said and done they only found trace amounts of illegal substances. From my story: "According to the inventory attached to the warrant, police searched the house and seized a number of tins, cans, glass pipes and plastic bags with various colored residues on them, one of which tested positive for cocaine.
"A pill case with five pills and an empty prescription bottle for Vicodin in Ron Terebesi's name was also taken, along with a "Deering Precision Instrument" scale. No firearms or large quantities of illegal drugs were found."
It is important to note that the amount of drugs found during the raid was so minimal—residue only—that the homeowner, Ronald Terebesi, Jr., applied for and was granted a pretrial diversionary program because the prosecution did not have enough evidence to proceed to trial. The program involved Terebesi taking a number of drug-education classes, which he completed.
In other words, no charges were ever filed against Terebesi because the police found nothing. Police ran into Terebesi's house, shot Guizan dead, and no one—not Terebesi and not the police—were charged with any crime.