Knock Knock, Who’s There? No Knock Warrants Are No Joke

By

Clint Rand           

The purpose of the no-knock warrant is not to make it easier for police to ambush unsuspecting felons. The no-knock warrant is intended to minimize the potential of harm to the officers and the subjects of the warrant, to make the disposing or destruction of evidence or contraband (something that is illegal to possess such as drugs) more difficult and to reduce the opportunity for criminals to harm a hostage when a kidnapping is involved.

            I have been involved in the service of many no-knock warrants usually for fugitives who were classified as armed and dangerous. The case agent would determine, often from an informant, that the fugitive was staying at a certain location. A surveillance team would verify the information, a warrant would be obtained and the SWAT team would be called. Entry was made, when possible, in the wee hours of the morning when the subject had recently gone to bed and after he had probably been drinking or doing drugs for a few hours. The plan was to catch the fugitive while still in bed, drowsy and intoxicated and before he could get to his firearm. It worked most of the time.      

            Police officers obtain a search warrant by preparing an affidavit that alleges that there is probable cause that there is certain property that may be evidence of a crime or contraband is located at a certain place. The affidavit is then presented to a judge who reviews the information and decides whether or not to issue a warrant. Usually a warrant is executed during daylight hours and officers must knock and announce their presence before entering. In some cases the judge will issue a no-knock warrant. The warrant authorizes and directs the police to search the place named for the property and if the property is found to bring the property before the court.

            Many of the facts surrounding the incident in Louisville, Kentucky involving Breonna Taylor and her partner, Kenneth Walker, are not available thereby raising several illusive questions.

            The police had obtained a no-knock warrant but chose to announce their presence regardless before they entered the residence. That they announced before entering was verified by a witness. Once inside, they were confronted by Taylor and Walker in a hallway. Walker fired a shot and struck an officer in the leg. In return, multiple shots were fired by the three officers striking and killing Breonna Taylor. Kenneth Walker was not hit in the fusillade.

            Pundits have criticized the police for firing too many shots. This is idiocy! How many shots are allowed when someone is attempting to kill you? It’s not a John Wayne or a Clint Eastwood movie. You don’t fire a warning shot or try to shoot the gun from the assailant’s hand. You also don’t count your shots. You’re assignment is to keep yourself and your partners from being killed. And, if this takes 100 rounds, you go for it!

            When I was working in New York City, there was a gun fight in the Bronx with a Black Panther, cop killer named Tymon Myers. During a late night attempted arrest, Myers pulled a semi-auto Browning pistol and began firing away. Several law enforcement officers were hit, none fatally. One of the arresting agents who was closest to Myers returned fire with his 5 shot, .38 caliber, Smith & Wesson revolver. After the fiasco was over, I spoke with the agent who told me that he had no idea if he ever hit Myers but he just kept pulling the trigger even after his gun was empty.

            I hope that we’ll soon see an end to this ridiculous attempt to prosecute police and defend criminals by defense lawyers, prosecutors and journalists claiming too many shots were fired by an officer trying to save his own life.

            We don’t know if the hallway was lit or dark, if there was a staircase in the hall, how far the subjects were from the officers and if they were standing in the open or concealed. The officers didn’t know if others were in the house, if both Walker and Taylor had a gun and once the defensive firing started, the police wouldn’t be able to tell if more shots were being fired by the subjects. But, the biggest unresolved question is: Why was Kenneth Walker not charged in the shooting and attempted murder of a police officer but Detective Brett Hankison was charged with wanton endangerment?

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