May 26, 2003

STILL MORE REASONS why “no-knock” raids are not only un-American, but criminally dangerous:

“We must do a better job of no-knock search warrants,” lawyer Norman Siegel said during an October press conference. “Otherwise, someone might wind up dead as a result of how we implement this procedure.”

Today someone is dead. Her name was Alberta Spruill.

Spruill, a 57-year-old church volunteer, suffered a heart attack and died May 16 after flak-jacketed cops broke down her door and lobbed a stun grenade into her small Harlem apartment in a mistaken search for drugs.

Marie Rogers, 62, a retiree from Springfield Gardens, had a similar experience seven months ago, although a stun grenade wasn’t used in the raid on her apartment – and she lived to talk about it.

“When I heard about what happened to this woman, I broke down and cried,” Rogers said. “You would have thought that I knew her. Then I was angry.”

On Oct. 15, Rogers and her husband, Robert, were in their home watching television – “Cops,” as it turns out – when police in riot gear plowed through their front door without warning. When Robert, 64, a retired housing cop, heard the noise, he instinctively went for his licensed revolver, dropped to a knee and waited.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said. “I thought the people coming into my house were trying to kill me.”

Robert is certain he would have been shot if he hadn’t tossed his gun aside before the cops came in. As for the drugs and weapons they were looking for, police found nothing. They had the wrong address.

That ought to be a firing offense, the very first time it happens, for the officers involved and their superiors. If people die, the charge should be murder. If you decide to break down somebody’s door and enter with guns drawn when no one’s life is in danger, then you should be able to offer no defense if anything goes wrong. Because it’s indefensible.

UPDATE: This, on the other hand, isn’t criminal, just pathetic.