The recent announcement that a Texas district attorney will seek the death penalty for a man accused of fatally shooting a police officer raiding his home has sparked debate among many as to whether so-called no-knock search warrants, conducted by local SWAT teams, are safe or even necessary.
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza announced last month he would seek the death penalty in prosecuting 49-year-old Marvin Louis Guy of Killeen, Texas.
Guy stands accused of fatally shooting Killeen Police Det. Charles "Chuck" Dinwiddie in the face during a drug raid on his home. He is also charged with three counts of attempted capital murder for firing shots at three other officers during the raid, according to the Killeen Daily Herald.
Acting on information from an informant, police believed Guy’s home was being used as a center for drug trafficking. Police, having obtained a warrant, executed the raid on the home in the early morning hours of May 9. Startled by armed men climbing through his bedroom window unannounced, Guy fired on the officers. He claims he shot at them in self-defense.
The melee left three officers injured and Det. Dinwiddie dead. The search turned up only a handful of evidence suggesting drug use — a glass pipe and a grinder, according to The Washington Post — but very little hard evidence that a major drug trafficking operation was being conducted from the home.
Criminal justice and drug war blogger for the The Washington Post, Radley Balko argues Guy was unlikely to risk a shootout with police to hide the small amount of possibly incriminating evidence in his home. Instead, Balko argues, the shootout happened only because police sought to surprise Guy with the early morning raid.
It is the second time in recent history such a raid for minimal evidence has ended with a dead officer in Texas.
Balko reported in February on a December raid in Burleson County, Texas, that left Deputy Adam Sowders dead. That no-knock raid, also conducted based on an informant’s tip, yielded two six-inch tall marijuana plants, less than an ounce of dried pot and some seedlings.
But the raid so startled the home owner, Henry Goedrich Magee, whose pregnant girlfriend was with him at the time, that he opened fire on police, killing Sowders, according to The Free Thought Project.
(Marvin Louis Guy via Free Thought Project)
Magee was charged with capital murder but a grand jury failed to indict him. They returned a verdict of “no-bill” for murder, finding that he acted in self-defense. He was indicted on charges of marijuana possession.
The decision might provide some hope for Guy. It could signify that people, particularly those seated on a grand jury, are beginning to question the efficacy of no-knock warrants, because the element of surprise places both civilians and officers at risk, with very few positive results.
(Henry Goedrich Magee via Free Thought Project)
Magee’s attorney Dick DeGuerin said that it is a remarkable turn of events.
“I don’t know of any other case where someone shot and killed a police officer in the course of a drug raid has been no-billed by a grand jury,” DeGuerrin said “At least in Texas.”
Guy has pleaded not-guilty to the charges against him.