Skip to comments.Prosecutor drops charges in shooting of 4 officers
Posted on 01/13/2003 6:43:29 PM PST by Leisler
Baltimore prosecutors today dropped attempted murder and first-degree assault charges against a man who shot four police detectives during a November drug raid, saying they believe Lewis S. Cauthorne acted in self-defense when he wounded the officers as they barged into his home.
Investigators concluded detectives did not announce that they were police just before smashing down Cauthorne's door with a battering ram and rushing in to look for drugs, State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said at a news conference this morning in Clarence Mitchell Courthouse. Cauthorne was interviewed by police the night of the incident and told them, "I didn't know you guys were police. I thought I was getting robbed," according to law enforcement documents obtained by The Sun. Jessamy confirmed as much today, saying Cauthorne, 26, acted out of a reasonable fear when he fired six shots from a .45-caliber handgun at the raiding officers.
The case against Cauthorne would not hold up in court, Jessamy said, because the raid violated a precedent set in the case of Wilson vs. Arkansas, which held that police bearing search warrants must knock and announce their presence before forcing their way into a home. "This decision rests solely on my sworn duty to weigh all of the facts and evidence in this case, against the laws of our land, and in 1995, the Supreme Court ruled in a manner to provide very clear guidance on the legal issues that impact this case, Jessamy said. "... The burden of proof cannot be sustained.
Acting Police Commissioner John McEntee said today he opposed the decision by prosecutors. "I would have liked to have seen all available charges prosecuted," he said. Speaking at a separate news conference, McEntee said the officers identified themselves and the charges should be pursued. The four officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries. "We feel that this case should have been taken to a judge and or jury to have this decision made," McEntee said.
Cauthorne was released from jail about 7 p.m. today, according to a spokeswoman for the Division of Pretrial Detention. He had been been jailed since the Nov. 19 incident. McEntee also disputed Jessamy's claim that the raid team did not announce its presence. "We very clearly have officers who are making statements who are saying 'I said it.'"
Several officers who broke down the front door of Cauthorne's North Baltimore house were wearing street clothes without department-issued yellow "raid" jackets, and uniformed officers were stationed out of view in the back of the house, the documents show. There was no conclusive evidence that Cauthorne would have known that members of the raid team were police officers, Jessamy's office said in a news release.
In subsequent interviews with investigators, the raid team members were also unable to provide a consensus of what happened as they broke the door down. Some said at least one officer yelled "police" as they entered the house, while others said they couldn't remember what -- if anything -- was spoken in the tense moments before the raid.
According to Jessamy's office, several officers said that the raid team did not announce their police presence before the door was rammed. Neighbors and other witnesses at the scene also indicated that there was no announcement of "police" before the entry, prosecutors said. Statements by the uniformed officers stationed at the back of the house also say nothing of hearing anyone yelling "police" before or during the battering of the door, but they did hear the door being rammed, according to Jessamy's office.
Detective Kevin Rosenborough, a member of the raid team, was asked whether anyone shouted "police search warrant" before the door opened. "Not to my knowledge," Rosenborough answered.
Raid team member Detective Paul Wojcik was asked, "When he knocked, did you hear anyone say anything?" "I, I, I didn't," he answered. Cauthorne's lawyer, Warren A. Brown, said the decision by prosecutors to drop charges against Cauthorne sends a message that the criminal justice system can be fair. "This will instill confidence in the community that just because the police make an accusation, it doesn't mean it's a whitewash," Brown said. "It lends credibility to the criminal justice system when something like this happens."
Police raided the house at 8:55 p.m. with a search warrant after they were told by an anonymous source that drugs were being sold out of the home, in the 1000 block of Cameron Road. The raid yielded six bags with trace amounts of marijuana, empty vials, a razor with cocaine residue and two scales, documents show. Cauthorne, who had no arrest record, was not charged with any drug crimes. A graduate of Northern High School, he is employed at his family's business, a city convenience store. After the shooting, Brown said that Cauthorne's past might have played a role in his reaction to the police raid. In 1990, his father was shot and killed during a robbery of his taxicab. That killing has not been solved.
At the time of the police raid in November, Cauthorne was in his rowhouse with his mother, girlfriend and 3-year-old daughter. The two women started to scream to Cauthorne, who was in the basement at the time, that someone was breaking in to the house. "I didn't hear anybody say, 'police.' I was sitting right there and I would have heard it," said Janie Battle, Cauthorne's girlfriend. "It sounded like they were banging the door down. "We said, 'Who is it?' and no one said anything. We yelled, 'Who is it?' more than once or twice. "We were yelling to Lewis that someone is breaking in the door.
He's thinking someone is invading his home while his family is sitting right there." Officers recounted that after they broke the door down, they began heading up the stairs to the second floor when "they observed an arm reach out from an archway from the dining room area," according to a police account outlined in a document. "The arm was holding a handgun and the person started to fire at the raid team repeatedly." The bullets hit Robert J. Adams in the right thigh and arm, Officer Michael H. Smith in the right leg, Officer James S. Guzie in the left shin and Officer Steven Henson in the left hand. Police returned fire, but neither Cauthorne nor anyone else in the home was injured.
Although union and police officials declined to comment publicly yesterday on the action of prosecutors, many inside the department said they were aware of problems with the raid. While the law requires them to identify themselves, police are often hesitant to knock and tell residents that they are police officers.
Detectives are often worried about giving drug dealers time to flush drugs down toilets or get weapons and attack officers rushing into the house. Jessamy said she planned to meet with McEntee to discuss ways of improving training in executing search and seizure warrants. "What we hope in the future is that this can be used to shore up any problems that may exist out there so that our police officers are as safe as they can be," she said today.
After the Cauthorne shooting, former Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris told his deputies that they must ensure that detectives wear yellow jackets on raids. Legal documents also point out other problems that were identified in connection with the raid. For instance, crime lab technicians were told not to take photographs of the drugs, and there is no record of where the drugs were recovered in the house. Documents also show that members of the raid team were not available to be interviewed by investigators until days or weeks after the incident. Battle, Cauthorne's girlfriend, said she is not angry with police. But she said it frightens her to think about what might have happened. "Police are human beings. I know they make mistakes. When people's lives are at your fingertips you have to be careful," Battle said. "This is an onging problem and it needs to be addressed. Me, Lewis, his mother, our daughter, those officers, any of us could have been killed." Sun staff writers Allison Klein and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.
(Excerpt) Read more at sunspot.net ...
Any amount of drugs that can be flushed down a toilet isn't worth a raid.
You got that right. Definitely not worth anyone's life, either.
Stay safe; stay armed.
Eaker Freeper Status
I make this same comment every time there is a thread regarding no-knock raids. Much safer for everyone to just wait for the suspect to go out in public and then arrest him/her when no one is likely to get hurt.
His life and freedom are forfeit if he stays where these JBT's can get to him.
Not an easy task with a .45 cal handgun. Also noticed that the cops missed everything.
They were just apeing the methods of their federal brethern in the DEA and BATF.
Amen. When the police dress and act like home invasion robbery gangbangers, they can expect to get the same respect. The founders wrote the second ammendment in part to make sure that the state obeys and respects the Constitution. A simple knock on the door by a uniformed officer could have prevented all of this.
Someday then maybe some on FR will most probably be happy with this picture. God knows then you won't have the cops to gripe about.
But then you probably won't have much of anything else, either.
We're crawling with cops, some of whom crap on the Constitution just for grins, and we've got no shortage of bad guys cookin 'caine in the basement, selling drugs to kids, raping women, and killing people's parents...
So we're simply talking about an increase in, and not the advent of, such nefarious people and activities when we get the very last door breakin' cop outa here.
So... What percentage increase in bad-guy-stuff are we looking at?
In other words... How many people who WANT to be bad guys today, RIGHT NOW, are deterred from doing so by the donut patrol?
This may be part of the reason.
Hope this puts it there.
If not,how about someone putting it on the list that knows what they're doing.
If so,sorry but I'm not surprised,Doc's got me on heavy meds and I'm pretty messed up but this thread didn't seem to be getting the notice it should.
Given the shooting skills exhibited I suspect that what is operative here is top to bottom incompetence. They didn't think to get their stories correct and synchronized when things went "wrong."
If they start tellin' the truth 5 minutes after the incident, maybe. These had 6 weeks to see how many witnesses turned up with maybe video or audio tape. No heroes or patriots here.
There are just more of them now. Dallas P.D. and crushed wallboard replacing coke?
Ramparts division executing suspects?
Highway robbers used to wear masks. Now they wear Smoky bear hats and drive black and whites?
'Dynamic entry' a state authorized smash and grab? RICO is Grand Larceny writ large. Remember the little old lady in Florida that was going to pay for her grandson's college with CASH and got stopped and robbed by the Florida State Police because they suspected her of dealing, since no one should have that much cash? (She never did get her money back.)
Maybe the next time someone comes thru the door it's a bad guy, or a cowboy cop with a bad tip. I'll shoot him in the face, and die because I guessed wrong?
How many children have to die because someone DARED to defy you and rabbit?
As others have already pointed out, "all these guys cookin 'caine in the basement can do whatever they want, selling the drugs to your kids, maybe raping your women, and probably killing your parents." and you are doing ef-all to stop it, or even slow it down.
And I'll bet you cry into your donuts, asking the heavens, "Why don't those lousy lying slimy civilians love us?"
Yes, and standing outside and yelling "police" doesn't do it either. Any jerk can do that.
OMG this guy must have been WAY UP on God's good side today.
As to the door kicker deal they now have 4 rottweilers to get past first. New addition to my pup patrol. Havoc ! He joins Tenifer, Chaos and ......Fluffy !
They get by the pups they have me an my defensive tewls to address at that point. 63 degrees up here today :o)
There must be an audio or video tape for that to have happened.
Yessir. This is important.
That old intense rush came back over him, flowing through him stronger than any drug, that thirty year old thrill of waiting motionless in ambush, to be rewarded by the appearance of the unsuspecting enemy in the kill zone
They wouldnt wait now; the snipers and rear security team would already be in position. Ben knew what was coming next, he was ready, he was already wearing his foam earplugs.
He picked up and held in each hand a small green electricity generating clacker the size of a computer mouse, each was attached to a thin green wire. They originally came packed with claymore mines, the mines were long gone but the clackers remained.
--------------------------------------------------------- The FBI SWAT team members crouched on the low porch on each side of the front door and looked away, ready for their small breaching charges to blow it inward. A pair of SWAT team members outside the master bedroom was going to initiate the assault by breaking and raking his window with a long handled sledge hammer, and then immediately tossing in two def-tek flash bang grenades with two second delay fuses. The front door breaching charges would be fired the instant that they heard the window shatter, and they would be on top of their man in less than five seconds. They knew just how long it would take, because they had already run through the precise maneuver a dozen times today in full assault gear, on a mockup house with moveable walls inside a darkened hanger on their base at Quantico. They trained and trained and trained, but arresting a violent felon never became routine, and now their adrenaline was surging as it always did.
Each crouching man held his MP-5 with its integral sound suppressor and barrel mounted gun light in front of him, their stocks tucked into their shoulders. Their gloved right index fingers all rested just outside their trigger guards, their right thumbs rested lightly on their safety switches. Their left thumbs were all on the rubber pressure switches wired to the high intensity lights mounted under the gun barrels. One long curved magazine of ten millimeter frangible rounds was in the well of each of their sound suppressed MP-5s, another thirty round magazine was strapped alongside it for a faster first reload, even more magazines were in the pouches of their tactical vests. In each left ear a tiny radio speaker kept them synchronized to the plan as they counted down to one.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ben Mitchell stood peering out between the curtains of the garage window, his hands holding the twin claymore mine clackers firmly, waiting for the assault team to move first, waiting for them to initiate the violence. He saw one of the men below his bedroom window stand tall, leaning over his hedges with a sledge hammer held back over his head, his partner stood up behind him. The long hammer came down through his window, exploding it, and then was raked in a swift circle clearing the screen and the glass shards away as the second man tossed in two small cylinders, flash bang grenades. At the moment that the glass shattered there was a flash of light and a roaring boom from his front porch, and the assault team rose up and went flooding inside.
Ben squeezed both hinged clackers hard and twin electrical charges shot down the thin green wires at the speed of light to the military blasting caps at the other ends.
From my novel Enemies Foreign And Domestic.Scroll to the second half of the chapter to see what happens.
The Guns of Brixton
When they kick at your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun
When the law break in
How you gonna go?
Shot down on the pavement
Or waiting on death row
You can crush us
You can bruise us
But you'll have to answer to
Oh, the guns of Brixton
For my part, I've got three 70# chow-chows, an FN-FAL and my Barry Mowry custom .45 at arms reach at all times--and a gun safe in the corner with a door that opens away from the wall so's I can go into safe-door defilade...
Hey, If he could smoke 4 cops on a botched 'no-knock', I don't think he has to worry about 'guys cookin 'caine in the basement'....
If you are a cop, you are here to safeguard my rights. I'll handle the 'guys cookin caine in the basement' if you'll handle protecting my rights.