The woman, identified by relatives as 92-year old Kathryn Johnson, opened fire on the officers from the narcotics division at a house at 933 Neal Street, according to officials. Authorities say they received a tip of drug activity taking place at the home and officers were headed to the house with a search warrant.There is a whole lot of this story that ain't being told.
The woman's niece, Sarah Dozier, says that she bought her aunt a gun to protect herself and that her aunt had a permit for the gun. Relatives believe Johnston was frightened by the officers and opened fire.
Assistant Chief Alan Dreher says the officers had a legal warrant and "knocked and announced" before they forced open the door. He said they were justified in returning fire when they were fired upon.The plainclothes Atlanta Police officers were transported to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment. One officer was struck in the arm, one officer was struck in the shoulder and one officer was struck in the thigh. All are expected to recover.
Officers that are executing a search warrant have to be extrememly careful about a number of things. First, you have to be damned sure you have the right house. Second, you have to make sure that you are easily identified. Third, you have to bring enough officers to properly secure the house once you're inside.
I spent a lot of my career in plainclothes. Depending on my duties, I'd either wear a coat and tie or khakis and a polo shirt. When I'd execute a warrant, I'd bring along a minimum of six officers, and we'd suit up in vests and jackets that had POLICE plainly stenciled across the front and back. If I could get some uniformed officers to go with me, I had them. In executing a search warrant, the more the merrier.
Then, before you head out, everyone gets briefed. Everything is double-checked, and everybody knows their duties. Normally, I wanted one officer on the team that had enough experience to stop everyone and say "Don't do that. You're gonna get somebody hurt."
I'm not going to pass judgement on another officer. Large city policing is different from small-city policing. I always tried to make sure that one officer on the team personally knew the people that we were going to search, and that officer knocked on the door. That is a whole lot easier to do in a small community.
Sometimes it takes two or three minutes to have somebody inside come to the door. If the occupants are asleep or in the bathroom, it isn't uncommon to wait a few minutes before the door is opened. Kicking doors down is often counter-productive and is a good way to take a trip to the hospital.
I personally decry the seemingly common tactic of deploying a SWAT team for conducting search warrants. Those guys have a place in police work, but I think that the rank and file relies on them too much. SWAT should train more and be used less. When you need the team, you need them badly, and they should be in magnificent physical condition, superbly trained and equipped, and ready to take on the worst possible scenario. I love a good SWAT team, like training with them, like watching them deploy, yet I hate having to call them out. They should be saved for the time when things are headed for the crapper and lethal force is likely to be needed.
A common search warrant isn't the time nor place for SWAT. It's a whole lot better to work smart than it is to work strong in executing a warrant. I'm not even sure if the SWAT team was called for this warrant. They aren't mentioned in the article, but it seems likely that the officers had to force themselves into the home. And, three officers are down, so maybe calling the team would have been prudent. There are a lot of details left unreported in the article.
I said earlier that I'm not going to pass judgement on other officers or agencies before all the information is in, but based on the information in the article, something went terribly wrong between the briefing and the execution.
That's a shame.