WND has been reporting on the trend to militarize local police departments for more than a decade. Here is a list of reports on the trend, which recently has begun to garner significant additional attention:
WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah wrote in a 1998 column titled “The cops are out of control” that while in years past seeing a police officer gave him a sense of security, it was no longer the case because of recent actions at the time by SWAT teams.
“The recent incidents in Oklahoma, where police shot an unarmed mother holding her child in her home, in Virginia, where a SWAT team killed a watchman guarding a dice game at an after-hours club and in California, where a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raid on a gun shop resulted in the death of the shopkeeper, provide some hard evidence that police in America may be getting out of control,” Farah said.
He went on to note the danger of police agencies acquiring military gear even back then.
“The biggest danger we face is the federalization and militarization of all law enforcement. Inter-agency task forces, bringing together local and state police with federal agents are now the rule of the day,” Farah noted. “Federal agencies bribe local cops with funding, equipment and training programs.”
In 1999, there was a report about law enforcement officers in El Monte, Calif., executing a no-knock warrant when they raided the home of a retired grandfather while looking for drugs. The elderly gentleman was shot twice in the back by the city’s SWAT team who then hauled his widow out of the house in nothing but panties, a towel and plastic handcuffs. The supposed drugs were nowhere to be found.
During the raid, the officers shot the locks off the doors, fired a “diversionary device” into a back bedroom and a flash grenade on the ground behind the house. The incident is even more shocking when one considers it occurred in Los Angeles County, well outside the officers’ jurisdiction.
20 armed agents
In 1998, there was WND’s report that 20 heavily armed federal agents and local sheriff’s deputies descended from a military helicopter onto rocky Santa Cruz Island off the California coast. As snipers moved into position along the ridge tops to secure the perimeter of the attack area, other agents staged dynamic entries into the buildings – rousting 15-year-old Crystal Graybeel, who was sleeping late in her cabin.
“They started screaming, ‘Put your hands where we can see them.’ They unzipped my sleeping bag. I had to get face down on the floor and they handcuffed me,” the teenager said.
She recalled the intruders wore ski masks and carried machine guns. They kept her handcuffed for two hours.
The target of the raid? A 6,500-acre bow-and-arrow hunting ranch, the last bastion of private property on the island. The raid resulted in three arrests – volunteer Rick Berg, 35, and caretakers Dave Mills, 34, and Brian Krantz, 33 – on suspicion of robbing Chumash Indian graves and taking human remains and artifacts, charges they denied.
WND report in 1999 a proposed change in a federal regulation that would allow federal agencies to donate “surplus” firearms to state and local law enforcement entities.
The previous regulation permitted federal agencies to donate or sell trucks, boats, aircraft and even space vehicles to state and local agencies and to individuals, but the federal property management regulations drew a line in the sand when it came to agencies like the Forest Service or FBI transferring actual weapons either by gift or sale.
Under the new regulations, used handguns, rifles, shotguns, individual light automatic weapons up to 50 caliber, and rifle and shoulder-fired grenade launchers up to 75 mm could be transferred to state agencies for donation to state and local public agencies.
A 1999 article reported George and Katrina Stokes were watching TV in their southeastern Washington, D.C., home when the local SWAT team crashed through the front door armed like something out of a Arnold Schwarzenegger film.
George was forced to the ground at gunpoint, cutting his head in the process while his wife fell down the basement stairs in an attempt to evade the intruders. A local television crew happened to be along on the raid with cameras running. When the SWAT team realized they had raided the wrong house, they simply ran back to their cars and drove off in search of the right address.
Might be a gun?
Just this year, WND reported police in Texas executed a no-knock warrant solely on the basis they believed the occupant of the house may have had a gun.
Police believed there was an AK-47 rifle inside the home after receiving a tip that the homeowner’s son had drugs in the home. Police found less than a gram of cocaine.
A 2000 WND story told how police officers in Lebanon, Tenn., raided the home of 64-year-old John Adams as he was watching television.
After hearing knocking at the door, John’s wife, Loriane, went to answer. There was no reply when she asked for identification. As she stood there, the door was kicked in and five officers stormed the house, immediately cuffing Loriane.
John was killed after officers said he came at them with a shotgun and they were forced to fire back. Neighbors said John probably believed the attack was a home invasion. It was later revealed the officers had the wrong house and shot the wrong man.
While Adams’ name was on the warrant, the description of Adams’ home and the warranted house did not match. The house the officers intended to raid was actually next door.
In 2004, landscape contractor Blair Davis was stunned when he answered the door of his Houston home and he found himself looking down the barrel of a pistol.
The barrel and nearly a dozen others like it – drawn and ready for action – belonged to the more than 10 members of the Harris County Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force. Once inside, the team shouted Davis down to the floor. The reason for the raid was officers thought several ornamental Texas hibiscus plants were marijuana.
Targeting smoke shop
Police raids have even been conducted on Indian reservations. In 2003, a Rhode Island State Police raid on the Narragansett Indian tribe’s newly opened tax-free smoke shop turned into a violent melee that sent eight tribal members to the hospital and another seven – including the chief – to jail.
The tobacco shop was opened on tribal land over the objections of the state’s governor, Don Carcieri, who deemed the shop illegal.
Footage by a local TV station showed a line of troopers entering the parking lot of the shop pushing their way past resistant tribal members. Fists flew and troopers wrestled tribal leaders to the ground and handcuffed them. At one point, a trooper grabbed a tribal member standing guard outside of the smoke shop by the throat, while Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas grabbed the trooper from behind in a bear hug.
Christian non-profits have not been immune to the military-style tactics by officers. WND noted in 2010 that the Federal Drug Administration spearheaded a raid against Daniel Chapter One, a ministry that supports itself in part by providing health counseling and nutritional supplements.
Jim Feijo, founder of the organization told WND he had no idea why the government raided his offices, but he noted that the raid came Sept. 22, a week after a federal judge refused to allow the FTC to levy a massive fine against Daniel Chapter One for refusing to send a letter to customers saying in effect that their products were worthless.
“They patted Jim down and removed him from the office. They didn’t show me a warrant. They came in very aggressively, that was needless,” said Tricia Feijo, Jim’s wife and partner and a trained homeopath.
“They locked us out of the building and for the next four hours they went through everything. They took personal correspondence, they took phone records. It’s so over the top that they’re going through personal e-mail to see if I told a friend how to use a certain product, or told somebody what they could do for an illness.”
Come to your doctor
In 2008, WND reported an incident involving SWAT members of a Colorado sheriff’s department who stormed a family’s house and held them at gunpoint to take custody of an 11-year-old for a medical exam sought by social services.
The 11-year-old, Jonathan Shiflett, had suffered bruises while horsing around in a mobile home park near New Castle where the family lives. But his father, Tom Shiflett, refused to allow paramedics who arrived after a neighbor apparently called 911 to treat his son. The father refused to allow the ambulance crew to take Jonathan to a hospital.
Multiple visits by police officers and sheriff’s deputies brought the same response, as did a visit from Social Services employees, who reported to court authorities:
“Thomas Shiflett shouted at this worker and advised this worker that if he obtained a court order, he better ‘bring an army,’” according to an affidavit filed by Matthew McGaugh, a caseworker for the Garfield County Department of Social Services.
The statement to “bring an army” was the basis for the sheriff’s executing a SWAT raid despite a court order simply directing him to search the home and remove the child.
Also in 2008, John and Jackie Stowers, along with their children, were held at gunpoint by a SWAT team while their food supplies were confiscated.
“The Stowerses and their 10 children and grandchildren were detained in one room of their home for six hours while sheriff’s officers confiscated 60 boxes of fresh farm food, computers, phones and records, including USDA-certified meat from the children’s mini-farm,” according to lawyers for the family.
The couple was providing a private food cooperative for their friends and neighbors. However, an undercover agent persuaded the couple to sell him a dozen eggs. After they did so, authorities used the sale as the basis for their raid, claiming they were operating a food store.
I told you this was wrong address
Last year, agents from the BATF conducted a raid on the home of Linda Greigo and threatened her son after entering her home without a warrant while looking for the previous tenant of the home, who had lived there over a year before.
Greigo told WND that after officers broke in they pointed multiple machine pistols with laser sights on her 8-year-old son, Colby.
Officers had previously visited the house in an attempt to locate Angela Hernandez, and each time Greigo informed them that the woman did not live there anymore. She even went so far as to tell them how to locate Hernandez.
“I tell them to contact social services because she is getting government benefits. She is on Section 8 housing, if the state is paying her rent, they should be able to find her,” Griego said. “I have even seen her at Wal-Mart all the time. How hard can it be for authorities to track this woman down?”
Despite the helpful tip, officers eventually came to her house and broke in without knocking. On the day of the incident, around 6:30 a.m., Griego was in the shower getting ready for work when she heard a knock on the door.
Dressed only in a towel she answered the door and was violently grabbed and yanked outside where she was pushed up against the house and handcuffed by authorities.
It was only after emptying her purse and seeing her ID they realized she was not the person they were after.