Breonna Taylor was shot in bed by police on 13 March 2020 during a no-knock drug raid aimed at a pills-by-mail scheme. The targets of the warrant were already in police custody at the time of the raid.
And then there are the events of March 12th: Duncan Lemp was shot in a no-knock raid at his home in Maryland. Police received an anonymous tip about him owning a gun illegally. They used that as justification for the warrant.
To which I say: So what if he did? We should still be upset about his death, just as we are at hers. Not rioting and looting and spraying like an incontinent tomcat on an all-ink diet, but definitely upset and working to change things. Every one of these deaths should register, be counted, and matter.
Having said that…
I don’t care about Breonna Taylor being black. I notice, I pay attention, but in this context I believe it’s irrelevant, and perhaps even a distraction. In George Floyd’s death it may well have been a factor; in Taylor’s, I simply can’t see it. Lemp was white and also (maybe) got shot in bed, and for a broadly similar reason: He owned a gun. But, to be honest, I’m not upset about that.
I’m pissed off ’cause she was an EMT and she got shot in bed during a no-knock raid. I’ve got nothing against Lemp or Big George, but I’m sticking with my one thing for now. Other people can be pissed about their things too and that’s fine. I’ve got one thing here that’s concrete and without distraction or variation, with no shades of gray and no hares to chase or hairs to split. For this one moment in time I’m concentrating on this one death.
And there is simply no excuse.
I don’t want the guys that shot her imprisoned, strangely enough. Oh sure, if the investigation shows they broke procedure, there should be hell to pay — but I’m not out for vengeance here. I’d like the person that ordered a raid after the suspects were in custody to stop giving orders from here on out — whatever the appropriate measure is to keep that one error from happening again, we take it. If that means firing a judge, we fire the judge.
But the cause of this young lady’s death was not so much individual cops or bullets, who were merely tools. She was killed by a system, a circumstance, a procedure, and a set of laws.
The circumstance is the unjustified raid and warrant. We just fixed that.
The procedure is the no-knock warrant. Those have a legitimate place in the universe of law enforcement. They’re a tool, just like a SkilSaw, and also like a SkilSaw they’re something I should never use or I’ll start dropping fingers. The same way, this tool should almost never be used. When it is, that event should make national headlines. So let’s make that happen.
The set of laws is the War On Drugs. Time to end it. We lost, and the only people we’re hurting are ourselves.
And then there’s the system. That’s big, amorphous, and not amenable to simplistic analysis.
But hell, I just fixed three of the problems right now and, while pretty damn smart, I’m hardly unique in holding these three opinions. More to the point, I’ve got a strong feeling that fixing these three contributes something toward correcting the system as a whole.
Which is why I mention Lemp; he’s the perfect test case.
Three months before the raid, someone anonymously tipped the police that he had a gun and shouldn’t. He’s an active user of social media, so much so that it should be evident to anyone who checks that he has strong opinions about firearms and police intrusions into private residences. All this together makes for an extremely strong argument that, in event of a no-knock warrant, he’ll be actively shooting at people he believes are criminals breaking into his house and trying to kill him.
Is this a case where you want a no-knock raid?
The “yes” argument is, if you knock politely, there’s a chance he’ll refuse to open the door. In that event, you’re looking at a potential hostage situation in a suburban environment. Which is very much not good.
So… why not lure him outdoors? Why not stake out the dumpsters and wait for him to take out the trash? If you want to rush things, why not mail him a three-days-dead stinky fish?
When asked, the response was that it’s an inefficient use of manpower. He might be a week before taking the trash out, and there’s no sense leaving officers on a stakeout for that long. After all, it’s not like he’s a drug kingpin or anything; he’s one guy, and it’s a minor crime. Can’t justify it.
Which is why it seems to me you also can’t justify the no-knock warrant. If you want him, take him outside his house, and then search the house without him present. He doesn’t get shot; none of the arresting officers get shot; the law gets its due.
So. Likewise in Lemp’s case, whoever decided that his apartment was a good place to raid really needs to stop being involved in active investigations. No-knock warrants should be extremely rare. And the set of laws are called “Red Flag Laws”, which seem reasonable on the face of things but, again, are a prohibition against an adult’s ownership of an item which someone else thinks might be dangerous.
There are a lot of extraneous facts about these cases that might distract you. One of them is that Taylor was black and Lemp white; ignore it — they’re both equally dead. Likewise, Taylor wasn’t the subject of the warrant but Lemp was; again, that’s irrelevant, as Lemp’s pregnant girlfriend was also shot and wounded while in bed. The difference is a matter of luck, and so it’s not germane.
You’ll read that Lemp was a white supremacist. I’ve looked into that and found zero evidence. He was pro-gun, liked cryptocurrencies, and supported Second Amendment rights groups. He believed police should be stood down and citizens militias formed in their place, and he was a little paranoid. These are not crimes; they’re an accurate description of most of the people I talk to on the Internet.
You’ll read that police suspected either Taylor or her boyfriend of being accessories in illegal drug shipments by mail. Their address had apparently been used by the people arrested; they’d allegedly picked up UPS packages there and gone indoors. Again, this is immaterial; there was even less cause to go inside on a no-knock warrant, as Taylor worked regularly outside the home.
What distracts me is still this: Breonna Taylor was an EMT, and by all accounts a wonderful person. Duncan Lemp’s girlfriend was pregnant, in bed, and still got shot by police. It really pisses me off that nobody apparently cares enough to find out what her name is, or if she survived getting shot by police. And try as I might, I can’t help that. I’ve been trying to write this in my usual detached manner, and I just can’t.
NOTE: I’m told her name is Kasey, and that she’s still alive. There’s more information out there, but if she wants to share that with the public she can choose to do so. It’s not up to me.
I hate like hell to ask for money here. I feel like I should be linking to a Breonna Taylor GoFundMe or something. But it strikes me that one of the few ways we can solve these problems is for reasonable voices to talk about them, and if I’m not a reasonable voice, you should probably find one and let me know.
Or, you know, don’t give me money. I’ll understand that message too.