POLITICS
03/01/2013 10:31 am ET Updated May 01, 2013

Raid Of The Day: Jeffery Robinson

In July 2002, police in South Memphis raided the home of 41-year-old Jeffery Robinson, a gravedigger who lived in a small building near the cemetery that employed him. The police had received a tip that someone was selling marijuana near the cemetery.

Seconds after kicking down Robinson's door, the raid team shot Robinson in the neck. They later claimed he had charged at them with a box cutter. While he lay in intensive care fighting for his life, Robinson was charged with possession for the small amount of pot the cops found near a camper in the yard behind his home. He died six weeks later.

An internal police review and a review by the Tennessee Attorney General's Office found no wrongdoing on the part of the raiding police officers, and for the next two-and-a-half years, they remained on the force. But a 2004 lawsuit filed by Robinson's family cast doubt on the raid and the credibility of the cops who carried it out. The alleged box cutter Robinson was holding was never fingerprinted. A federal jury later determined it was planted. The shirts worn by Robinson and the officer who shot him vanished after the raid. Trial testimony revealed that police bought a new polo shirt, still in its wrapper, and filed it into evidence as the shirt Robinson wore the night he was shot. A medical examiner and blood spatter expert also testified that the shooting couldn't possibly have happened the way the police claimed it did.

The federal jury concluded that the officers shot Robinson without justification, then tampered with the evidence to cover up their mistakes. The jury didn't believe the investigation conducted by the police department's internal affairs division. The following February, the eight officers involved in the raid were suspended, more than two years after the raid. Robinson's family won $2.85 million in damages against the officers, and negotiated a $1 million settlement from the city.

(The "Raid of the Day" features accounts of police raids I've found, researched, and reported while writing my forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. It's due out in July, but you can pre-order it here.)

Sources: Eight Memphis officers finally suspended in botched drug raid," Associated Press, February 5, 2005; Jacinthia Jones, "8 officers suspended in '02 drug raid--Until now, they remained on force even after jury finding," Memphis Commercial Appeal, February 5, 2005.

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