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Raid Of The Day: Trevon Cole, 21, Killed During Pot Raid

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SWAT TEAM
AP

Note: 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.

In June 2010, Trevon Cole, 21, and fiancee Sequioa Pearce (who was nine months pregnant) were in bed at 9:00 pm on a Friday evening when Las Vegas narcotics officers forced their way into the couple's apartment for a drug raid. Cole dashed to the bathroom to flush a small supply of marijuana down the toilet, but was stopped when Det. Bryan Yant kicked open the bathroom door and apprehended him. What happened next is in dispute, but the raid -- and Cole's life -- ended when Yant fired one round from his rifle into Cole's head at close range. Cole was unarmed.

Yant testified at a coroner's inquest that when he kicked open the bathroom door, Cole was squatting in front of the toilet, and that Cole stood and brought his hands up to a firing stance while holding a shiny object that Yant thought was a gun. Other officers described the action as a "furtive movement." Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens disputed Yant's account, noting that the evidence suggested an an accidental discharge. Yant was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. The inquest uncovered serious errors in the drug investigation leading up to the raid, including the fact that Cole wasn't actually the target of the raid. The police had mistook him for another man by the same name who had several prior marijuana-related charges.

In 2002 Yant had been the subject of another coroner's inquest after shooting a man lying face-down on a sidewalk. Yant claimed that the decedent was aiming a gun at him, but the gun was found 35 feet from the suspect's body. He was cleared in that inquest, too. A 2011 investigation by the Las Vegas-Review Journal found that over a ten-year period, coroners inquests cleared 97 percent of police investigated for shootings or inappropriate use of force.

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Filed by Radley Balko
 
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