In January 1992, a Gregg County, Texas narcotics team conducted a 2 am raid on the home of 84-year-old Annie Rae Dixon. According to police, an informant told them he had bought crack from Dixon's granddaughter.
Dixon, a paraplegic, was also bedridden with pneumonia at the time. When Officer Frank Baggett, Jr. kicked open the door to Dixon's bedroom, he'd say later, he stumbled, causing his gun to accidentally discharge, which sent a bullet directly into Dixon's chest. She died moments later. There were no drugs in Dixon's home. The raid team was also out of its jurisdiction. Dixon lived just across the county line in Smith County.
A subsequent inquest split with a hung verdict, divided along racial lines. (Baggett is white, Dixon was black.) Five months later a grand jury declined to charge Baggett with a crime. Dixon's death set off racial tensions in the town of Tyler. Andrew Mellontree, a black county commissioner, expressed the frustration of blacks in the area to the New York Times. "People can't accept the idea that a 84-year-old grandmother gets shot in her bed and it's not even worth a negligence charge," he said.
Once again, an innocent person died in a drug raid that turned up no drugs, weapons, or criminal charges. Once again, no one was held accountable, and no policies were changed. And so once again, the inevitable message sent to Annie Rae Dixon's friends, relatives, and community is that dead innocent 84-year-old women are a regrettable but inevitable--and therefore acceptable--occasional outcome in the war on drugs. Annie Rae Dixon was more collateral damage.
"We're used to the oops syndrome," local activist Rev. Daryl Bowdre told CBS News. "They can come in with their guns cocked and the gun misfires and somebody dies, and it's, 'Oops. Sorry.' But when you start killing our 84-year-old grandmothers, you know, that--that's when enough is enough."
(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.)