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.
On the night of January 5, 2011, police in Framingham, Massachusetts conducted a drug raid on a Fountain Street apartment. They were looking for 2o-year-old Joseph Bushfan and Dwayne Barrett. Police allege an undercover officer had purchased drugs from the two men earlier that evening.
Bushfan was arrested minutes before the raid when he came out of the apartment. Barrett didn't reside at the residence. But the police went ahead with the raid, anyway. They took a battering ram to the door, set off a flash grenade, and forced their way inside. As the SWAT team moved through the house, screaming at everyone to get on the floor, Officer Paul Duncan approached 68-year-old Eurie Stamp. Stamps lived at the residence with his wife Norma Bushfan-Stamps, the mother of suspect Joseph Bushfan. Stamps, who was not suspected of any crime, was watching a basketball game in his pajamas when the police came in. By the time Duncan got to him in a hallway, he was lying face-down on the floor with his arms over his head, as per police instructions.
Duncan would later tell investigators that for his own safety, he decided to restrain Stamps, even though he was following instructions, and wasn't the suspect. From his interview:
"I make a decision at that point. My options are, focus on him like this and say, 'Don't move, don't move.' But what happens if there's a gun or something hidden anywhere and he just reaches quick? What happens? . . . I decided I'm going to go beside of him, get his hands behind his back, not to handcuff him, but just tighten up on his hands and kneel down on him so he can't reach for anything at all. In the back of my mind it takes any threat that maybe someplace I can't see completely out of the equation as far as any firearms or weapons,"
As Duncan moved to pull Stamps' arms behind him, he says he fell backwards, somehow causing his gun to discharge, shooting Stamps. The grandfather of 12 was shot dead in his own home, while fully complying with police orders during a raid over crimes in which he had no involvement.
The following March, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone described the shooting this way:
As he stepped to his left, (Duncan) lost his balance and began to fall over backwards. Officer Duncan realized that his right foot was off the floor and the tactical equipment that he was wearing was making his movements very awkward. While falling, Officer Duncan removed his left hand from his rifle, which was pointing down towards the ground and put his left arm out to try and catch himself. As he did so, he heard a shot.
Leone's report never explains how the gun fired -- if Duncan improperly had his finger on the trigger, if he inadvertently latched on to the trigger as he fell, or if the gun somehow fired on its own. In any case, per Leone's account, the bulky equipment Duncan was wearing to protect himself may have contributed to his killing of Stamps.
Leone ruled the shooting an accident, and found no fault with the way Duncan or the SWAT team performed. While it's true that criminal charges against Duncan were probably unwarranted, it's also true that citizens who mistakenly shoot police officer during drug raids aren't afforded the same sort of consideration. The double standard is particularly bothersome when you consider that police get training on how to handle these situations, citizens don't; that police have the advantage of knowing what's about to happen; and that the tactics used in these raids, by their very design, are intended to confuse and disorient their targets.
Ultimately, another innocent, unarmed person was shot dead by a cop in the course of a highly-volatile raid on a private home. But according to police and the local prosecutors, the cop wasn't responsible. Nor, they said, were the policies that sent the SWAT team into a man's home at night to enforce laws against consensual crimes in the first place. Certainly, the victim wasn't responsible. Which can only mean that the occasional innocent, unarmed grandfather of 12 gunned down in his own home while watching basketball in his pajamas is a price Massachusetts officials are willing to pay to prevent people from getting high.