Kathryn Johnson, Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, and David Hooks and their respective families all have a common bond here in Georgia, no knock warrants. Phonesavanh is still alive, although he faces a life of challenges due to injuries he received in Habersham County. Johnson and Hooks were not as lucky as both were killed by the police during the raids in their homes in Fulton and Laurens County respectively. Both Johnson and Hooks armed themselves, likely thinking their houses were being broken into by criminals.
Kathryn Johnson’s raid brought light to the issue of no knock warrants years ago. In her case, officers were convicted of planting and fabricating evidence to obtain the warrant and justify the raid. In that case, a confidential informant reportedly gave erroneous information about buying drugs from her home. The raid on David Hooks home was also the result of bad information. A burglar was caught in a vehicle that he stole from Hooks and was in possession of meth. He claimed the meth came from Hooks’ vehicle, and the warrant was served the same day.
There is a time and place for warrants to be served, and there may even be cases where a no-knock warrant is applicable. That said, with great power comes great responsibility.
When Georgians can’t feel safe and secure in their own homes, they depend on the police to provide that security. Who provides the security when the people fear the police?
I’ve had an experience with the police knocking on my door late at night. It began with my oldest child coming into the bedroom and telling my wife that she saw a light in her room. I didn’t pay much attention at first thinking she was seeing the light from cars going up the street or something.
When I sat up in bed to talk to her, I saw a beam from a flashlight hitting my bedroom door. My bedroom is upstairs, but the doorway is right above the front door with an open foyer and balcony separating the two. It actually looked like someone was inside the house with a flashlight, so I grabbed my gun and told my wife to get the girls and hide.
When I started walking towards my door to peek over the balcony, they started banging on the door. At this time, I still had no idea of who it was, and for all I knew, it was someone casing out my house to break in.
I stood near the balcony so that I could see who was at the door without them seeing me. As I eased up closer to the railing, the flashlight came back up towards my direction, and I could make out two people on either side of my front door. Once they realized what was in my hand, they immediately put the light on their badges and announced who they were.
Now, had I exercised my right to defend my home while in fear for the safety of my family, I could have started a shootout like the OK Corral that night. Instead, I used restraint to see what was actually going on before I did my John Rambo impression. The situation turned out that they wanted to check my backyard for something allegedly tossed there by someone they had just arrested. The item wasn’t there, and while we were searching, the detective acknowledged that he saw what I had in my hand. He had the same desire as I had to avoid any issues, and he apologized for the manner in which they had arrived.
Experiencing that, I can not imagine the fear, chaos, and other emotions that would be set off in a no-knock raid. If such a thing has to happen, then there should be ample assurances that the necessity is there, and the warrant is valid. No person should ever have to worry about the police knocking down their door and losing their life over a warrant that was issued due to flawed or erroneous information.
The Fourth Amendment is supposed to ensure that we’re secure in our persons and homes, but only when that protection is upheld. It wasn’t upheld for the three mentioned earlier, and unfortunately, they are not the only ones affected. When those who we entrust to protect us are in fact harming us, who do we turn to for protection?