Law enforcement officials in Galveston County should seriously reconsider the perilous practice of no-knock warrants.

Executing such warrants, which allow officers to enter a home without knocking or otherwise announcing their presence, is a dangerous tactic at odds with a state that reveres the Second Amendment and the right of people to protect themselves in their own homes. In Texas, if you burst into a home in the dark of night using the element of surprise, don’t be surprised to find yourself on the business end of a weapon.

Raiding a Texas residence unannounced is like playing Russian roulette. It puts the targets and law enforcement agents at unnecessary risk.

Yet, after two recent deadly executions of no-knock warrants — one in Houston, the other in League City — local law enforcement officials last week told The Daily News they had no plans to change tactics or even put them under harsher scrutiny.

And when you look at what was accomplished from the no-knock warrants making headlines, it’s even more baffling that local law enforcement agents are being stubbornly resistant to change.

In Houston, officials are reviewing the policies after four Houston police officers executing a no-knock warrant were wounded and two civilians were killed — Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58.

Officer Gerald Goines, who prepared the search warrant, is accused of lying in an affidavit to justify storming the house without warning, according to reports.

Closer to home, in May last year, a League City police officer shot and killed Roger Fortner, 49, when SWAT team members encountered him in his own bedroom with a “samurai-style” sword, which he refused to put down, police said.

Officers entered Fortner’s home on Morning Side Drive in an investigation into reports of drugs and weapons being sold at the residence, police said.

A judge issued that search warrant not in connection to Fortner, but his stepson, Brandon Wilson, 20, of League City.

Police arrested Wilson at the scene and prosecutors later charged him with possession of marijuana and one count of possession of a controlled substance for less than 1 gram of THC investigators detected at the scene, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Wilson on July 25 was sentenced to four years in prison for violating deferred probation of a 2017 charge of tampering with physical evidence, court records show. He also pleaded guilty to the possession of a controlled substance and prosecutors dismissed the possession of marijuana charge, court records show.

League City police officer Matt Maggiolino fired the fatal shot, but has not been charged in the shooting and authorities have not said whether the shooting has been considered by a grand jury.

No-knock warrants are widespread, although controversial. More than 81 civilians and 13 police officers died during such raids between 2010 and 2016, according to a New York Times investigation.

Galveston County officials said they didn’t have plans to review policy on no-knock warrants several days after Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said he or a designee would have to approve seeking such warrants in the future after the Jan. 28 raids that led to the deaths of Tuttle and Nicholas.

District Attorney Jack Roady said no-knock warrants can be critical to ensure officer safety and should be sought when justified by the facts.

Facts justifying the no-knock warrant that cost Fortner his life have been hard to come by, however, indicating that it might be easier than it should be for police to get them.

Everyone wants law enforcement officials to be safe. But it’s hard to see how taking a criminal, believed to be dangerous, by surprise is the safest strategy.

Law enforcement officials in Galveston County should follow Houston’s lead and review their tactics before more civilians and police are wounded and killed.

• Laura Elder

 Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

Managing Editor

(29) comments

Carlos Ponce

"But it’s hard to see how taking a criminal, believed to be dangerous, by surprise is the safest strategy."
There are scenarios where it is best. Other scenarios, a different approach is recommended. That's why we have officials to consider the options. Leave it up to them who by their training, experience, expertise know what is best. Hindsight is 20-20 but a blanket end to "no-knock raids" is not good policy. Leave the decision to those trained to handle it, not armchair quarterbacks.

Emile Pope

Garbage. Law enforcement has to follow the Constitution and those suspected of crimes have rights. To violate them because of the severity of what they’re accused of is reprehensible.

Randy Chapman

Right Emile, unless it's Trump and you believe he's committed a crime.

George Croix

Now THAT's karma, factual AND funny, I don't care who ya are......[beam]

Carlos Ponce

Emile posts, "Law enforcement has to follow the Constitution..." They do.
Look up Quinn v. Texas 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a Texas man whose home was subject to a no-knock police raid. By denying a petition for certiorari in Quinn v. Texas, the Court let stand the lower court ruling rejecting Quinn’s objection to the “no-knock” entry.

Carlos Ponce

Emile, here is the opinion of the 416th Judicial District Court of Collin County, upheld by the Fifth District of Appeals:
https://law.justia.com/cases/texas/fifth-court-of-appeals/2013/05-12-00049-cr-1.html
It refers to the Supreme Court decision in Richards v Wisconsin which found:
"Synopsis of Rule of Law. Not knocking and announcing is allowable under the Fourth Amendment as long as the decision to do so is reasonable under the circumstances."
https://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/criminal-procedure/criminal-procedure-keyed-to-israel/arrest-search-and-seizure/richards-v-wisconsin/
Emile posts, "Law enforcement has to follow the Constitution" The Supreme Court in Richards v Wisconsin says a No-Knock warrant and entry is constitutional. SCOTUS also refused the appeal in Quinn v Texas. Case closed.

Michael Byrd

Another unpleasant fact for LEO haters, No-Knock Warrants are legal and include a remedy if not used properly.

"In a 1995 case, Wilson v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment does require police officers to knock before entering your home and identify themselves before attempting forcible entry, but also ruled that the “flexible requirement of reasonableness should not be read to mandate a rigid rule of announcement that ignores countervailing law enforcement interests.” The Supreme Court left it to the lower courts to determine the “circumstances under which an unannounced entry is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
https://www.infoplease.com/us/supreme-court/supreme-court-using-right-not-knock

Richard Illyes

No knock raids should end. Humans make mistakes, wrong addresses happen. What would you do if someone broke down your door and shot your dog? What should be unthinkable has become routine.

Drug prohibition has done the same thing that alcohol prohibition did. It makes the worst people in our society rich, creates armies of pushers, and causes more drug use than would have occurred without it.

We should move from criminalization to harm reduction and end the drug war. Let an addict go to any physician and get a prescription for his drug. Take the illicit profit out of it and the problem would disappear.

Ron Woody

I want to trust our law enforcement to do what is legal and right and believe decisions are best left in the hands of the experts. I also believe that the more local decisions the better.

Let's examine two different events:
January 25th - 29 Armed FBI Agents, 17 vehicles (2 armored) and a helicopter show up in the early morning of 66 year old unarmed man with a hearing impaired wife.
January 28th - 5 Houston police officers go into the house of known drug dealers, not prepared for what may happen.

When I read these two stories it is extremely difficult for me to put blind faith and trust into Justice or Law Enforcement Officials.

I want to have faith that our Justice and Law Enforcement policies and tactics have become more equitable and improved since the days of J. Edgar Hoover and Janet Reno's Waco debacle, but I do not see the evidence.

Yes, I acknowledge that the two examples I used are at the Federal level and may not reflect local law enforcement. However, my life experience shows me that what is done at the federal level is often filtered and modeled down to the local level, especially since much of the advanced coordination and training is led by federal law enforcement.

Carlos Ponce

"Yes, I acknowledge that the two examples I used are at the Federal level ..."
More like "at the Mueller level". His team is known for their heavy handed tactics. Don't blame the FBI agents, don't blame the Justice Department, blame Mueller for that one.

Carlos Ponce

And Ron Woody, the January 25th situation does not apply. The FBI knocked (actually pounded) on Roger Stone's door. Not a "no - knock" raid.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWTzCNY7_YY

Ron Woody

Carlos, please read what I wrote. The examples I used were J. Edgar Hoover and Janet Reno. Decades before Robert Mueller and the "Licensed to Lie" Andrew Weisman.

I was not comparing the two arrests in regard to no-knock policy, nor did I ever state that. I was comparing the preparedness for the two situations and the judgement or lack thereof by law enforcement.

Carlos, you and I are on the same side, but do not twist my words or intent. It is quite clear what I was stating when I mentioned Hoover and Reno, yet you bring in Mueller.

It was quite evident that I was comparing the level of force and not the method of delivering the warrant.

Again, Carlos you and I agree, but do not twist my words or intent to make your point. You are too intelligent for that and there are plenty of examples to make and prove your point.

Carlos Ponce

"The examples I used were J. Edgar Hoover and Janet Reno."
Roger Stone was 66 and "captured" by the FBI on January 25, 2019. Pardon the confusion but that fits better than OJ Simpson's glove.[wink]

Ron Woody

Other than I am not aware of Federal involvement in the Houston no-knock case.

No worries, no harm, no foul.

Do not even get me started on Ruby Ridge....

Hope to meet and have lunch someday. I enjoy your knowledge and teachable moments. I try to be a life long learner and civil discourse is part of the education.

Ron Woody

Carlos, You also validate the point I was trying to make by adding Mueller to the list of Hoover, Reno and now Mueller.

I want to believe that the DOJ has changed but there is no evidence that it has learned anything from its history.

Jim Forsythe

Atlanta police officers killf 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston
On November 21, 2006, plainclothes officers Jason R. Smith, Gregg Junnier and Arthur Tesler carried out a no-knock drug raid on Johnston’s Atlanta home based on bad information from an informant/marijuana dealer named Alex White. When they broke in, Johnston (who lived alone in a high-crime area of the city and kept a gun in her house for protection) assumed she was being the victim of a home invasion and fired a shot. But a lot more shooting was done by the officers: a total of 39 shots were fired, several of which hit her. And while Johnston was lying on the floor dying, Smith handcuffed her.
On January 4, 2008, narcotics officer Joseph Chavalia shot and killed 26-year-old Tarika Wilson in Lima, Ohio. Wilson, a single mother, had been romantically involved with a suspected drug dealer named Anthony Terry (who later pled guilty to selling drugs). When Chavalia and other narcotics officers raided the house where Wilson was living, Terry was nowhere to be found. Wilson, however, was in one of the bedrooms; when Chavalia fired shots into that bedroom, she was killed. Wilson’s one-year-old child was also shot but survived, although one of his fingers needed to be amputated.
Chavalia later said he thought shots were coming from that bedroom, but the fact that he killed an unarmed woman holding a baby was inexcusable, especially in light of the fact that Wilson, according to her sister Tania Wilson, was not involved in drug sales herself.

Carlos Ponce

The fault lies with the person who issued the "no-knock" warrant with faulty information. A properly issued "no-knock warrant" information is thoroughly vetted before being issued and carried out.
You left out a lot in your post, Jim. "They [the police] arrived in a marked patrol car which was parked in front of the house, and they announced themselves after they opened the door but before entering."
https://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/23/us/23atlanta.html?_r=1
"In a news conference Wednesday, Assistant Chief Alan J. Dreher of the Atlanta Police Department said his officers had returned fire after Ms. Johnston shot three of them."
So they opened the door, announced they were police and she fired on them striking Officers Gary Smith, 38, Gregg Junnier, 40, and Cary Bond, 38.
"Chief Dreher said the officers, who were released from the hospital on Wednesday, had been placed on administrative leave with pay while the shooting is investigated."

George Croix

The reason that Law Enforcement would consider taking a suspected criminal by surprise is pretty much the same as why the Military does not usually notify it's enemies it's about to attack them. Not always, but with pretty good reason when done....

And the guy with the sword was not killed BECAUSE of the no knock itself, he was killed because he failed to put down a deadly weapon when told to do so by Police.
Sword against gun, you say? There are multiple videos showing just how easy it can be for a man with a knife as far as 20' away to close on and even make contact with a man with a firearm.

If no knocks were to be abandoned, then do so for reasons other than those two....imo, as always

Emile Pope

Law enforcement is not the military. People suspected of crimes are not enemies.

George Croix

You are not a firefighter, but you can use their techniques to discharge an extinguisher so you are not harmed or make the fire worse doing so.
You are not an electrician, but you probably can change a light bulb like one would.
You are not a doctor but you can put on a bandaid for the same reasons and in the same way they would......

I'm glad to know that President Donald Trump is not your enemy, or anybody else's....


Emile Pope

Using tactics that soldiers use against people they are at war with against people suspected of breaking the law is beyond laughable...and I am an electrician...

George Croix

Well, that's certainly a surprise............I'd have never guessed in a million years...

But, the good news is you're not a tactician, responsible for keeping others from getting perforated unnecessarily....
Maybe a boxer?
"Hey, Joe Frasier, I'm going to come at you with a left cross then a right uppercut then..." BAM!!....Say goodnight, Mr. Laughable...... [beam][beam][beam]

Emile Pope

You were wrong yet said it with such certainty. Seems to fit a pattern...

George Croix

You might be right, Pope.
I know of no other person who so reliably fits a predictable pattern or being wrong with stated self-certainties than you, and subject matter experts should be considered.....

George Croix

ps:
It's just IMO, but I don't want a dime of my tax money paying for dopers to live their lives in peaceful addiction UNLESS they agree to be placed in a secluded and secure guarded location where they can't possibly harm anyone else either physically or mentally or by association and THEN let Uncle Sam supply all of the escape from reality substances they want until the day they die....which with unlimited supply would come sooner than later....

But, I admit I despise dopers, so my opinion is definitely prejudicial.......

horace norris

we are doomed these days.....and the thinking behind this article is proof....

Rusty Schroeder

Anyone remember Elian Gonzalez ? Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, and the FBI ,,,, now that was a raid.

George Croix

Remember who her Deputy Ag was?
Same guy who 'had the back' of his buddy the President years later, rather than the backs of the people he was sworn to be looking out for.....
Same guy who was sent by his Police hating boss along with about 150 Justice Dept. lawyers to Ferguson to try and find any dirt on the Police to avoid admitting a strong arm robber punk who was trying to get a Policeman's gun away from him got killed lawfully.....
Same guy who lied to Congress (but, no special counsel appointed...) about his part in getting a Border Patrol agent killed and refused to turn over evidence and was Held in Contempt by the US House, with 17 members of his own Party voting for that.....

Ah, nothing like a walk down memory lane on a rainy day....[whistling]

Rusty Schroeder

Yes I do, Eric Holder. Ironic doesn't come close ….[batman]

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