#185 How The Drug War Kills Children

Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000
Subject: FA: How The Drug War Kills Children

We apologize for the duplicate post. Due to a typo, the initial Focus
Alert went out with an incorrect Email address for the target paper
the L.A. Times. ———

How The Drug War Kills Children


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #185 Sunday September 25, 2000

Drug prohibition took another young life recently when 11-year-old
Alberto Sepulveda was shot in the back and killed by police during a
drug raid at his family’s home in Modesto, Ca. The story was reported
in newspapers around the country, but not as widely or with as much
soul-searching if Alberto Sepulveda’s killer was another child.

The drug war has been the cause of many tragic fatalities, and many of
the dead (like Alberto) were neither drug users nor drug sellers. A
recent oped from the LA Times (below) mentions a few of them. It also
explains that when we give SWAT teams license to burst into homes with
total disregard for the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, its
only natural for incidents like this to occur.

Please write a letter to the LA Times to remind editors and readers
that prohibition supporters often claim to be protecting children, but
the drug war itself has no regard for the age of its victims.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


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Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Contact: letters@latimes.com



URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00.n1414.a07.html
Newshawk: http://www.cannabisnews.com/
Pubdate: Fri, 22 Sep 2000
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Los Angeles Times
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Address: Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: (213) 237-7679
Website: http://www.latimes.com/
Forum: http://www.latimes.com/discuss/
Author: Sharon Dolovich
Note: Sharon Dolovich Is an Acting Professor at UCLA School of Law


Alberto Sepulveda is no Elian Gonzalez. When 11-year-old Sepulveda was
shot and killed last week by a SWAT team member during an early
morning drug raid on his parents’ Modesto home, the story barely made
the papers. Yet, as did the Immigration and Naturalization Service
raid on the Gonzalez home in Miami in May, the killing of Alberto
Sepulveda highlights a troubling trend in law enforcement: stealth
raids on the homes of sleeping citizens by heavily armed government

Such raids are the hallmark of police states, not free societies, but
as a growing number of Americans can attest, the experiences of these
two boys are by no means isolated incidents.

Just ask the widow of Mario Paz. She was asleep with her husband in
their Compton home at 11 p.m. in August 1999 when 20 members of the
local SWAT team shot the locks off the front and back doors and
stormed inside. Moments later, Mario Paz was dead, shot twice in the
back, and his wife was outside, half-naked in handcuffs. The SWAT team
had a warrant to search a neighbor’s house for drugs, but Mario Paz
was not listed on it. No drugs were found, and no member of the family
was charged with any crime.

And then there is Denver resident Ismael Mena, a 45-year-old father of
nine, killed last September in his bedroom by SWAT team members who
stormed the wrong house.

Or Ramon Gallardo of Dinuba, Calif., shot 15 times in 1997 by a SWAT
team with a warrant for his son.

Or the Rev. Accelyne Williams of Boston, 75, who died of a heart
attack in 1994 after a Boston SWAT team executing a drug warrant burst
into the wrong apartment.

SWAT teams, now numbering an estimated 30,000 nationwide, were
originally intended for use in emergency situations, hostage-takings,
bomb threats and the like. Trained for combat, their arsenals (often
provided cut rate or free of charge by the Pentagon) resemble those of
small armies: automatic weapons, armored personnel carriers and even
grenade launchers.

Today, however, SWAT units are most commonly used to execute drug
warrants, frequently of the “no-knock” variety, which are issued by
judges and magistrates when there is reason to suspect that the 4th
Amendment’s “knock and announce” requirement, already perfunctorily
applied, would be dangerous or futile, or would give residents time to
destroy incriminating evidence.

California is one of few states that does not allow no-knock warrants.
But the fate of Alberto Sepulveda–who was shot dead an estimated 60
seconds after the SWAT team “knocked and announced”–suggests the
problem is not the type of warrant issued but the use of military tactics.

The state’s interest in protecting evidence of drug crimes from
destruction, or even in preventing the escape of suspected drug
felons, does not justify the threat to individual safety, security and
peace of mind that the use of these tactics represents. On this, the
now-famous image of a terrified Elian facing an armed INS agent speaks
volumes. Even when no shot is fired, these raids leave in their wake
families traumatized by memories of an armed invasion by government

Police officers, too, are shot in these raids, barging unannounced
into homes where weapons are kept. These shootings may appear to
confirm the dangerousness of the criminals being pursued, until one
realizes that they are committed when people are caught by surprise by
intruders in their own homes and not unreasonably, if unfortunately,
grab a weapon to defend themselves. (Suspects also die in these shoo
touts. Troy Davis, 25, was shot point blank in the chest by Texas
police who broke down his door during a no-knock raid in December 1999
and found him with a gun in his hand. Police had been pursuing a tip
that Davis and his mother were growing marijuana. His gun was legal.)

Using paramilitary units to enforce drug warrants is the inevitable
result of the government’s tendency to see itself as fighting a “war
on drugs.” This rhetoric makes it easy to forget that the targets in
these raids are not the enemy but fellow citizens, and that the laws
being enforced are supposed to ensure a safe, peaceful, well-ordered
society. If lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento are genuinely
committed to defending the right of the American people to be safe and
secure in their own homes, they would demand an accounting for the
thousands of drug raids executed by SWAT teams every year all over the
country, raids that get little media attention but nonetheless leave
their targets traumatized and violated. Assuming, that is, that they
leave them alive.

Sharon Dolovich Is an Acting Professor at UCLA School of



Dear Editor:

Sharon Dolovich hit the nail on the head (Invasion of SWAT Teams
Leaves Trauma and Death LAT 9/22) in pointing out our inexorable march
towards a police state in the name of “protecting” us from drugs but
her article should probably be expanded into a multi-part series.

Home invasions by black clad SWAT teams are increasing at an alarming
rate and innocent people being killed by those sworn “to protect and
serve” with ever increasing frequency nationwide. What we may not
realize, however, is that a dozen other societal horror stories are
simultaneously causing untold damage to our Bill of Rights, individual
liberties, and the love of freedom our forefathers had hoped for.

In the name of the “war on drugs,” we have wasted hundreds of billions
of dollars, incarcerated more of our citizens than any other country
in the world, implemented mandatory minimums, and rendered 1.5 million
minorities with felony convictions ineligible to vote in this
election. “Driving while black” harassment, the Rampart and similar
scandals, “testilying” by police officers and a loss of respect for
law enforcement can all be traced to the foolish notion that we ever
had a chance of making prohibition work. When will we wake up and
realize that prohibition has never worked once in the entire history
of man? It only creates a criminal black market which leads to
increased use and skyrocketing related crime.

Many think that drugs are bad so the drug war must be good. I would
urge those people to reconsider. Drug use and the related damage of
that use are relatively minor in the face of the tremendous damage
this foolish drug war has caused our society.

Mark Greer

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