And as journalist Radley Balko shows in his in-depth study of police militarization, the shock-and-awe tactics utilized by many SWAT teams only increases the likelihood that someone will get hurt. Drug warrants, for instance, are typically served by paramilitary units late at night or shortly before dawn. Unfortunately, to the unsuspecting homeowner – especially in cases involving mistaken identities or wrong addresses – a raid can appear to be nothing less than a violent home invasion, with armed intruders crashing through their door. The natural reaction would be to engage in self-defense. Yet such a defensive reaction on the part of a homeowner, particularly a gun owner, will spur officers to employ lethal force.
That’s exactly what happened to Jose Guerena, the young ex-Marine who was killed after a SWAT team kicked open the door of his Arizona home during a drug raid and opened fire. According to news reports, Guerena, 26 years old and the father of two young children, grabbed a gun in response to the forced invasion but never fired. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. Police officers were not as restrained. The young Iraqi war veteran was allegedly fired upon 71 times. Guerena had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.
The problems inherent in these situations are further compounded by the fact that SWAT teams are granted "no-knock" warrants at high rates such that the warrants themselves are rendered practically meaningless. This sorry state of affairs is made even worse by recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have essentially done away with the need for a "no-knock" warrant altogether, giving the police authority to disregard the protections afforded American citizens by the Fourth Amendment.
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