A judge ponders 4th Amendment rights…
Even a 6th Circuit judge is questioning the story of a SWAT-style raid whose legion said they didn’t have the time to get a warrant before engaging in a brutal, 12-hour stand-off with a suicidal man in Interlochen, Michigan. But the Circuit noted that they apparently had time to get snacks and beverages. This unfortunate case shines light on lesser-known practices during raids that happen on persons in distress.
This incident, which happened November 2007, has bounced around quite a bit in the court system until finally receiving some scrutiny in the 6th Circuit.
The family of Craig Carlson called Grand Traverse County police department because Carlson was threatening to kill himself. The family did tell the police that Carlson had arms and was alone in his home.
Indeed, that information would be insightful in any instance of trying to help someone. Do you think 60 police officers could handle that? Because that’s how many descended on Carlson at around 9 pm. Carlson would not leave his home.
Courthouse News reports:
He fired one shot into the woods shortly after 10 p.m., but it is unclear if he was aware of the police presence near his property at that time or if he was just trying to get attention, according to court records.
In the morning, after attempts at negotiation failed, the police broke the windows and flooded the house with tear gas, but Carlson still would not leave. When he finally reacted, hours later, he began shouting and threatening the officers in his yard.
A sniper soon shot and killed Carlson, believing that Carlson was about to shoot an officer. During the entire 12-hour standoff, the police never obtained a warrant to permit them to use tear gas on the house, or enter it to seize Carlson, court records show.
One tired excuse used in tragedies like this is “exigent circumstance.” The 6th Circuit found that this was not one of those times, given that “the officers had time to call for coffee and snacks.”
According to the report, Judge Gilbert Merritt wrote:
The choice to call for granola bars but not a warrant appears to have been driven by the sheriff’s misunderstanding of the Fourth Amendment.
He prompted a jury to –
…decide whether the defendants’ various warrantless seizures and searches during a standoff that began with requests to save Carlson’s life and ended with a sniper shooting him dead were reasonable.
The court found that the jury didn’t agree with the officers’ stance that they were in immediate danger while negotiating through the night. While the session reversed previous acquittals of the county and supervising officers, it upheld the acquittal of the sniper which the family believed to be responsible for hiding evidence regarding Carlson’s bloody shirt that mysteriously disappeared. The family wanted it to be forensically studied to determine if Carlson had shouldered his rifle.
Now the question remains – if the rogue officers had obtained or warrant or at least requested permission first – would it mean that Carlson would be alive today?
It’s time to find a different way to help people like Carlson who wind up in the unfortunate statistic of 25 percent of the people killed by police. Not to mention, police themselves struggling with mental distress as they are 300 percent more likely to kill themselves than they are to be killed in the line of duty. That’s a good indicator that a different profession should be consulted when helping someone in a suicidal crisis. Additionally, let’s stop punishing and firing officers who help people in distress and deescalate versus seriously injuring them with Tasers.
Invasion, force and wartime strategies only bring more of the same…