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Texas man defending home will not face murder charges over dead deputy

After you decide that, decide if one is any more dangerous--or forgivable--than the other
After you decide that, decide if one is any more dangerous--or forgivable--than the other
Photo © Oleg Volk. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

A grand jury refused to indict Henry Goedrich Magee, who last December, shot and killed Burleson County Sgt. Adam Sowders, as Sowders and fellow officers served a warrant at Magee's home on suspicion of illegal drug activity. From the Associated Press:

A Central Texas man who shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy entering his home will not be charged with capital murder, attorneys said Thursday.

A local grand jury declined Wednesday to indict Henry Goedrich Magee for the Dec. 19 death of Burleson County Sgt. Adam Sowders, who was part of a group of investigators executing a search warrant for Magee’s rural home.

Sowders and other officers entered the home about 90 miles northwest of Houston without knocking just before 6 a.m. Authorities were looking for guns and marijuana.

Magee's attorney acknowledges that there was some marijuana in the house, and indeed Magee was indicted for the third degree felony of possessing firearms and marijuana together. The attorney, by the way, is Dick DeGuerin, who successfully defended a Houston-area gun shop clerk on weapons trafficking charges by demonstrating that the gun shop had actively cooperated with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, by selling to suspected Mexican drug cartel "straw purchasers," in a separate but parallel Operation Fast and Furious-like "Project Gunwalker" operation.

Illegal drug activity or not, though, Magee has a fundamental human right to protect himself and his pregnant girlfriend from violent, armed home invaders, and Magee's claim that that is precisely what he thought was happening apparently convinced the grand jury.

Oddly, in another recent story, we are told that the purpose of "no-knock" raids is "officer safety," after a SWAT team raided an Ankeny, Iowa house (on suspicion of credit card fraud, of all things--sound just like the kind of folks who must be taken down as if they were international terrorists, don't they?). From the Des Moines Register:

Critics say the search, which is gaining national attention, was an excessive, military-style raid for a credit card theft case. Ankeny police are defending the raid, saying they needed to use that approach to protect officers’ safety.

Oh by the way, no evidence of the credit card fraud was found.

It should be noted that this was not technically a "no-knock" raid, but as Radley Balko explains in a superb article in the Washington Post, that distinction is very much a technicality:

The knock and announce requirement has a long history in U.S. and English common law. Its purpose was to give the occupants of a home the opportunity to avoid property damage and unnecessary violence by giving them time to come to the door and let the police in peacefully. As you can see from the video [available here], the knock and announce today is largely a formality. The original purpose is gone. From the perspective of the people inside, there’s really no difference between this sort of “knock and announce” and a no-knock raid. (The covering of the officers’ faces is also troubling, though also not uncommon.)

Historically, the other purpose of the knock-and-announce requirement is to avoid the inevitable tragedy that can result if homeowners mistake raiding police for criminal intruders.

The supposed justification here is that the police knew, via concealed carry permit records (reason enough all by itself to drop the "permitting" requirement for the bearing of arms), that at least one resident of the house probably had firearms (do police in Ankeny not assume there are firearms present in every interaction with the public?). Obviously, that "officer safety" thing didn't work out well for Deputy Sowders.

And we know that such raids are often anything but safe for the people in the raided home, as the family of former Marine Jose Guerana, shot 60 or more times by police in a raid that found nothing likely to warrant an arrest, could testify.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence refers to an Indiana law that protects people who shoot and kill illegal home invaders--even if the invaders are cops--as "insurrectionist crap." It would be fun to find out what they think of the Texas verdict.

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