Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jan 2007
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Author: Shaila Dewan
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


ATLANTA -- A narcotics team that shot and killed an elderly woman 
while raiding her home lied to obtain the search warrant, one team 
member has told federal investigators, according to news reports 
confirmed by a person familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity.

The officers falsely claimed that a confidential informant had bought 
$50 worth of crack at the house, the team member, Gregg Junnier, told 
the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Junnier retired from the 
Atlanta Police Department last week.

The story backs up statements by Alex White, a police informant, who 
said that after the shooting the police had asked him to claim, 
falsely, that he had bought crack at the modest home of the woman, 
Kathryn Johnston, whose age has been reported as both 88 and 92.

Ms. Johnston, pictured wearing a birthday crown in a widely used 
photograph, quickly became Exhibit A for complaints of excessive 
force by the police, prompting packed, angry town-hall-style 
meetings, accusations of systematic civil rights violations and calls 
for civilian review of police shootings in Atlanta.

The incident has also demoralized a police force where the number of 
narcotics officers has dwindled while, some critics say, pressure to 
make arrests has increased.

"The rest of the world is now hearing from the mouths of the police 
officers involved what we knew all along," said the Rev. Markel 
Hutchins, a spokesman for Ms. Johnston's relatives, who have 
maintained that she had nothing to do with illegal drugs and that 
neither her house nor her basement, which had a separate entrance, 
was used by dealers.

Spokesmen with the F.B.I.'s Atlanta office and the United States 
attorney here declined to comment. The shooting occurred on Nov. 21, 
after three members of the narcotics team arrested a suspected street 
marijuana dealer, Fabian Sheats, who said he could help the officers 
hook a bigger fish.

Mr. Sheats pointed out Ms. Johnston's house on Neal Street, near a 
high-crime area, saying a dealer there had a kilogram of cocaine. The 
officers, according to the reports of Mr. Junnier's account, tried to 
get an informant to the house to make a drug buy. But when that 
effort hit a snag, a request for a search warrant was drawn up anyway.

The paper, signed by Officer J. R. Smith, one of the three officers 
who made the arrest, claimed that a buy had been made from a dealer 
named Sam, and that a "no-knock" warrant was needed because Sam had 
security cameras outside the house -- another detail that was 
fabricated, according to the accounts of what Mr. Junnier told the F.B.I.

Mr. Smith's lawyer, John Garland, declined to comment.

After a judge signed the warrant, the officers pried open Ms. 
Johnston's burglar bars and broke down her door. She responded with 
gunshots from a handgun that neighbors said she kept for defense. The 
officers, three of whom were injured, returned fire and killed her. 
No cocaine was found.

Mr. Junnier's lawyer, Rand Csehy, confirmed that his client was 
cooperating with investigators. William McKenney, a lawyer for Arthur 
Tesler, the third officer involved in the arrest, said his client 
would also cooperate. 
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