Pubdate: Sun, 09 Feb 2014
Source: Bryan-College Station Eagle (TX)
Copyright: 2014 The Bryan-College Station Eagle


There is no question that the events near Snook in the early morning
hours of Dec. 19 were tragic. What is equally clear is that
31-year-old Burleson County Sheriff Sgt. Investigator Adam Sowders
didn't have to die. There was no need for the "no-knock" search
warrant that law enforcement officials served on Henry "Hank" Magee
that terrible morning.

Deputies were acting on a report from a jailed informant that Magee
was growing marijuana plants inside his home off County Road 278.
Further, the believed, Magee might have had possession of stolen weapons.

The no-knock warrant was duly authorized and allowed the eight law
enforcement officers to enter Magee's home without alerting him to
their presence. Officers said they did call out they were law
enforcement when they battered down the door, but Magee said he didn't
hear them. Instead, roused from sleep by what he said he thought were
armed intruders, Magee grabbed a gun and fired, killing Sowders.

Magee, 28, was arrested and charged with capital murder and drug
charges. On Wednesday, a Burleson County Grand Jury no billed Magee on
the capital murder charge. He was indicted on the drug charges,
though, and will stand trial for those.

In 10 hours of testimony before the Grand Jury, District Attorney
Julie Renken made no recommendations on the capital murder charge. It
would have been easy for the jurors to hand up an indictment for
capital murder. There certainly was enough public outcry for them to
do so.

Instead, they courageously decided there simply isn't enough evidence
that Magee knew when he fires that the intruders were law enforcement.
Absent that evidence, it was proper for the Grand Jury to no bill
Magee on the capital murder charge, as painful as that might be to
those who knew, respected and loved Inspector Sgt. Sowders. It is
natural for them to want the capital murder charge to go forward, but
that would not be justice.

The events of early morning on Dec. 19 are the reason that no knock
warrants are used rarely any more. There simply is no reason to do so
in the vast majority of cases.

This is not to point the finger of blame at anyone. Everything was
done by the book and handled properly.

Magee's attorney Dick DeGuerin noted, "There was no real justification
for handling the search warrant in the way it was handled. It could
have been easily done by knocking on the front door during broad
daylight. The alternative would've been to wait till Hank drove to the
store or to work. No reason to go in like an invading army and bust
down the door."

DeGuerin is right.

Of course, our law enforcement officials put their lives on the line
every day, and we are grateful for their service. It is imperative
that they have the proper training and equipment to do their jobs as
safely as possible.

Sadly, as we learned with Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann,
tragedy can strike in the beat of the heart and even the best
precautions aren't always enough.

Still, there was no reason to employ a no-knock warrant on the home of
Hank Magee. Officers could have knocked and waited for him to answer.
They could have waited until he left his home. There was no advantage
in not waiting, in not knocking.

Nothing can detract from the years of exemplary service Adam Sowders
gave to the people of Washington and Burleson counties. His death
leaves a hole that won't be filled.

But faced with a lack of solid evidence, the Grand Jury acted
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