Friday, April 27, 2007

Grandma Killers

With all of the press coverage of the Sean Bell case, a little-known incident that occurred in Atlanta last November has seen an unjustly small amount of media coverage. First, of course, the backstory. It was first reported that a team of narcotics officers from the Atlanta Police Department surrounded 92-year old Kathryn Johnston's house in a run-down area of the city, announced themselves and burst open the door. Johnston, who thought that her house was being raided by burglars, opened fire, injuring the officers, and in return was gunned down in a hail of 39 bullets. It was reported that drugs were found in the house and that a confidential informant had bought drugs from the house on a previous occasion. Assistant Chief Alan Dreher called the incident "tragic" and "unfortunate" but did not say anything about any rules or protocol being broken. Boy, was he wrong. It turns out, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, that the narcotics team involved could not have been more corrupt and sleazy in their ways: "The officers planted drugs on a suspected street dealer and pressured him to give up a dope dealer. The officers then lied to a judge, illegally broke into Johnston's house, fired 39 shots at her and handcuffed her as she lay bleeding before they planted drugs in her basement." If this does not make you angry, I want you to picture your grandmother being handcuffed after being shot by a gang of corrupt cops as she bleeds to death and then is slandered in the media as a drug dealer and a cop-shooter (the injuries the cops suffered were from friendly fire, not from the grandmother).

As if the mental image that you conjured up doesn't make you angry enough, the fact that the cops will spend minimal time in jail for their actions might send you over the top. The man who faced the most charges out of the narcs is Jason R. Smith, who will serve 12 years and 7 months. His partner in crime,
Greg Junnier, will spend 10 years in a federal penitentiary. A third person who has been charged, Arthur Tesler, will fight the charges (he is charged with only 3 felonies related to making false statements as opposed to Smith's 13 felonies which included 4 for the murder alone). Even before the officers' sentences had been set, Chief of Police Richard Pennington said that justice had been served. Pennington, who on Friday took time off from his troubled department to work on his house, needs to be putting in some overtime to fix the APD. He continues to deny any responsibility for what happened, despite the fact that he is the officers' bosses and thus in charge of making sure they are properly trained and are carrying out the law. No major changes have occurred at the APD, as the assistant chief who first defended the officers is still working there. I think Pennington's statement that justice has been served is quite premature. If a group of black people broke into a house, shot a white elderly lady who tried to defend herself, handcuffed her while she was bleeding to death and then lied about it, do you think they would get to plea down from murder to voluntary manslaughter and serve less than 25 years combined? (And don't try to say it's different because Smith and Junnier are cops, because they lost any credibility as an officer of the law when they began planting drugs on people and lying to judges to get bullshit warrants). No, they certainly would be facing life in prison, if not the death penalty (which Georgia has). Reaction in the neighborhood where Johnston used to live obviously has been negative. One resident had this to say: "They should get life; that's how I feel. If we kill somebody, we get life or the death penalty." One man actually felt sorry for the officers, saying "They are police officers and they are going to have it hard in jail." We can only hope. Peace.

Photos - Top to bottom: Kathryn Johnston (, J.R. Smith (, Greg Junnier (

No comments:

Post a Comment