By Dean Weingarten | GunWatch
In Houston, on Monday, 28 January, a no-knock search warrant resulted in the wounding of four police officers and the death of middle aged couple who had owned their home for 20 years.
The deaths and woundings seem to have come from the use of the no-knock warrant. There have been many problems with no-knock warrants.
Thousands of no-knock warrants are used each year.
In Milwaukee, on 6 February, a Milwaukee tactical team was serving a search warrant in an investigation of illegal drug and firearms sales.
It is unclear if the warrant was a no-knock warrant. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the warrant was announced from a loudspeaker during the attempted service of the warrant. From jsonline.com:
The Tactical Enforcement Unit arrived to search a home in the 2900 block of South 12th Street at 9:17 a.m., and three minutes later officers made contact with two people and “shots were fired,” Assistant Chief Michael Brunson Sr. told reporters earlier Wednesday.
Three law enforcement sources have told the Journal Sentinel Rittner was shot with a high-powered rifle. Two of those sources said Rittner was shot through a door.
A neighbor said he heard a loudspeaker calling out an address about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday and walked to his window. He then saw a black armored vehicle and police officers swarming the house and heard about five seconds of gunfire followed by someone yelling, “Shots fired!”
It is not known if the officers were attempting to break down the door of the house before, during or after the loudspeaker announcement. Here is part of the statement from the Milwaukee Police Department:
On Wednesday, February 6th, 2019, at about 9:17 a.m., the Milwaukee Police Department’s Tactical Enforcement Unit responded to the 2900 block of South 12th Street to conduct a search warrant. The target of the search warrant was wanted for the illegal sale of firearms and drugs. While conducting the search warrant, officers announced themselves as police at which time the suspect fired several rounds. Officer Matthew Rittner was struck by gunfire and transported to Froedert Hospital, where he unfortunately succumbed to his injuries.
Unlike the Houston case, other officers on the scene did not unleash a hail of gunfire into the house. Two suspects were taken into custody. One of them was Jordan P. Fricke, 26. Fricke was reported as being the target of the raid. We do not know if his name was on the search warrant.
There is no mention of how Fricke was arrested, or if he claimed he did not know it was police who were attempting to break down his door. We know that he must have given up quickly and surrendered peacefully. There was another person in the house who has not been identified. It is not clear if they were arrested.
I have not found any statement that any contraband was found at the house.
Fricke did not have any misdemeanor or felony arrests prior to the raid.
The search warrant has not been published as of this writing.
I have not found any reports of charges being filed against Fricke or the other person in the house when the raid was conducted.
It is unknown if recordings of the raid and gunfire are available, or if body cameras were worn.
The Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation is investigating the incident.
Wisconsin requires an outside agency to investigate police shootings.
Wisconsin has a strong “Castle Doctrine” statute. People may use deadly force to prevent an unlawful forcible entry of their home. There are exemptions if the person was engaged in criminal activity or if the person forcibly entering was a public safety worker, and the person inside knew, or reasonably should have known, they were a public safety worker. Here is the wording of the statute with the exceptions. From wisconsin.gov:
1. The actor was engaged in a criminal activity or was using his or her dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business to further a criminal activity at the time.
2. The person against whom the force was used was a public safety worker, as defined in s. 941.375 (1) (b), who entered or attempted to enter the actor’s dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business in the performance of his or her official duties. This subdivision applies only if at least one of the following applies:
a. The public safety worker identified himself or herself to the actor before the force described in par. (ar) was used by the actor.
b. The actor knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter his or her dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business was a public safety worker.
I have doubts that a person inside a house would “reasonably have known” that the people breaking in were public safety workers, simply from a loudspeaker on the street.
There are many details about the raid that are not known at this time. They include the number of shots fired, what caliber(s) were used, whether officers returned fire, the particulars of the warrant, and whether any contraband was found at the house.
It could be days or weeks or even months before we determine if this is another tragedy caused by the overuse of no-knock raids.