If you haven’t been following the Kathryn Johnston story, being publicized heavily by Radley Balko, wait till you hear this. On November 21st, the Atlanta PD busts into the house of an 88 year old woman. Since it’s a no knock warrant, she has no idea and grabs the old revolver her family had given her for protection and starts firing; the police gun her down. The police say they got a warrant to go in because an informant had told them that he had bought cocaine there. The AJC picks up the story:
Atlanta police Chief Richard Pennington confirmed Monday that the informant now claims police asked him to lie about his role in an alleged drug buy that led to the shooting.
The informant, who has not been identified, complained to department officials that the drug investigators involved in the bust had asked him to go along with a story they concocted after the shooting, said Pennington. He said the informant had been placed in protective custody.
I’d say he needs to be protected from those cops he just ratted out. And there’s much more:
The informant, who said he worked with Atlanta police for four years, also told WAGA-TV that he hadn’t been to 933 Neal St. His identity hidden, he told the TV station that one of the drug officers called him soon after the shooting with instructions.
Quoting the officers, the informant told Fox 5 News: ” ‘This is what you need to do. You need to cover our [rear]. … It’s all on you man. … You need to tell them about this Sam dude.’ ”
Pennington said investigators were trying to determine the truth. “I don’t know if he went in or not,” he said.
Many questions and conflicting accounts have surfaced since police shot the woman, described by neighbors as feeble and afraid to open her door after dark. At first police said that the drug buy was made by undercover police, but later they said the purchase was made by an informant. Early on, police said narcotics were found at the house after the shooting, but on Sunday investigators said they had found only a small amount of marijuana, which police don’t consider a narcotic.
Also, even though the affidavit said that the house was outfitted with surveillance cameras, Pennington said the informant had told internal affairs investigators that police officers had asked him to lie about the cameras. Pennington could not confirm whether the cameras existed.
From the beginning, it has been unclear why police targeted the woman’s house, and the affidavit and warrant documents shed little light. The documents do not suggest that police had been keeping the house under surveillance and provide no rationale for entering it other than the informant’s alleged buy earlier in the afternoon. The raid did not produce the cocaine, money, computers and other equipment related to the drug business alleged in the affidavit. The documents listed the only resident as Sam, who was described as at least 6 feet tall and 250 to 260 pounds. Johnston’s family said she lived alone.
As Balko points out, no matter what the truth is the police have some serious explaining to do:
At this point, Atlanta police have no good options. They’re screwed.
Attack the informant’s credibility and you admit that you conducted a high-risk, forced-entry raid based entirely on a tip from an informant you now say is unreliable. You admit you did no corroborating investigation. You admit you didn’t even send an officer to check to see if the informant was right about, for example, an external surveillance system. And all of this ineptitude led to the death of an innocent woman, not to mention to three officers getting wounded.
And that’s if the guy’s lying about the cover-up. If he’s telling the truth? Now you’re talking about a major-league shit storm. If this guy’s telling the truth, not only did the officers originally investigating this case lie, but the officers investigating after the shooting then lied to cover it up. That means you not only have corruption problems with your narcotics officers, but you have problems with your internal affairs unit, the cops who are charged with investigating the other officers.
What a mess.