Atlanta police tactics questioned

/ Source: The Associated Press

Two narcotics officers involved in the fatal drug raid of a 92-year-old woman's home had raided another home two months earlier where an elderly woman brandished a toy gun at officers and no drugs were found, according to an Atlanta police report and a lawyer.

Narcotics officers raised concerns with their boss about what could have happened at 80-year-old Frances Thompson's home during the Sept. 20 raid, and about the reliability of confidential informants, who told them he had bought cocaine there, according to a police report.

Thompson heard the officers breaking into her home and confronted them with a toy cap gun, which she dropped when ordered by an officer. Neither drugs nor the drug dealer they had been searching for were found.

"Everyone was shaken but it. They said, 'We need to take our time, to watch our CIs,'" or their confidential informants, said John Garland, attorney for J.R. Smith, an officer involved in both raids.

The officers who smashed Thompson's door on Sept. 20 were apologetic and stayed around while the door was being fixed, Thompson said.

"I thought I was just supposed to get over it," she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

While in her case, the officers smashed the door because they heard no noise inside, they obtained a false no-knock warrant to raid Kathryn Johnston's home in November.

J.R. Smith and Gary Smith were among the officers who raided Johnston's home. She fired one shot that hit no one, and the officers shot back 39 times, killing her. Other than three bags of marijuana prosecutors say J.R. Smith planted in the basement, police found no drugs there.

J.R. Smith and former Officer Gregg Junnier, 40, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath and other charges and are awaiting sentencing. Gary Smith was not charged in the case.

Police spokesman James Polite told The Associated Press he was not familiar with Thompson's case and could not comment on Friday.

In court papers released last week when state and federal charges were filed against the three police officers, prosecutors asserted that Atlanta narcotics officers repeatedly lied to judges in order to obtain search warrants, falsely claimed that confidential informants purchased drugs and falsified warrants so they could meet goals set by police brass.

The botched drug raid has drawn questions from several influential black U.S. House members who said the case highlights widespread misuse of police informants, and they pledged to address the issue in Congress.