I waver between favoring legalization of most drugs and not, but there's no question that the current War on Drugs is horribly harmful to our country and our erstwhile allies in whose countries the drugs are manufactured. Mostly-harmless people are harassed by law enforcement agencies and often thrown in jail for longer terms than rapists, and for what? Are drugs less of a problem now than they were 100 years ago when they were legal?

The latest outrage touches the War on Drugs tangentially and also involves an issue Clayton Cramer and Randy Balko have taken the lead on vocally denouncing: no-knock SWAT raids on drug suspects that needlessly endanger everyone involved.

The set-up, from Mr. Balko: Cheryl Lynn Noel is gunned down in her home by police officers after marijuana seeds are found in her trash cans.

The facts of the case are awful: A Baltimore SWAT team conducted a 4:30am raid on the Noel family home after finding marijuana seeds and "trace" amounts of cocaine in the family's outdoor trash can. After battering down the door, they deployed a flashbang grenade, then rushed up the steps to the bedroom of Cheryl and Charles Noel.

Cheryl Noel's stepdaughter had been murdered several years earlier, and her son had recently been jumped by thugs on his way home. So the family had a legal, registered handgun in the home, and Noel had reason to be frightened. When a SWAT officer kicked open the bedroom door, Noel sat up in bed with the gun, apparently pointed downward, not at the officer. The officer, who was wearing a helmet, mask, shield, and bulletproof vest, and who came in behind a bulletproof ballistic shield, fired twice. Noel slumped over, and the gun slipped out of her hand. The officer then walked over to her and ordered her to move further away from the gun. She couldn't, of course. When she didn't, he shot her a third time, essentially from point-blank range.

The punchline? The police officer who shot Noel has been given a Silver Star.

On January 21, 2005, Officer Carlos Artson saved himself and his fellow officers from being shot. Officer Artson was confronted by a woman pointed a loaded handgun at him, during the service of a high risk, "no knock" search warrant for an ongoing narcotics investigation.

It's quite possible that Noel was pointing the gun at the officer and not at the ground, but what the heck were the police doing in her home unannounced at all? I'm a huge supporter of the police, but it's utterly insane that they can burst into your home and kill you because they found some seeds while they were rooting through your trash. Even if the police in this case acted entirely properly according to their procedures, the laws need to be changed to prevent them from being put into this kind of position.



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