No deaths, this time


Las Vegas police officers served a search warrant at the Seven Hills home of Emmanuel Dozier on Panorama Ridge Drive in Henderson at about 9:30 last Sunday evening.

The officers say they announced themselves, got no response, and opened fire to break the lock off the metal front door.

At that point, the suspect, a 32-year-old sheet-metal worker, also opened fire. Three police officers were wounded.

Mr. Dozier, who was suspected of cocaine trafficking and is now held in lieu of $3 million bail, says he thought it was a home invasion.

"I want you to know something in your heart. I did not mean to shoot any cops," police report that he told them.

An attorney for his girlfriend, Belinda Saavedra, says her client dialed 9-1-1 from the home during the police raid, believing it to be a (non-police) home invasion.

No cocaine was found in the home, and it initially appeared the charges filed against Mr. Dozier -- attempted murder and possession of a controlled substance, to wit marijuana -- did not include the alleged cocaine trafficking that supposedly prompted the raid.

So the raid itself instigated a crime more serious than that cited on the arrest warrant.

Ms. Saavedra's children -- including an older child not at home at the time -- were taken away by authorities. Because she was not named on the warrant and was not arrested, and since there seems to have been no prima facie evidence she was incapable of caring for her kids, that would seem to resemble a punishment for innocent family members -- just as her attorney alleges.

"If anyone put these kids in danger, it was the police," contends Ms. Saavedra's lawyer, Vicki Greco.

The first piece of good news here -- though anyone who thinks it's a laughing matter to receive "just a flesh wound" by gunshot is welcome to step forward and volunteer -- is that none of the three police officers involved suffered a life-threatening injury, though one did require surgery.

The second piece of good news is that the suspect surrendered -- he did so as soon as he realized the men at the door were police, if he is to be believed -- and was taken into custody without being shot.

Some neighbors allege he was treated roughly during arrest; his arraignment photos show a man with a bruised and swollen eye. Indeed, assertions that a surrendering suspect "resisted arrest" seem odd.

But others may hold out for some arrest protocol out of a children's tea party, if they like. Considering the kind of emotions that flow when one is under gunfire -- especially when three officers have been hit -- it would be more appropriate to honor the courage and restraint it took for officers to hold their fire and take a suspect into custody, substantially uninjured.

Some measured, pre-emptive force during arrest of a known felon who has been firing on police is not necessarily out of line.

But none of this should prevent a review of the "standard" procedures which appear to have contributed to the violence, here.

Does a raid timed for 9:30 Sunday evening -- more than four hours after nightfall, at this time of year -- make it more likely residents will understand the men at the door are police? Police say the raid was staged by SWAT officers: Does that mean they did not display standard, easily recognizable uniforms and chest badges? Were they, in fact, dressed in black to make them less visible?

Pardon us if we doubt the officers waited even two or three minutes for residents to pull on clothes (if necessary), come to the door, ascertain who was there and ask to read the officers' warrant.

For that matter, wouldn't the chance of violence have been reduced -- in a home where police should have known young children were present -- if someone had simply telephoned the home, explaining police were approaching the door with a warrant ... preferably during daylight hours?

Some will say such a procedure would be naive -- drug dealers could use the time to flush their product down the toilet.

But no cocaine was found -- and a dealer who can eliminate all his product in one toilet flush isn't really very big-time, is he?

If Mr. Dozier is prosecuted on drug-trafficking charges it will be based on the testimony of the undercover officers who say they bought from him in the past.

The drug war has taught us to accept as "normal" police procedures -- even in the case of a man alleged to have dealt quantities of drugs worth only a few hundred dollars -- which increase the risk of violence and death in our neighborhoods.

Just as in cases where some jurisdictions have found overall fatalities could be reduced by having ambulances obey stoplights, it is those "standard" procedures that are in need of a serious new review.

 

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