No Duty To Die (Update)

If you view the situation through the eyes of the SWAT Team officers, Ray Rosas firing 15 rounds, striking three officers, was an attempt to kill them, a capital murder. But then, why would Ray Rosas view the situation through their eyes, knowing only afterward that this time it was the police? From the Corpus Christi Times-Caller:

A man who shot three Corpus Christi police officers executing a raid on his home had been the victim of several drive-by shootings and believed he was protecting his house, his lawyers said at the start of trial Wednesday.

Previous attacks on Ray Rosas’ home in the 3000 block of Churchill near Del Mar College are part of Rosas’ defense for the Feb. 19, 2015, shooting.

Rosas was on the wrong side of the good-guy curve, a guy in his home who had suffered previous shooting. The cops outside know they’re cops, but how would he know?

Senior Officer Adam Villarreal said the officers intended to serve a no-knock warrant on Rosas’ nephew, who was suspected of drug charges. Police tossed a flash bang through Rosas’ bedroom window, which is intended to catch a suspect off guard .

Rosas’ defense lawyers said his vision and hearing were impacted and he was unable to distinguish them as officers. Rosas fired about 15 rounds and injured officers Steven Ruebelmann, Steven Brown and Andrew Jordan.

Fairly typical no-knock raid, with the flash-bang grenade to disorient the people inside, followed by a “dynamic entry,” which sounds somewhat better than the reality of a gang of armed intruders breaking into a home at night. What necessitated such extreme action?

Small amounts of cocaine, crack cocaine, prescription medications used for anxiety and pain, and some marijuana were found inside. Officers also seized $600 in cash.

Code Enforcement also had to arrange for the water and gas connections to be terminated. According to police the residents were stealing utilities. AEP disconnected the electrical service as the connection was deemed to be unsafe.

But as the SWAT Team executed its raid, it was unconcerned that there were residents other than 30-year-old Santiago Garcia, for whom the warrant issues.

Rosas’ elderly mother and brother who has dementia were inside the home at the time, his lawyers said.

After the grenade was thrown into his bedroom, Rosas started firing. It’s not as if he had no reason to fear who burst into his home.

In 2001, Rosas testified against a gang member who had been charged with a violent crime on Rosas’ house. Rosas’ lawyers said he was threatened as a result.

The police, unsurprisingly, were unmoved. 

Villarreal said the officers had yelled “police” and he pointed out that there was a camera with livestreaming capabilities in Rosas’ bedroom from which he could have seen the officers outside. Villarreal said as officers restrained Rosas after the shots were fired, he told them he didn’t know they were police, but then directed profanity toward them.

There is dispute whether the officers identified themselves, but then, even if they did, the scenario isn’t one that lends itself to calm decision-making.  Nor does the fact that there was a camera with “livestreaming capabilities” offer much comfort, since it doesn’t inform as to whether the “capabilities” were being used at the time, and even if they were, why Rosas would be watching. These are the sorts of arguments used when there are no good points to be made.

As for Rosas directing profanity toward the cops, few situations would seem to warrant a bit of unpleasantness more than a SWAT Team raiding your home.  People rarely express deep appreciation for the hard work of others when they throw a grenade into your bedroom then knock down your door.

But the issue here isn’t whether the cops were justified in obtaining and executing a no-knock warrant for what appears to be at worst a trivial offense, or risking the lives of occupants for whom no cause to believe they were engaged in any wrongdoing existed. The issue here is whether Ray Rosas is guilty of the attempted murder of police. Rosas, not the cops, is on trial.

Lawyers said while Rosas was being booked in the Nueces County jail, he told staffers he didn’t know the intruders were officers and would not have used his gun if he’d recognized them as law enforcement.

When someone is raiding a house, what’s a homeowner to do? Is his duty to wait and see who it is, to ask without profanity whether the intruders are police officers or gangbangers? Is it a homeowner’s duty to be killed rather than kill?

The irony here, aside from whether the police were wise to go the no-knock route, the flash-bang and dynamic entry, is that this was Corpus Christi, Texas. People have guns in Texas. Lots of people. Lots of guns. They are inclined to use their guns, to defend their homes, and Texas has long reflected an abiding respect for the Castle Doctrine, to the point where a shoot is considered acceptable long after it’s clear that there is no threat.

Does the fact that the intruders are cops change how a homeowner is expected to react?

Much as cops justify their exercise of the First Rule of Policing by the use of force and violence in a no-knock raid, its efficacy is dubious.

Estimates show that the total number of SWAT deployments across the country has increased from a few hundred per year in the 1970s, to a few thousand per year in the 80s, and in 2010, the Washington Times reported estimates being as high as 50,000 per year.

These raids are not only dangerous for dogs, sleeping children, toddlers, and elderly grandfathers.  They are dangerous for the officers, as well.

If the “blue lives matter” crowd truly cares about officers lives, they should probably join us in calling for an end to this absurd drug war.

Ray Rosas did no more than any homeowner, with no particular reason to suspect that the armed gang breaking into his home were police, by defending himself and his family. While the cops outside may have known who they were and what they were doing there, how the hell would Rosas know? No person has a duty to die just to be certain that no police officer engaged in the exercise of needless and risky force should go unscathed.

That three officers were shot isn’t because of Rosas’ commission of a crime, but his exercise of his right to defend his home from intruders. And that’s a damn fine shiner in his booking photo.

Update: After two hours of deliberations, the jury acquitted Rosas of attempted murder.

18 thoughts on “No Duty To Die (Update)

    1. Patrick Maupin

      Actually, in Texas, the public appears to understand the ramifications of no-knock raids much better than it used to. Henry Magee was no-billed under similar circumstances — except he actually killed a police officer. A few years earlier, the death penalty would have been a slam-dunk.

      OTOH, as far as I can tell, Marvin Louis Guy’s outcome for a similar issue is still uncertain. Henry Magee is white, and Marvin Guy is black, which may or may not count for anything. Ray Rosa is somewhere in between, but wasn’t lucky or unlucky enough to actually kill anyone, so that might temper the blood lust.

      1. SHG Post author

        Don’t let the fact that I decided not to bring the Magee case into the mix influence your comment at all. Not even a little bit.

        1. Patrick Maupin

          I sometimes forget your are the all-seeing, all-remembering oracle, as I am only mortal. Mea culpa.

    2. Keith

      What a shame Rosa’s lawyer can’t throw a flash bang in front of the jury and then let them hear the nuance in prosecution’s case.

      1. Matthew S Wideman

        I used to date a SWAT Team members daughter in Law School. Her father took me to the test range and let me see how devastating a flash bang is. I was wearing hearing and eye protection, and the experience was jarring and unnerving. Movies and video games do not do it justice. Her father admitted to me that they are used a little too much, and really “screw up” kids and the elderly. I sympathize with Mr. Rosas.

  1. Patrick Henry, the 2nd

    “No duty to die”

    Love that phrase in describing this situation. I’ve always thought no knock raids are bad for both cops and innocent people, and don’t really stop bad people. Its a known fact that the brain has trouble doing detailed processing and decision making in high stress situations, and its worse when the situation arises unexpectedly. A middle of the night raid where doors are broken down, people are screaming, and flash bangs are used is one of the highest stress situations there is. and one where people would not expect it to occur.

    I’m hopeful someday these will be declared unconstitutional (I find them to be the very definition of unreasonable), but lots more cops and innocent people will be harmed or killed until that happens- and maybe the former is what it will really take.

    1. Jack Dempsey

      I see them as totally necessary to prevent someone from flushing a few pot plants down the toilet. I mean, you have to prevent the destruction of evidence, right?

  2. Allen

    Either the SWAT team didn’t fire back or they missed Rosas. They’ve got the best damn fire discipline in the world, or are the worst shots. It would seem that SWAT team needs some very close questioning.

  3. Weebs

    Villarreal said the officers had yelled “police”

    Well that changes everything. Everyone knows only the police can yell “police!”

    If anyone else did that while invading a home, it would be “lying”or something like that.

    1. SHG Post author

      The family denies they did on their petition, but you’re absolutely right, no armed home intruder could possibly yell police because that would be WRONG!!!

      1. Patrick Maupin

        That’s very flippant. There are serious factual questions to be resolved here, starting with whether “police” was yelled before the flash-bang when the occupants were still asleep, concurrent with the flash-bang such that it couldn’t be heard over the noise, or after the flash-bang when the occupants were still deaf.

  4. WheezeThePeople™

    I’m surprised you missed the obvious here. There is only one surefire solution to this horrendous problem: Bring back the use of Daryl Gates’s “Battering Ram” (for those of you too young to remember it was an actual military tank with a battering implement attached) to conduct these dangerous raids.

    If I’m not mistaken, the use of this bad-ass vehicle resulted in a perfect win-lose record in favor of the police. The police always won and the alleged criminals always lost when the tank was doling out the punishment. Except for the few times they got the address wrong but even then, they had to live with egg on their face forever and that’s punishment enough, most would say, not including the families who accidentally had their homes razed. And man, it must have been the greatest SWAT job in the world to drive the tank through the alleged perp’s front door and down the hall to his bedroom. No one ever mistook the purpose of the visit when the Battering Ram rolled up through the door. It was the cops for sure and men, women, and children would scurry from the now fully air-conditioned house lest they be squished flat like a pancake.

    Yes, the collateral damage, to some, may have been a tad excessive but no officer was ever shot, killed, or injured using one of these bad boys to serve warrants. There are only approximately 12,501 local police departments in the U.S. so what’s the big deal with giving each of them a modified tank like the “Battering Ram?? Can you just imagine little Johnny beaming when he tells his friends, “Daddy has the best job in the world; he gets to drive a tank through peoples’ houses everyday . . .” times 12,501??

    Ah, the good ol’ daze . . .

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