Short Take: SWAT For Nothing

The County of St. Louis settled the trial for $750,000, which seems like an awful lot of money for a dead dog. But the underlying reason, coupled with the violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of the dog’s owners, was more than sufficient to compel a settlement.

“Why is this cop able to call in a SWAT team because I didn’t have gas service at my house?” said Zorich.

She recalls SWAT members kicking in her front door, before firing at her pit bull.

“They put me and my son on our knees to watch her die. The officer squatted over her while she was dying with the search warrant, and he said, ‘You know why we’re here?’ and I said, ‘No I don’t know.’ When he said, ‘We’re here because your gas is off.’ I lost it,” Zorich said.

They were ratted out by the neighbors, who called the cops to alert them that someone had no gas. Why they cared is a mystery, but apparently they did, and enough so to seek action against Angela Zorich for her “neglected property.”

So the SWAT team swung into action.

Dobson says the lead officer fabricated a story to a judge and fellow SWAT members, leading them to believe Zorich’s sons were highly violent, to get the no-knock warrant issued.

Dobson says that warrant was executed just two hours after it was signed.

“No evidence was going to be destroyed, you’re not going to flush the gas meter down the toilet,” said Dobson.

Of course there was no risk of loss of evidence. Even if Zorich’s sons were “highly violent,” so what? Did they strike such fear in the hearts of brave police officers that a few knocking on the door would have been put at such risk that SWAT was needed? But then, it wasn’t true, but just the pretense used to get the no-knock warrant. Remember, if they say so, what judge wouldn’t bob his head and sign off, because cops would never lie and no judge wants to be responsible should something go awry and a cop get hurt.

The scenario is so ridiculous that it bears little discussion as to why all of this was gross overkill and utterly without justification. But that doesn’t explain one thing: Why did the cops choose to call in the SWAT team over an unpaid gas bill?

Were they bored? Had there been no SWAT raids, and they were getting rusty in their “dynamic entry” skills? Did they have all the really cool SWAT clothing and weapons and feel compelled to use them at any opportunity?

Police officers are well aware of what can come of a SWAT raid, particularly when coupled with a no-knock warrant. They know that some people have guns in a house, lawful guns, and when the door gets broken down, they could use them. It puts the cops at risk as well. Why would they want to lose a brother to a homeowner without a clue why anyone would be breaking down their door?

And then there’s the dog. Cops love theirs. Cops do not love yours, because yours aren’t theirs. So they shoot. In the back, because the dog could always turn around and bite their nose off. You never know, so better to kill first and make up excuses later. But cops are also people off the job, and like most people, are aware of the feelings people have toward pets. How do they appreciate normal folks loving their pets when out of uniform, but shoot at will when they’re on the job?

Finally, there are the folks living in the house, whose offense is neglect of their own property which pisses off the neighbors because it makes the neighborhood look shabby. When executing a SWAT raid, things happen. Bad things. People on the good guy curve react poorly to the shock and awe, and aren’t always as compliant as the cops would prefer. Would they beat them for it? Would they shoot them for it? Would they kill them for it? For having no gas to the house, or pissing off the neighbors?

Why would the SWAT guys want to put on their paramilitary jumpsuits and do this to people? They can change the patrol guide, the cop rules, the threat level definitions, but does any of that bear upon the point that these SWAT cops know what they’re about to do, what the consequences might be, and still decided it was a really good idea to do it. Over an unpaid gas bill.

13 thoughts on “Short Take: SWAT For Nothing

  1. DaveL

    When oldsters bemoan the lost art of letter-writing, they probably weren’t even thinking about the modern alternative being SWAT raids.

    1. Leo

      And people thought I was silly getting 4500$ solid steel security doors/anchored frames for the house that are rated as SWAT proof(by former members of SWAT no less)

  2. LocoYokel

    Color me stupid, but when did not having gas service become a crime? This is going to put a lot of apartment dwellers in jail.

    1. SHG Post author

      The same regulatory world promoted by those who think every aspect of human conduct can be fixed with govt intervention gave rise to laws that are enforced at the end of a gun. Property neglect.

      1. B. McLeod

        How could they know the homeowner had not gone “all electric”? It is certainly very possible to run a home without gas appliances.

    2. Guitardave

      Renaming it Freedom Gas was the first step, the laws are next.
      Seriously, what kind of American don’t want freedom delivered right to their door?…you ain’t one of them commie solar panel people , are you?

  3. Aaron G

    If a nosy neighbour can cause a SWAT response (even indirectly) imagine how much power Gladys Kravitz would have these days.

  4. Keith

    I can answer this one!

    As a local councilman, we get complaints ALL THE TIME about vacant and foreclosed homes that are an “eyesore”. People demand we do something. Problem is, the bank that owns it, doesn’t give a damn about a few summonses. They’re the cost of doing business.

    So the town ups the ante. Fix it or we’ll take the house. And here are the criteria of neglect…

    My town out forward an ordinance a couple weeks ago. It said any single criterion was enough for the town to act.

    The neighbors demand it! The lawn is ugly. The newspapers are piling up. And no curtains? We aren’t a shithole country, sir.

    So you get these asinine laws. Unless you have someone that sees the other side.

    I’m a popular fella sometimes.

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