In November 2006, a narcotics team from the Atlanta Police Department apprehended a man with a known drug history. They planted marijuana on him, then threatened to arrest him unless he gave them information about where they could find a supply of illegal drugs. He gave them the address of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston. Instead of finding an informant to make a controlled buy from the address, the officer instead lied on the search warrant, inventing an informant and describing a drug buy that never happened.
When the police broke into Johnston’s home on the evening of November 21, 2006, she met them with an old, non-functioning revolver she used to scare off trespassers. They opened fire. Two officers were wounded from friendly fire. The other officers called for ambulances for their colleagues. Meanwhile, they handcuffed Johnston and left her to bleed to death in her own home while one office planted marijuana in her basement.
A subsequent federal investigation revealed that lying on drug warrants was common in the APD, the product of a quota system the department imposed on narcotics cops. That system was the result of the pool of federal funding for drug policing, funding for which the department competed with other police departments across the country. The federal investigation and media reports also found numerous other victims of wrong-door police raids in the years leading up to Johnston’s death. The entire narcotics department was later fired or transferred. While Johnston’s death led to calls for changes in the way the city enforces the drug laws, there was little in the way of real reform. The city instituted a civilian review board to oversee the police department, but its powers were severely weakened after complaints from the police union, and its first director eventually resigned in frustration.<em>Sources: Ted Conover, “Alex White, Professional Snitch,” The New York Times, June 29, 2012; Rhonda Cook, “Chain of Lies Led to Botched Raid,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 27, 2007; reporting by Radley Balko.</em>