Search and Destroy: Utah SWAT team murders drug suspect on video
On September 16th of last year, the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force conducted a nighttime “no knock” paramilitary-style drug raid on the home of Todd Blair, a suspected methamphetamine dealer living in Roy, Utah. Within seconds of the raid’s commencement, Blair was dead. He had been shot three times by Sgt. Troy Burnett.
As with virtually all cases of police-involved violence, internet authoritarians are scraping at the bottom of the barrel looking for reasons to blame Mr. Blair for his own death.
If any of my family did such a stupid a#% move I suspect the outcome would be the same. But my family does not golf i guess they have a pretty good chance of survival. If the police kick in there door I hope they have the sense to not attack with large object. And as far as proud I never said proud I said the officer made it home to his family. And if they are dumb enough to try and attack 5 officers. They left him no choice.
He didn’t die beacause of the drugs he died because he was stupid enough to come at an officer with a weapon. remember he chose his fate. he could have followed commads and been alive today. Shame on you Blair. you put yourself and officers in dager shame on you. if you wanted to die you should have manned up and did it yourself. shame on you coward
The police officers will always take precautions to protect their own lives because there are plenty of criminals who will try to kill a cop in a raid. The fact that this man was killed is unfortunate, but he brought it on himself with his irresponsible criminal behavior.
Don’t get hopped up on meth and go after cops with a golf club and your chances of not getting shot will increase dramatically.
If the cops break down your door and you’re holding something metal in your hand, well your chances of getting shot are pretty high. I’m sorry for anyone to lose a loved one this way but fighting the meth problem is a priority.
The thrust of these comments is that (1) it was okay for the police to raid Mr. Blair’s home because they suspected him of selling meth and once the police initiated the raid, it was okay for them to shoot Blair because (2) he knew the people in his home were police and (3) he was menacing them with a golf club.
Claim #1 — that it was fine for the police to raid Mr. Blair’s home because he was suspected of using/selling meth — is false. For what it’s worth, it does seem likely that Mr. Blair used meth, although there is no evidence that he was selling. According to his mother, Arlean Blair, “I know that he used [meth]… but he was not a drug dealer. A drug dealer has lots of money and nice things. If you looked in his house, he had nothing. He gave everything away to people who were having trouble.” Police have admitted that they never actually witnessed Blair selling any meth. The raid uncovered a small amount of cannabis and a small vial which the police claim contains meth. If Blair was selling drugs, he was clearly no Pablo Escobar. But even if Blair was a big time drug dealer, there’s still no reason for the police to have raided his home. I have no problem with people arguing that meth is unhealthy, but this does not change the fact that buying, selling, and using meth are all victimless actions. Even if meth truly is dangerous and even if it has been declared “illegal” by so-called “legislators,” there are no moral grounds for treating possession of meth as a crime. Individuals should be free to make their own decisions — even if they are poor ones — about what drugs to ingest just like they should be allowed to make their own decisions about what food to eat.
Furthermore, as I’ve pointed out in the past there are literally millions of violent crimes and property crimes that go unsolved every single year in the United States — crimes with actual suffering, human victims. Even if we set aside the issue of whether or not it’s okay to treat victimless activities as crimes, it’s clearly an outrage for the police to be investing any of their resources in pursuing nonviolent drug offenders, let alone the substantial resources it takes to maintain a SWAT team, when so many violent crimes and property crimes are going unsolved.
Claim #2 — that Blair knew the men raiding his home were police — is almost certainly false. If you actually watch the video, you will see that while the police announced their presence by yelling “Police! Search warrant!” multiple times, they broke Blair’s door down a mere two seconds after the first announcement — before any human being could reasonably be expected to have fully processed the announcement and reacted to it. And that’s assuming that any occupants actually heard the announcement and could understand it which is not a safe assumption. After police entered Blair’s home, they found him on the other side of the room holding a golf club and Sgt. Troy Burnett (the first officer to enter) immediately shot him three times without any sort of warning. You can actually hear one officer start to tell Blair to get on the ground, but Blair was dead before the officer could even finish the sentence.
Chances are that Blair had no idea that the men in black who were breaking into his home in the middle of the night were police. Even ignoring the fact that the police failed to announce their presence in a meaningful way, it’s simply implausible that anyone in his right mind would actually attack a huge group of armed police officers storming his home with a golf club unless he thought that they were burglars. Blair wouldn’t be the first person to make this mistake. Radley Balko’s book Overkill documents numerous cases in which people attempted to defend themselves from home invaders who turned out to be police.
Claim #3 — that Blair was menacing the police with a golf club — is true. But so what? When you examine all the facts about this raid, you get the impression that the police were trying to provoke Mr. Blair into a violent reaction. Every action the police took — conducting the raid at night, dressing in black, failing to announce their presence, entering the home with guns drawn, etc. — seems like it was expressly chosen for the purpose of giving Mr. Blair the impression that he was the subject of an armed robbery. Even if the police had a legitimate reason to search Mr. Blair’s home, there was nothing reasonable about the way they conducted the search. The police chose to turn a suspected nonviolent, victimless “crime” into a violent confrontation, not Mr. Blair, so it’s ludicrous for them to claim that the shooting was justified by self-defense or exigency. The only person involved in the raid whose actions could rightfully be described as self-defense is Mr. Blair with his golf club.
Unsurprisingly, the cold-blooded murder of Todd Blair was found to be “justified” by the local DA which means that the dangerous murderers responsible for planning and conducting the raid (including the officer who shot Blair) are free to continue conducting these ultra-violent raids on nonviolent people with total impunity. Blair’s family is planning a lawsuit, but if they win any damages, the money will come from innocent taxpayers rather than the bloodsuckers responsible for Blair’s death. Luckily it seems that the family’s main priority with respect to the lawsuit is simply to force the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force to reform its policies so as to avoid a repeat of the raid on Blair’s home. “This is not about money,” said Tauna Blair Doesberg, Todd Blair’s younger sister. “If it’s about money, it feels vindictive and dirty. I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
I wish the Blair family the best of luck with their lawsuit, but I must point out that even if they succeed, people will still be victimized by over-the-top drug raids like the one that left Blair dead. The ultra-violent, “no knock” drug raids utilized by the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force are not an phenomenon specific to Utah. In fact, they are part of a nationwide trend of paramilitary-style policing that has been occurring rapidly over the past few decades. As Radley Balko details in his book Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Policing in America (mentioned earlier), paramilitary police or SWAT teams were first created decades ago to deal with violent crises like bank robberies and hostage situations, however, they quickly became used for conducting routine police procedures like search and arrest warrants. Now, tens of thousands of SWAT deployments occur every year, a sizable portion of which are search warrants for suspected nonviolent drug offenses. Dozen of people have been terrorized, injured, and killed in unnecessary SWAT raids, many of them innocent of any crime (including fake “drug crimes”). In fact, in countless cases, police have actually raided incorrect addresses and ended up terrorizing and even killing people who were never suspected of any crime whatsoever. Many of these cases are tracked on this interactive map from the Cato Institute.
You might remember that just last year, a video was released depicting Columbia, MO SWAT swarming a home at night, shooting the occupying family’s two dogs thereby endangering the lives of the home’s occupants (including children), then holding them at gunpoint — all over a tiny amount of cannabis. Another video, released just a few days ago, depicts the same SWAT team raiding another home and terrorizing the family inside over drugs. Just recently, a SWAT team in Framingham, MA killed an innocent, 68-year-old bystander while conducting a drug raid. The bottom line is that as long as these raids continue, innocent people are going to be terrorized, injured, and killed. All the authoritarians who make excuses for the police who murdered Todd Blair would do well to consider that the same thing could happen to them too.