On December 19th, a sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed during an attempt to serve a “no knock” warrant near Sommerville, Texas. Just before 6:00 A.M. an 8 member SWAT team broke through the door of Henry Goedrich Magee to serve a warrant which would permit the team to search the mobile home in which Magee and his pregnant girlfriend were living. Reacting to the pre-dawn, forced entry Magee grabbed a rifle propped against a bedroom door frame and fired at the unidentified intruders, killing 31 year old sheriff’s deputy Adam Sowders. No one else was injured and Magee was taken into custody. He is being held on $1 million bail and has been charged with capital murder, punishable in Texas by life in prison without possibility of parole or death by lethal injection.
These are the broad facts of the case as first reported by a number of print, radio and TV sources. The following additional information has been made public during the past few days:
1.) The “no-knock” warrant was issued at the request of Deputy Sowders who was proceeding according to information provided by an investigator who told the officer that Magee “…was growing marijuana and possibly had stolen guns, as well as other drugs inside his home.” According to Magee’s attorney, Dick Deguerin, four weapons were recovered by police; 3 legally owned by Magee, one legally owned by Magee’s mother. Also according to Deguerin, the only drugs found in the home consisted of a small number of marijuana plants, constituting “…a misdemeanor amount.” The warrant itself was signed by District Judge Reva Towslee Corbett. As a copy has yet to be made available, it’s not known whether the warrant was for a drug search only or also for a search for firearms.
2.) According to the AP, “Magee has been arrested twice for driving while intoxicated and twice for possession of marijuana.” The Bryan-College Station Eagle writes that Magee “has a felony and misdemeanor drug conviction.” According to Texas law, a resident with a felony arrest may own a weapon IF 5 years have elapsed since the felony conviction or end of parole. The weapon must be kept at the individuals home. None of the sources make it clear if this statute applies to Magee.
3.) Speaking for his client, Deguerin told the media that Magee and his girlfriend were awakened by the sound of “explosives” which seemed to be going off near the front windows and a loud banging on the front door. Magee claims he did not know that law enforcement officers were responsible for the noise or the break in.
4.) A spokesman for the Burleson County Sheriff’s Office said she “…did not know if or how deputies announced their entrance into the home.” None of the deputies were wearing body cameras and it is unknown if dashboard cameras on police vehicles were operating.
It’s a safe bet that a mountain of additional information will be forthcoming should Magee stand trial. But based upon the information that has been released, should Henry Magee have been charged with capital murder? In fact, should he face a murder charge of any kind? IF the SWAT team (as it was called by Texas Ranger Andres de la Garza) entered without identifying its members as law enforcement officers, did Magee have an absolute right to shoot, given that he feared for his life, that of his girlfried and of their child? Must officers accept any risk which goes along with the serving of a “no knock” warrant, the purpose of which is to confuse, intimidate and catch suspected criminals off guard?
It is perhaps a tragic irony that Deputy Sowders himself requested Judge Corbett issue the no knock warrant which might have contributed to his death. With prior arrests for drunk driving and possession of marijuana, it’s difficult to imagine that such a warrant would have been issued at all. Assuming Magee was not engaged in criminal activity as yet unreported, shouldn’t SWAT team tactics be reserved for individuals with far more extensive records, or suspected of more serious offenses?
Countless articles have recently been written about the “Militarization” of police departments across the U.S. If police are preparing for “war” against the American public, it seems likely that shoot-outs between citizens and officers could become all to common.
Photo Credit: Standard Compliant