SWAT raid prompts police review of policy

Thursday, May 6, 2010 | 1:59 p.m. CDT; updated 9:11 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 6, 2010

COLUMBIA — The fatal shooting of a dog during a Columbia Police SWAT team raid in February has prompted the department to review its policies, Chief Ken Burton said at a news conference Thursday.


Related Media

Related Articles

SWAT officers raided the home of Jonathan Whitworth, the dog's owner, eight days after securing the search warrant on suspicion that Whitworth was dealing marijuana, Burton said.  The officers encountered a pit bull and a Welsh corgi when they burst through the door of Whitworth's home at 1501 Kinloch Court in southwest Columbia. They fatally shot the pit bull and wounded the corgi. Whitworth's wife and child were also in the home when the police executed the raid, according to a report in the Columbia Tribune.

Whitworth pleaded guilty on April 20 to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of drug paraphernalia and was fined $300.

As Mayor Bob McDavid stood next to him, Burton said that the warrant to search Whitworth's home was "stale" and that he has changed department policy to conduct raids immediately after a search warrant is obtained. Burton said the department moved slowly in Whitworth's case because the SWAT team is made up of part-time members who hold other jobs within the department.

Though an internal department review is ongoing, Burton said the pit bull was acting aggressively. He guardedly defended the actions of the officers involved, whom he declined to name.

"We're getting death threats from literally all over the world," Burton said.

A video of the incident (seen above) had received about 168,000 views on YouTube as of 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Information contained in the caption of the video has not been verified by the Missourian.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


carla thomas May 6, 2010 | 2:38 p.m.

the shooting of the dogs was uncalled for,i plan on refering this case to the national humane society which i am a member of.the officers in this case should be relieved of their duties and fired.i would like to see some sort of criminal charges against the officers.shame on the officers who killed those dogs.shame for shame!!!!!!!!!!!! i wonder if those officers can sleep good at night? i think that the officers should also be given community service and have to work with animals and learn how to interact with dogs and with animals.

(Report Comment)
Trevor Hoffman May 6, 2010 | 2:49 p.m.

Why doesn't that bald fat cop come out and tell us how he got that warrant, OFF AN ANONYMOUS TIP. This is exactly why the people don't trust the CPD. Because you HAVEN'T EARNED IT. You bust into a guys house at 3 AM, Fire 4 rounds of ammo 20 feet from where his child sleeps, kill two dogs all for some Marijuana Paraphernalia. Excuse me if I'm wrong, but isn't this Police Department the same city that are trying to lift the laws on Marijuana? CPD are full of hypocritical power tripping uneducated retards! I have never been more proud to live outside of city limits in all my life! BOONE COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT RULES!

(Report Comment)
Trevor Hoffman May 6, 2010 | 2:51 p.m.


(Report Comment)
carla thomas May 6, 2010 | 3:12 p.m.

i hope the officers are crininally charged with inhumane cruelty to animals and endangering the welfare of a child in the home.guns should not be anywhere near to where there are children.these officers acted without remorse,which i find irreprehensible.i am also sickened at what happened.message to the officers whom i will call swat bullies! do you sleep good at night???? to me you are a low life gun toting animal killers.

(Report Comment)
Ryan Willenbrock May 6, 2010 | 3:23 p.m.

i hope they recieve death threats forever. and i hope the officer that shot those dogs so mad right now

(Report Comment)
Sean Coder May 6, 2010 | 3:49 p.m.

Please do refer this to the national humane society, Carla! This behavior is inexcusable. How does one begin to align one's own ethics in a town where the police force doesn't seem to exercise many of its own? I agree with the idea of making the officers do community service work with animals, too...

(Report Comment)
James Downey May 6, 2010 | 4:58 p.m.

"We're getting death threats from literally all over the world," Burton said.


I'm truly sorry to hear that, and I have a great deal of respect for those who serve their community as police. But perhaps Chief Burton should realize that those threats, and the rest of the outrage being expressed, is indicative of how people now view this department - and take credible, concrete steps to correct the matter.

(Report Comment)
Bongo Coatimundi May 6, 2010 | 6:02 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Andrew Del-Colle May 6, 2010 | 6:25 p.m.

This is disgusting on so many levels.

(Report Comment)
Rich Bettencourt May 6, 2010 | 6:55 p.m.

Normally I wouldn't say this... But I am glad to hear that this video has spread far and has enraged enough people to hear that these guys are "getting death threats from literally all over the world" - They ought to.

First, police need not act like this UNLESS they are met with violence... only then should they take this sort of action.. and not on a harmless dog.

Second, all of this over a small amount of cannabis? are you KIDDING ME!? How are we not over this yet? How is a harmless plant enough reason to fire a gun!? Legalize cannabis already... enough is enough! The reasons for doing so are PLENTIFUL, while the reasons for it being illegal are FAR outdated... FAR OUTDATED...

(Report Comment)
Doug Spencer May 6, 2010 | 7:27 p.m.

There's more to this guy than the paraphernalia that was found. And keeping a pit bull in the home where illegal drugs are used or sold is cliché. The officers have every right and obligation to defend themselves against the pit bulls these dirt bags keep. This was a perfectly good shooting. Hopefully child protective services will step in and remove the children to a situation where police will never be forced to enter and use weapons to defend themselves against drug dogs. Summarily, thank you Columbia PD for the difficult job you do everyday!

(Report Comment)
Matthew Naylor May 6, 2010 | 8:30 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Taylor Combs May 6, 2010 | 8:55 p.m.

I'm glad to see this is finally getting the coverage is deserves. I know officers have to look out for their own safety while doing their jobs, but I think firing shots regardless of how the dog was behaving while a child was in the home is inexcusable. (The guys look pretty heavily covered up and they busted into the home, even my Chihuahua would bark.) I hope criminal charges are filed for child endangerment and animal cruelty.

(Report Comment)
Lyndon Ollar May 7, 2010 | 2:29 a.m.

Spencer, how was it that the police were forced to enter and use weapons in this man's home? Actually they weren't forced. They chose to enter this man's home based on obviously faulty information. There information was in fact so bad, they did not know that that there was also a woman and child in the house, which I think makes firing a gun all the more dangerous. Once they searched the house, they found no evidence to support the claim that he sold "illegal drugs". If you really want your money to support a war against marijuana, I would like to know your reasoning behind it. For years it has been proven that trying to combat marijuana use through the police and government officials has had little positive results and many negative ones. Marijuana's ban makes the economic incentive to sell it so high that it helps to fuel a drug war in Mexico. In order to grow it here in the U.S., traffickers grow it in national parks causing damage in the hundreds of thousands range, and that's not even considering the environmental damage. And on top of all this we fill the prison system to its max with people who don't belong there, and summarily waste our money in doing so. So instead of looking at the logical answers, we give the police more power to perform search and seizures and invade people's homes for a drug that is socially stigmatized. As for a difficult job, listen to the police officer talk during the video. For such a difficult and upstanding job, I would hope he could at least memorize the Miranda rights. This post isn't meant to be an all out attack on the police. I'm just saying that such enthusiastic statements should be reserved for situations that warrant them.

(Report Comment)
Jason Costa May 7, 2010 | 1:28 p.m.

For future reference, police should always give a courtesy call before you raid the premises. This allows for time to lock up the dogs, destroy any evidence, and flush the drugs. If you have a history of being violent and resisting arrest, please take a Valium ahead of time. Thank you for your cooperation.

(Report Comment)
Barbara Haines May 7, 2010 | 2:29 p.m.

Someone needs to hire a lawyer and have them look up case No. 02-16329; DC No. CV No. 99-20022-JF from the 9th Circuit US District Court.

Who needs to buy lottery tickets when you have stupid cops to fund your retirement?

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler May 7, 2010 | 4:05 p.m.

Doug Spencer said "This was a perfectly good shooting". Hmmm... a 'perfectly good shooting' huh Doug, it almost sounds as if your one of those 'provacateurs' out baiting and 'fishing'to try and get someone to say something violent in response to your attempts to flame. Do you perhaps work in one of our alphabet soup agencies that trolls and tries to set people up for entrapment on such things? Just wondering.

In case you're not, and are just either having a bad day or perhaps you have a 'professional' interest in trying to lamely defend such actions, all I can say is at some point those who try and kill a fly with a sledge hammer are going to find they have lost any support of the public they ever once had, and when they encounter some citizen who too is 'having a bad day' and responds with such counter force as is required to DEFEND themselves, you are not going to be able to find a jury anywhere that will concur to convict. I think with the anger I sense in the public domain that day is not far off.

Prohibiton of cannibas, just like prohibiton of alcohol, is a dismal failure in regard to keeping the public 'safe', it does the exact OPPOSITE, it FUELS gang warfare and crime, ruins lives FAR more than cannibas EVER could, and puts citizen against citizen. It's time it came to an end and we turn over the issue of 'drugs' to the medical and health community where IMO it belongs and only intervenes where it can be PROVEN it is causing VERIFIABLE and SERIOUS problems. This works fine in other countries that aren't so backwards and it's my hope we can start finding and electing representatives that will REALLY work to end this FAILED WAR!!!

(Report Comment)
aj zales May 7, 2010 | 5:05 p.m.

the whole world is watching you Columbia, MO ... my prayers are with all of you. Its not just where you live but all over America. Please lets all come together as one voice and get these people supposedly "protecting and serving" us to stop terrorizing peaceful tax paying citizens over something so simple as a couple marijuana joints. You can buy alcohol and do far worse to yourself and others in a much shorter amount of time but we let that slide. Marijuana offenders are treated like they were heroin addicts when Marijuana is by far the safest out of all known drugs grown by plants. Do your own research if you dont believe me. Theres no room for old school "its been illigal my whole life, so its gotta stay illigal" garbage. That stuff gets us into situations like the video above. Alot more people smoke pot than admitted to. Its supposed to be america the free.

(Report Comment)
Jose Melendez May 8, 2010 | 7:42 a.m.

Just saying no?

The Columbia, Missouri SWAT team and the city attorney's office WANTS YOUR FEEDBACK on how this incident was handled.

Over 800,000 Americans are arrested every year over this issue, some like the folks above, who were raided by the Columbia, Missouri SWAT team, had their pet dogs shot and child threatened with abduction under color of law*.

Yes, thousands of emails may be ignored, but add dozens of well reasoned, articulate calls, faxes and letters a day and you have their attention. Of course, include your letterhead if you are an attorney, it gives them . . . pause.

Remember: Call. Write. But be polite!

Columbia Police Department
600 East Walnut
Columbia, MO 65201-4491
573-874-7652 / FAX: 573-874-3142

online contact info:

- - -

* The demonstrably false claim used to arrest pot users is that cannabis and cannabinoids are lawfully listed in Schedule I, having “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision”.

Here’s the truth for those who can handle it:

Marinol is a Schedule III synthetic chemical that works like THC, a psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It is administered at 100 percent strength, up to five times more powerful than the strongest available strains on the black market, about twice as strong as hashish. Generically named Dronabinol, warning labels specifically permit driving and using machinery when users know how the medicine affects them.

On October 7, 2003, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded patent #6630507
( ) to the Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledging an accepted medical use in treatment for cannabinoids, and detailing a wide variety of safe, acceptable uses under medical supervision for which their “inventions” applied.

DEMAND reparations!

(Report Comment)
Marshall Potter May 8, 2010 | 1:51 p.m.

This is absolutely ridiculous, the senseless killing of a dog from the result of a "marijuana raid" on a household. Seriously why do they need a friggin SWAT team to detain a suspected marijuana dealer. I wish law enforcement would spend more time focusing on real crime (gang violence, hard drugs [meth, heroin, cocaine], homicide cases etc.) The process of detaining "non-violent" marijuana offenders in such a manner is without a doubt sickening. I understand approaching situations with safety and yes I can see where a swat team would be needed for cases in which the person they are detaining is known a) to be violent b) has a previous account of the offense c) owns fire arms. The continued prosecution of marijuana related crimes is putting normal people into an unstable prison system with violent offenders. Think about it, this guy and his family are going to be haunted by this event for the rest of their lives.

I am glad to live in California where such nonsense doesn't exist, I only wish the rest of America would wake the hell up.

(Report Comment)
Charles Farley May 8, 2010 | 11:18 p.m.

It's sad what happened to the dogs, but the killing of the dogs is a red herring.

The real issue here is not the killing of the dogs. The issue here is that a paramilitary police force, armed with assault rifles, storm into a family home in the wee hours of the morning, shooting, all for a gram of marijuana.

The police say they had a search warrant; but, why? Columbia has already passed a town ordinance stating crimes of violence and property theft should take high priority and drug violations, low priority.

The police chief contradicts himself. He says the warrant was served 8 days after the warrant was obtained. The chief stated a lack of man power was the reason for the delay in serving the warrant. But if Columbia Police are so busy, why are they bothering with any Marijuana cases?

So let's get this straight. The police chief wants us to believe his officers are so busy they are 8 days behind on serving warrants. However, they have enough time to dedicate an entire night to dedicate 7 officers to bust a falsely "suspected" low level pot dealer. Right. Sounds like someone is lying, and a lot of of CYA going on.

The police chief should be fired. The mayor should be voted out. The judge who signed the warrant should be named, and voted out of office as well.

It's time for Columbia to send a message to their elected officials that situations like this will not be tolerated.

Also, do not forget: Federal subsidies encourage, and provide funding for these paramilitary weapons and tactics for local police forces.

(Report Comment)
K.S. Huffman May 9, 2010 | 1:59 a.m.

My boy friend and I were planning on moving to the MO state to start a new business and have a home in the Ozarks.

If this kind of overkill is excusable in MO, then we will not even be stepping foot in that state.
(reminiscient of the Waco TX massacre mentality of police overkill, ALSO BY COPS FROM MO)
The MO MIAC papers and the current MO military exercises show how the police are training to treat people who are Ron Paul fans, liberty loving, or Tea Party activists, and Constitutionalists like they are terrorists. Who is the real terrorists in the USA but the jack booted invaders who terrorized this home?

Before the SWAT and other poor excuse for police killed all the people at Waco, and raised their flag over their kill zone, they killed David Koresh's family dog and her nursing puppies. survived this, because the thugs would have just as happily killed them too.

We see the horror stories from Iraq and
Afghanistan, these guys are getting hardened to kill us. They are also trained to drop false evidence and are giving false witness to convict the innocents to cover their own asses in some cases.
Hypocritical? - Why are the American police sent to guard the opium poppy fields in Afghanistan and then coming back and knocking down their fellow citizens doors looking to bust them for few if any drugs? (See Youtube video of Geraldo interviewing the commanding officer of units that are helping push heroin which ends up here) Thats why the heroin has increased 900% since the war started in 2003!! Our cops are helping them create the problem of illegal drugs and weed, them coming back to bust people who use it. Hypocrites!

Charge SWAT team with child endangerment, use of unnecessary excessive force, and animal cruelty! Anything else you can justifiably throw at them.

And now they want to use that excuse to take the child from his peaceful home and give him to the state!! Unbelievable!


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 9, 2010 | 5:22 a.m.

@ K.S. Huffman

You say that you were thinking about living in the Missouri Ozarks. Be advised that Missouri south of the Missouri River is a very different place from Missouri north of the Missouri River, which flows sort of west to east in Missouri.

Those silly flatlanders up north seem to have a burr permanently lodged in their panties. Must hurt something awful!

Before you decide what you intend to do, stop by and see us. We'll fill your tummy with grits and sausage gravy and we'll give you our special beverage to drink that will make you feel good and clean all the plaque off your teeth AT THE SAME TIME.

(Report Comment)
carla thomas May 9, 2010 | 5:55 p.m.

I urge you to prosecute the police officers featured in the following video: Missouri state statute MO ST 578.012 1 (1) & (2) which reads:1. A person is guilty of animal abuse when a person:(1) Intentionally or purposely kills an animal in any manner not allowed by or expressly exempted from the provisions of sections 578.005 to 578.023 and 273.030, RSMo;(2) Purposely or intentionally causes injury or suffering to an animal;The officers in the video are not exempt under any provision of the state statues and as such should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

(Report Comment)
carla thomas May 9, 2010 | 6:02 p.m.

well doug,
i hope the national humane society pursues criminal charges against you and your swat bullies for killing dogs that were in kennel and your swat buddies then terroizxed that 7 year old boy by killing his pets infront of him,i in my mind find that and your storm troopers fired shots from automatic weapons in the home where a minor child was present,again in my mind that is child endangerment,your storm troopers never attempted to get medical attention for the dogs,your storm troopers stood there laughing about it which i find disgraceful.your storm troopers violated missouri state statute on animal abuse.

(Report Comment)
Alex Russell May 9, 2010 | 9:18 p.m.

"As Mayor Bob McDavid stood next to him, Burton said that the warrant to search Whitworth's home was 'stale' and that he has changed department policy to conduct raids immediately after a search warrant is obtained."

So, the Chief thinks that the problem in this case, the problem with this video, is that there were big amounts of drugs in that house when the tip came in and the warrant was issued, but that they missed. And evidently that, if they'd only raided the house and found those drugs, there wouldn't be all this objection.

Continuing a policy of raiding on a search warrant, but now raiding IMMEDIATELY, reduces time and opportunity to gain further important information. Information like who is actually in the house, and whether just knocking on the door with the search warrant might be better in this case. Raiding IMMEDIATELY increases the chances of mistakes and of things going wrong. As in this case - or worse.

I realize the Chief might find this comment to be rather puzzling quibbling... to remedy which I suggest that he actually ask even one person who was horrified by the video what it was that was wrong in the video.

I am amazed by his policy reaction. Would ANYONE who was shocked and angered by the raid shown in the video say that the problem with what they saw was that the raiders did not find a large amount of drugs?

- Alex Russell

(Report Comment)
American Resistance May 10, 2010 | 11:35 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Michael Baratta May 13, 2010 | 2:05 p.m.

I can't believe this happened to a family for a pipe and $6 worth of pot. Why didn't the police investigate it instead of going off a tip? And to shoot a puppy in a cage, the first shoot just wounded it and several seconds later shot it at least 4 more times. The swar members involved should be fired and inprisoned.
In responce to what Doug Spencer said on May 6th. How can you say it was a good shoot and that the police have every right to defend them selves against an attack. At no time do you see the dog attack in the video. Because it was in it's kennel. Then you said that you think child serveces should take the child because of the dog and drudsin the house. the ones that should loose there children are the cops. They opened fire with an automatic wepons in the house. Shame on you and your swat buddies I hope your all fired you tarnish the badge for other police forces around the U.S.A.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.