TODAY'S QUESTION: Does Columbia need a full-time SWAT team?

Friday, May 7, 2010 | 5:32 p.m. CDT; updated 10:05 a.m. CDT, Sunday, May 9, 2010

Police Chief Ken Burton described the pit bull's actions toward SWAT officers as "becoming aggressive." This story previously misreported the pit bull's actions.

On February 11, Columbia Police SWAT officers entered Jonathan Whitworth's home with a search warrant. The warrant, which was eight days old, was issued on suspicion that he was dealing a significant amount of marijuana. However, officers found only a small amount of marijuana and some paraphernalia.

Whitworth's wife and 7-year-old were home during the raid. Officers shot Whitworth's pit bull and Welsh corgi in the paw after the pit bull became aggressive, police Chief Ken Burton said, adding that shooting the corgi was an accident. The pit bull died from the gunshot.


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A video of the raid has stirred outrage across the nation. In an earlier Missourian report, Burton said that the department is getting threats from all over the world. He also said the department does not have guidelines for how to deal with dogs, but that Tasers are generally ineffective.

Burton said one mistake the police made was not acting on the warrant right away.

"I don’t think we should have run it eight days later," Burton said. "We should have run it that day. We simply didn’t do it. So we own that, and we’re very sorry it turned out the way it did. None of those officers wanted to hurt that dog — or any dog, as a matter of fact — but it was an unfortunate situation.”

Burton explained that the SWAT team consists of part-time members who hold other jobs within the department rather than owe their sole responsibility to a SWAT team.

Should the Columbia Police Department find the money to hire a full-time SWAT force? Does Columbia need a SWAT force at all?

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Eric Cox May 8, 2010 | 4:02 a.m.

It was not an unfortunate situation it was a deliberate act. The city of Columbia sent a military style assault team into a family home and opened fire on the family dogs within seconds of entering. They had no idea of the location of the seven year old child, the mother, or Mr Whitworth at the time they opened fire with fully automatic weapons.

Burton can try and spin this all he wants, I'm not buying. Maybe the CPD needs to learn to do some real police work and gather real evidence of a crime instead of just kicking in doors. Why do we need a SWAT team to serve warrants for non-violent crimes and non-violent offenders, why does it take eight armed men in combat gear and fully automatic weapons to take on a sleeping 25 year old father, his wife and a their seven year old child? Are we really going to treat people like this based solely on the word of any two unknown and unidentified people, without any real proof of a crime?

They should be happy this didn't turn out like Lima OH, where SWAT killed a unarmed woman and wounded her one year old baby she was holding.

If this is how SWAT is used we don't need SWAT. I just don't believe this is how a free and civilized society should treat it members merely accused of a nonviolent crime.

If SWAT is what it takes to protect me from the scourge that is a 25 year old landscaper who smokes pot, than I can do without SWAT.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox May 8, 2010 | 4:14 a.m.

It's and then I really need to reread before I post; it's late. I wanted to take another shot at the "unfortunate situation" comment an "unfortunate situation" is a fender bender or a flight delay. This on the other hand was planed, practiced, and had the approval of Boone County Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider. A military style SWAT raid is nothing like an "unfortunate situation"

(Report Comment)
Jose Melendez May 8, 2010 | 7:30 a.m.

RE: A military style SWAT raid is nothing like an "unfortunate situation"

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 children abducted 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, add 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.

Got reparations?

(Report Comment)
Charles Farley May 8, 2010 | 11:16 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)
carla thomas May 14, 2010 | 4:07 a.m.

the killing of the dogs is an issue here!!!!

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)

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