UPDATE: Columbia Police Department still dealing with backlash about SWAT raid

Monday, May 10, 2010 | 9:51 p.m. CDT; updated 5:20 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton answers a reporter's question during a press conference on May 10 at the Columbia Police Department. Burton was discussing the recent incident in which a SWAT entered a Columbia residence while serving a search warrant. SWAT officers shot and killed a pit bull inside the residence. The wife and child of the warrant's defendant were both inside the residence at the time the SWAT team entered.

COLUMBIA — For the second time in less than a week, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton stood in front of reporters and announced changes in the way his department uses a SWAT team.

"We did some things wrong," Burton said at the Monday afternoon press conference held at the Columbia Police Department. "And I'm telling you, it won't happen again."


Related Media

Related Articles

Several officers packed the doorways behind the press corps, listening to their chief as he outlined changes he called "unpopular" among some in the department.

The changes include:

  • A captain in charge of the area where the raid is to take place has to approve the operation.
  • The location has to be under constant surveillance once the warrant has been issued.
  • A raid is not to take place when children are present except "under the most extreme circumstances," Burton said.

"We will always police with common sense," he said.

However, it's yet to be seen whether the latest adjustments will stem the backlash over a case that has thrown the department's little-publicized SWAT team into the spotlight and raised questions about several of the departments' policies.

The department has faced criticism — and even received death threats — since a video of a Feb. 11 drug raid on a Columbia man's home was posted on the Internet. The video captured the sound of Jonathan Whitworth's pit bull, Nola, being fatally shot by SWAT team of at least eight officers. The Whitworths' Welsh corgi was also injured during the raid, which took place with Whitworth's wife and 7-year-old son in the home.

The raid came eight days after police obtained the warrant on tips from two confidential informants. Police suspected Whitworth of dealing a large amount of marijuana but only found a pipe and what police described as a misdemeanor amount of the drug.

Whitworth later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and was fined $300. He has not filed a lawsuit or a complaint with the department, and his lawyer, Jeff Hilbrenner, said Monday that Whitworth was still considering all his options. Hilbrenner said Whitworth had received offers from strangers "all across the country" to set up a legal fund for him, or to buy him a new dog.

But though Whitworth's criminal case may be closed, his file was in the office of Associate Circuit Judge Larry Bryson on Monday morning, according to the Boone County Courthouse clerk's office. Bryson presided over Whitworth's criminal case. Typically, unless there's a hearing scheduled, the case file is available in the clerk's office for public viewing.

An explanation was neither available nor apparent. Judges are not allowed to comment on individual cases.

Adding to the intrigue was the possibility of a high-profile test for the Citizens Police Review Board, which could come from a complaint filed by someone not involved in Whitworth's case. Anyone is allowed to file a complaint with the department if they are dissatisfied with police conduct, said Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jessie Haden.

Haden called a complaint "superfluous" since the department is still wrapping up its internal investigation, expected to be completed later this week. But once the internal review is complete, the path could be open for a complaint about the review's findings that can be appealed to the review board, said board chairwoman Ellen LoCurto-Martinez.

“We can’t do anything at this point as far as an actual investigation, but we are supposed to review Police Department policies and procedures,” said LoCurto-Martinez.

The review board has also moved their 7 p.m. Wednesday meeting from the Armory Sports and Community Center to the council chambers in City Hall.

“We’re expecting a lot of people from the public to be attending, so we wanted to find a place that was a bit larger,” said LoCurto-Martinez, who also said the board had been swamped with letters and e-mails from people across the nation who are outraged by the incident.

Mayor Bob McDavid and Chief Burton are expected to attend the meeting. Burton also said he expected to present his policy changes to the board soon, but purely as a review; the changes have already been implemented.

The public feedback is also expected to spill over to next week's City Council meeting. According to Carol Rhodes, who works in the City Manager's office, at least eight people had signed up to speak about the incident by Monday afternoon.

The rancor that has accumulated around the SWAT raid — the video had amassed almost 900,000 hits on YouTube as of Monday night — may be due to the fact that the incident has struck a nerve with a broad cut of the public.

In Monday's press conference, Burton said feedback to the department seemed to be coming from three discrete groups, some of whom he believed were reacting to bad information.

"The biggest group seems to be the marijuana legalization advocates," Burton said, who he urged to lobby policymakers if they wanted a change in the law.

The next group were animal rights advocates. Burton lamented the death of the Whitworth's pit bull, but had a do-what-you-gotta-do outlook on the SWAT team's handling of dogs, calling human safety the "primary" concern.

And the last group?

"The last group is the people that hate us anyway, for whatever reason," Burton said. "And I don't put any stock into what they say. There are cop haters out there, and that's just something we'll have to live with."

While the incident has prompted decision-making changes in handling of drug raids — such as Burton's Thursday announcement that raids would now be served within eight hours after police obtain a warrant — the department's policies on the tactical treatment of dogs and suspects remain unchanged.

So has Burton learned anything from the incident?

"I hate the Internet," he deadpanned.

Missourian reporter Anne Christnovich contributed to this report.

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.


Dustin Brown May 11, 2010 | 1:59 a.m.

this is my video response to these jackbooted thugs.....please view,comment,repost

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler May 11, 2010 | 7:37 a.m.

I imagine it's true, Chief Burton probably does 'hate the internet',as he candidly says, likely because many in 'authority' don't ever like to see their policies or how they are carried out being openly discussed and criticized by the citizenry, and take offense at the idea *their* agenda would ever be questioned.

But it is the citizens RIGHT and DUTY to examine public policy and to make sure those who 'serve' are carrying out the will of voters and are not acting contrary to what the PUBLIC wants. The Columbia public seems to have spoken out loudly on line and at the ballot box on the issue of cannibas enforcement, and what it says it that voters wanted cannibas enforcement at the BOTTOM of the list of priorities. Is anyone downtown listening though or does anyone REALLY care? Seeing Burton say basically , TOO BAD, we're going to keep on breaking down doors and possibly shooting more pets if they get in the way doesn't give citizens much hope. Perhaps he is right though, the ony way to get the desired change is to expel those with 'hearing problems' from their public posts and replace them with people that are ACCOUNTABLE to the will of the citizens.

The 3 'groups' he lists-- those who want to change/repeal cannibas prohibiton law, people who care about animal welfare, and 'cop haters' MAY all play a part in the discussion, but the last one 'cop haters' I'm not sure really plays much of a part, it seems to me saying that is simply a way to obfuscate criticism much like we see with those that dare to question Israeli policy being falsely labelled 'anti-Semitic'.

What some people really 'hate' I think is not 'cops', perse (as most rational people understand we need REASONABE law enforcement to deal with SERIOUS crime)but rather that so much force and effort is being directed at what a huge part of society believes is a group of people who are NOT harming anyone else, and do NOT deserve to be treated in such a hostile and hatefull manner. To me it would be like a war with assault weapons on jaywalkers or those who litter, the tactics and measures seem FAR and away above what one would expect to be an appropriate level of force and deterrent when compared to the seriousness of the 'crime'.

And too, all three of those 'groups' mentioned by Chief Burton are by no means seperate, they ALL likely have to do in part with reactions by citizens who see cannibas *prohibition* as a root cause of so much of the conflict, not any problems with 'cannibas' itself. Any 'hatred' (if there really is any) likely comes from citizens who feel a hatred for INJUSTICE (not cops) and only by extension does it get conferrred on those who carry out the injustice. (cont'd below)

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler May 11, 2010 | 7:38 a.m.


In summary I would just say why doesn't CPD and other LEO organizations simply try and match up any *serious* response ONLY based in how serious or not the nature of any infraction truly is. When you attempt to kill a fly with a sledgehammer, not caring how much damage you do to people and things around you of course you are going to get the public hopping mad, most people simply want what is REASONABLE and rational,not zealots who only believe it's 'their way or the highway'. Even until MO FINALLY stops being so backward and starts to really take a look at what has WORKED in other states, and gets it's laws in line with what is FAIR and REASONABLE, CPD and others STILL have the ability to decide how much effort and FORCE they are going to try and apply against cannibas. Will they heed the voice of the citizenry or will they simply go right on conducting their own private WAR? If it's the latter and they refuse to listen then the public will have no real alternative but to continue to be engaged as much as possible AGAINST this War on The People, and replace those who are deaf with those who have ears.

(Report Comment)
jared kay May 11, 2010 | 9:13 a.m.

If they keep treating us like terrorists they might have to start worrying about IED's in poeple front yards.

(Report Comment)
John Altevogt May 11, 2010 | 12:47 p.m.

I'm a conservative and an evangelical Christian, and I support reasonable drug laws. I am in none of the three groups this incompetent buffoon listed.

What is clear is that Burton along with PA Dan Knight need to be removed for dereliction of duty. This is a white wash and the thugs who invaded that home, endangered that child and harmed those animals need to have the book thrown at them. Writing off the legitimate concerns that normal citizens have about this band of neo-Nazi monsters is not acceptable.

The current SWAT team needs to be abandoned and replaced with civilized peace officers, not mental defectives. Dan Knight needs to be thrown out of office for refusing to charge these thugs with appropriate criminal charges (child endangerment and animal cruelty) and Chief Burton should join the ranks of the unemployed. The insensitivity of these animals is more of a threat to a civilized society than anything they might have corrected that evening.

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler May 11, 2010 | 1:17 p.m.

Jared, I suspect you are speaking metaphorically and in the larger sense, but I would think it might be better not even to 'suggest' (no matter how flippantly) things like that. The main reason being , people that see cannabis *prohibition* as being much more of a problem to society than cannabis use itself, want to DECREASE the violence of the war, NOT help feed it. That really is the objective, it's about finding a smarter, more rational, more reasonable way of addressing any problems associated with this issue, NOT escalating them.

The second reason would be to protect yourself, I have it on 'good authority' (from insiders) that when citizens make any comments, that those who watch and wait for such things disagree with, they 'flag you' for possible retaliation. One might think such things don't go on nowdays but I can assure you they do, sadly many people who claim they believe in upholding 'the law' whatever it says, don't believe in upholding the 1st amend. and may try and twist things around to try and use against an outspoken citizen or group. Speak your mind as is your GOD given right, but keep things calm, rational, reasonable, on track and be carefull to not say things you don't REALLY mean or that you might end up regretting. That's just how I see it, and my 2 cents for whatever it's worth.

(Report Comment)
john george May 11, 2010 | 10:09 p.m.

I am organizing a peaceful protest at the Columbia Post Office (across from the P.D.) this Saturday at 8:00 A.M. If you are as angry as I am about the needless killing of a caged dog by the CPD please contact me if you are able to join the protest. Please remember to keep signs non-threatning. Thanks!

(Report Comment)
John Altevogt May 12, 2010 | 12:36 a.m.

Mr. George, are you saying that the dog that was killed was in a cage at the time it was shot?

(Report Comment)
Chris Goosman May 12, 2010 | 12:32 p.m.

The above links to a fascinating read by the Cato Institute about the militarization of community police forces.

Executive Summary

Americans have long maintained that a man's home is his castle and that he has the right to defend it from unlawful intruders. Unfortunately, that right may be disappearing. Over the last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units (most commonly called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for routine police work. The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home.

These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they're sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.

This paper presents a history and overview of the issue of paramilitary drug raids, provides an extensive catalogue of abuses and mistaken raids, and offers recommendations for reform.

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler May 12, 2010 | 12:39 p.m.

With the continued growth of the Globalist ran totalitarian state, and all of the violence and attacks upon the citizenry that go along with it, people are linking up, reading up, sharing ideas and goals, and learning to work together to try and do their part to never let the Founder's vision of a FREE REPUBLIC die. With so many forces though, attempting to crush any last bit of citizens Independence and Liberty, it's going to be an extremely tough struggle. It is interesting to me though, (and maybe encouraging) the attitude expressed in the following link, and how a public backlash against the attempted destruction of the 4th amend. (and others) is forcing citizens to adopt the following mindset and protocol, It's sad in a way people are having to adopt this attitude, because IMO the ideal would be to have cooperation to solve SERIOUS crime, but considering the direction this nation seems to be heading, I completly understand those who feel this way:

(Report Comment)
Kaleb Johnson May 12, 2010 | 3:19 p.m.

There are not only 3 groups of people out there that disagree with the way the individuals/department culpable for the situation.

Some people actually understand the concept of a need to shoot situation. I didn't see any evidence of a need to shoot situation in the video. Maybe next time the Coulmbia PD won't put so much stock in what confidential informer said about the amount of drugs in the house.

Regardless of the amount, the SWAT team knew that the wife and child could be present and there was no need to fire a class III weapon in a house if the officers knew there was the possibility of a child being present. Shooting the Corgi was completely irresponsible, they are not violent dogs.

I have much respect for police officers trying to make society a better place to live. I have no respect for those who use their authority to stomp on or harass the rights others. There are both kinds out there.

(Report Comment)
J R May 13, 2010 | 2:12 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Carl Kabler May 13, 2010 | 3:16 p.m.

This story is still making the rounds, apparently over 1 MILLION? people have watched the video. I'll pass this link on FYI for anyone (pro or con) who wants to read the latest. Be sure to check out all the comnments there too.

(Report Comment)
jerri meek May 13, 2010 | 5:16 p.m.

I support the police but to see this is how the Columbia Police Department treats a potential drug dealer " no more innocent until proven guilty " yet you don't see them arresting Illegal immigrants who have broken a Federal Law by entering this country without permission! So the Tax Paying American gets this treatment but the Illegal dose not even get a parking ticket! The major news outlets and the US government like to keep craming down the throats of Americans the Al Qaeda and terrorism threat yet our borders are wide open and you have SWAT police raids all around the nation kicking down doors of Americans for Marijuana possession and yet you have our US Troops in Afghanistan openly protecting the poppy fields. What the heck is going on with this country?

(Report Comment)
Daniel Whelan May 13, 2010 | 5:26 p.m.

Marijuana prohibition is stupid, and everybody knows it, even cops and politicians... who under no circumstances will ever admit they're wrong about anything.

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
~ Abraham Maslow

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler May 13, 2010 | 5:49 p.m.

Jerri, Daniel, prohibition is just way too profitable for those who make there living by keeping things like cannibas illegal for it to easily go the way of alcohol prohibition. Yes it may be 'stupid' Dan, and yes Jerri those way 'up the ladder' have a LONG history of HARD drug running, bringing in the very contraband others of their ilk turn around and arrest citizens for. Yes it's a huge dirty RACKET, amazingly the CIA was given credit for helping develop crack cocaine, just to mention another drug, in order to make it easier to distribute and market in places like South Cen. L.A., in order to help pay costs of illegal wars, bribes, etc. Now look at the problems it's caused.

Then too we have those who understandably don't want to lose their jobs closer to home in enforcement even though they know full well what a racket it all is. It does seem like a way to cannibilize citizens to provide fodder to keep the whole thing going, and it is mind boggling how disfunctional the whole mess truly is and how much additonal pain it causes individuals and families who many ironically likely were simply looking for a little temporary relief in the first place. A sad state of affairs IMO, but not hard to understand, considering the whole dysfunctional nature of where parts of America seems to have gone.

(Report Comment)
wakeup america May 13, 2010 | 7:24 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
david soriano May 14, 2010 | 9:52 a.m.

So according to Burton the only people who have an issue with what happened are weed legalization proponents, animal rights activists or cop haters.

What a convenient asssesment. I don't think Burton learned a thing from this event. That is a shame for the residents of Columbia.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox May 14, 2010 | 11:39 a.m.

Ok last post I promise.

The police referring to other people as "animal rights activist" is laughable. Aren't the police the same people who lobbied for making police dogs an official member of law enforcement, therefore making them the most successful animal rights organization in American history. No other organization has managed to raise the rights of any animal to such a level. PETA dreams of such an accomplishment I mean, I'm pretty sure I could even kill a endangered species to protect myself, but not a police dog.

Second, I think most people here are more concerned with the property owners rights and the rights and safety of the wife and child, than legalizing marijuana.

Third I don't hate all cops I do however hate bad cops far worse than I hate criminals, in fact in the very limited personal contact I have had with the CPD, I can't say I have any complaints whatsoever. I have witnessed questionable behavior second hand, luckily at that time another officer appeared and reeled in the offending officer before it got ugly.
Now on the other hand is Chief Burton likes to makes baseless accusations first accusing Mr. Whitworth publicly of a crime his own department failed to produce any evidence of, now against the people of Columbia who rightfully question such barbaric tactics.

(Report Comment)
jon smiff May 14, 2010 | 12:35 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Jason McCullough May 14, 2010 | 11:30 p.m.

Send the Columbia Police Department the middle finger in an email anonymously. go to and enter this email address
Then tell them they are dog hating crooked cops and send it off.

(Report Comment)
carla thomas May 15, 2010 | 5:12 p.m.

yes the dogs were in what is known as kennel crates,even though they were just puppies both dogs were sick,one with cancer i believe.both were patients at the columbia vetinary teaching hospital here in columbia,i,ve seen mr&mrs whitworth at the columbia vetinary school of medicine a couple of dog is also a patient there.

(Report Comment)
carla thomas May 15, 2010 | 5:14 p.m.

oh,ken burton says he does not like the internet,yeah right and i have a bridge i want to sell him,he has a facebook page on facebook.

(Report Comment)
Jose Melendez May 19, 2010 | 10:15 a.m.

At the top of this page: has a direct link to the feedback page of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency that was issued 2003 US Patent No. 6630507, "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants", linked here:

HHS should remove raw cannabis from scheduling, it's healthy food regardless of THC content and belongs untaxed as such. Then, place artificial and manufactured cannabinoids in Schedule V.

Freedom of Information Act requests should prove this true. Here is public evidence from March of 2001 that then DEA Administrator Donnie R. Marshall made this now demonstrably false claim in order to issue this Notice of Denial of Petition to reschedule cannabis:

"Thus, when it comes to a drug that is currently listed in
schedule I, if it is undisputed that such drug has no currently
accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and a lack of
accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and it is further
undisputed that the drug has at least some potential for abuse
sufficient to warrant control under the CSA, the drug must remain in
schedule I. In such circumstances, placement of the drug in
schedules II through V would conflict with the CSA since such drug
would not meet the criterion of ``a currently accepted medical use
in treatment in the United States.'' 21 USC 812(b).

Therefore, even if one were to assume, theoretically, that your
assertions about marijuana's potential for abuse were correct (i.e.,
that marijuana had some potential for abuse but less than the ``high
potential for abuse'' commensurate with schedules I and II),
marijuana would not meet the criteria for placement in schedules III
through V since it has no currently accepted medical use in
treatment in the United States--a determination that is reaffirmed
by HHS in the attached medical and scientific evaluation."


(Report Comment)
Jose Melendez May 19, 2010 | 10:15 a.m.

Millions have been arrested since HHS applied for that patent in 1999, in which dozens of references are made to demonstrate the clinical effectiveness and safety of cannabinoids. In doing so, the United States Government published incontrovertible evidence that cannabinoids are not lawfully in Schedule I. Reparations are long past due, and we've been taxed enough.

Don't just blog:

Correspondence to the Department, including the Attorney General, may be sent to:
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Department of Justice Main Switchboard - 202-514-2000

Office of the Attorney General Public Comment Line - 202-353-1555

E-mails to the Department of Justice, including the Attorney General, may be sent to

see also:

Contact them respectfully and challenge their false claims directly.

Are there any lawyers reading here?

An amicus brief in this and/or Marc Emery's case would generate international press for your organization.


(Report Comment)
KcFilley KC Filley May 21, 2010 | 7:38 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Stephen Guptill August 2, 2010 | 6:15 p.m.
This comment has been removed.

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.