This past week on ColumbiaMissourian.com has been full of discussion regarding the legality of the Columbia Police Department's actions in the February raid of a southwest Columbia home. The team's actions — which resulted in the death of a family dog — have prompted the reanalysis of regulations involving SWAT tactics and suggested legal repercussions for those involved in the raid.
Did Columbia police violate the city's classification of marijuana as low-priority? Many ColumbiaMissourian.com readers think so.
Charles Farley writes, "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...Columbia has already passed a town ordinance stating crimes of violence and property theft should take high priority and drug violations, low priority. If Columbia Police are so busy, why are they bothering with any Marijuana cases?"
Eric Cox agrees, saying, "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?"
Many readers also take issue with the brutal nature of the department in the SWAT raid, including Louise Dotter, who says "IF I had PROBABLE CAUSE and EVIDENCE of FELONY violations I would call in the heavy guns. What these guys did was swat a fly with howitzer. Completely unnecessary and most likely illegal. The officers should be brought up on charges and the department reprimanded! This is a blatant and flagrant abuse of power by the police!"
Dana Shetterly also doubts the validity of the "anonymous citizens" that tipped off police to the house. Shetterly writes, "I would bet good money that either one or both of the anonymous citizens don't exist."
The shooting of the dogs was also a main topic of contention for commenters.
Debby Phillips writes, "I am a dog owner and as well as an 18 year member of the veterinary industry and I am shocked and saddened by many things in this case. First of all, the physical damage that could be inflicted by a dog of any size on a fully uniformed SWAT officer is minimal. Secondly, rather than shoot the dog, close the door or ask the owner to restrain the dog."
Phillips continues, "For myself and many others in our country, our pets are members of our family. I would not equate a dog's life to a child, but the emotional attachment is very similar and these short-sighted officers killed a member of this family. What would the response be if the child had been shot or wounded instead?"
Some commenters claim the shooting of the dogs was completely unnecessary due to the animals' containment at the time.
Deputy Police Chief Tom Dresner also commented on the website, disputing claims about the alleged containment of the two dogs.
"Both dogs were momentarily at the threshold," Dresner writes. "The first shot is fired at the front door. Photos will be released soon. The second dog was not a Welsh Corgi. And no dog was in a crate at any tine. For those who after the photos are released then insist that we took the crates out of the pictures, I don't know how to help you."
Though an unpopular opinion, Carlos Sanchez sides with Columbia police on the animals' shooting.
"(Columbia police) take the entry one step at a time I am sure with the 'Threat/No Threat' point of view and they are moving fast to eliminate any threats at that time," writes Sanchez.
"This is not some game this is a life and death situation. Yes a barking or seemingly vicious dog such a a Pitt Bull or any dog could be considered a threat or even a distraction that yes could get an officer killed in the line of duty."
Some commenters, namely Tom Kelly, simply marvel at the importance of technology in this case.
"The video camera has changed this country soooo much," Kelly writes. "I'm beginning to say a silent prayer to the God of Kodak."