Drugs can Kill! or make that Cops looking for drugs can kill.
Sorry for the cheesy headline. But I thought that title may grasp a few readers attention given that most people visiting my blog will be against the war on drugs. This is a very disheartening story, however these incidents can not continue and public outrage will be the only path to putting an end to Police Raid violence.
Grand Valley State University film student Derek Copp is an avowed marijuana aficionado, reform activist, and a "a left-wing hippie peace-keeping liberal," according to his Facebook page. As of last week, he is also a victim of the drug war, or, more precisely, of police heavy-handedness in enforcing what appears to be a petty violation of the marijuana laws. Copp was shot and seriously wounded March 11 by a police officer who was part of a task force raiding his residence with a search warrant.
According to a compilation of local media accounts of the shooting, an Ottawa County deputy coming through the apartment's back door shined a flashlight in Copp's face, causing him to raise his right hand to cover his eyes. The officer then fired one round, striking the student in the chest. Copp said he had no idea the man who shot him was a law enforcement officer.
"He never even had a chance to even see who was coming at him, with a bright flashlight in his face," said his mother, Sheryl Copp. "He had no clue. He heard someone knock on his door, and he had no clue."
According to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, Copp was shot in the chest by a sheriff's deputy acting as a member of the West Michigan Enforcement Team, which consists of Ottawa County deputies and members of the Michigan State Police. Police have not identified the deputy, nor is it known whether he has been suspended. Investigators said Copp, 20, did not threaten or confront police when they entered his home. Nor have they revealed the search warrant, what they were looking for, or what they found.
But an attorney hired by Copp's family after the shooting said it was all over a very small amount of marijuana. In a Tuesday statement, attorney Frederick Dilley said: "I have been asked what drugs may have been seized by those executing the search warrant at Derek Copp's apartment. To my knowledge, the raid resulted in the seizure of a few tablespoonfuls of marijuana, and nothing more," Dilley continues, "The primary concern remains the manner in which this raid was carried out. And the apparent lack of any justification whatsoever for the use of force... much less deadly force in executing a search warrant."
Dilley is not alone in his concerns. The Grand Valley State University Student Senate issued a statement the same day wishing "Derek a full and complete recovery" and questioning police conduct. "Even though this incident took place off-campus," the statement said, "Student Senate is greatly concerned with the actions of the law enforcement team. Student Senate will await a full and complete explanation from the Michigan State Police. Like all students, we want to know why the West Michigan Drug Enforcement Team entered Derek Copp's apartment and why a firearm was used."
Even the university president demanded to know what had happened to one of his students. In a Monday e-mail to the university community, President Thomas Haas wrote: "The fact that this incident took place off-campus diminishes neither my interest nor my concern. The university's campus security staff was not involved. Like many of you, I await a full and complete explanation from law enforcement, and I have made a formal request for such information. I want to know what brought the Enforcement Team to Derek's apartment and why a firearm was discharged."
The shooting has also led to at least two protest demonstrations by students demanding answers. "Justify This Shooting!" demanded one sign held by a demonstrator. "We want answers!" read another. "Marijuana or not, unjust shot!" and "Our campus is not a war zone!", students chanted at a campus demo on Friday.
The Michigan State Patrol is investigating the shooting. That means the state police are investigating themselves, since the Western Michigan Enforcement Team consists of state police and Ottawa County sheriff's deputies.