State lawmakers propose bills banning ‘no-knock’ warrants

The aftermath of a February 2019 'no-knock' raid at James Reed's Killeen home.
The aftermath of a February 2019 'no-knock' raid at James Reed's Killeen home.(KWTX)
Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 10:03 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 11:22 AM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - State lawmakers have filed five nearly identical bills this legislative session that would prohibit magistrates from issuing so-called “no-knock” warrants.

These are warrants that allow law enforcement officers to enter a property without giving advance notice.

“Since 2012, 13 Killeen police officers have been killed and two injured in no-knock raids,” said state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas, at the hearing for her bill, House Bill 1272, Monday.

In fact, only two Killeen police officers have ever died in the line of duty and only one during a raid.

Officer Robert “Bobby” Layden Hornsby, 32, was shot and killed on July 14, 2013 while participating in a SWAT deployment at an apartment complex where a man had brandished an AK-47 rifle and then barricaded himself in an apartment. The man, Pfc Dustin Billy Cole, 24, of Oklahoma, opened fire on police with the rifle. Hornsby and another officer were hit. He was the first Killeen police officer to die in the line of duty.

Killeen police Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie died May 11, 2014, two days after he was shot while serving a search warrant at 1104 Circle M Dr. Apt. C, on Killeen.

“We have law enforcement officers that are being prosecuted for murder because of botched no-knocks; we also have individuals that are homeowners that are being prosecuted for capital murder because of botched no-knocks,” Crockett said.

Jumeka Reed, the sister of James Reed who was killed in a ‘no-knock’ raid carried out by Killeen Police in February 2019, testified in support of Crockett’s bill.

“You’re breaking into people’s homes in the peak hours of the night — in morning — unannounced in a Stand-Your-Ground state,” Reed told KWTX before she testified Monday.

“You can’t be surprised if you’re met with gunfire when you come through that door,” she added.

Supporters of HB 1272 and the other similar bills further argued that unannounced raids are unconstitutional and outdated and that they rely on unreliable information from informants.

“The no-knock warrant is one of the remaining vestiges from the failed so-called war on drugs that really plays out more like a war on Black and Brown communities,” said civil rights attorney Lee Merritt at the hearing.

Other supporters have argued that the bills do not go far enough.

“A reliability hearing for informants before search warrants are issued . . . would be a great addition to this bill,” Scott Henson, the policy director at the criminal justice nonprofit Just Liberty, told KWTX.

He also said he thinks judges should be given more guidance regarding “when it’s appropriate for forced entry to be used.”

Meanwhile, opponents of the bills said “no-knock” warrants are needed to prevent people from hiding illegal items when police officers arrive at a property.

Late last year, the Killeen Police Department changed its policy regarding “no-knock” warrants, saying warrants will not be served in cases only involving drugs.

Officers must also seek police Chief Charles Kimble’s approval before presenting an affidavit for a no-knock warrant to a judge.

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