Tampa, FL – Another life was taken by cops in the senseless war on drugs, this time an unarmed man sitting in a bedroom with two grams of weed.
A military-style raid took place at the home of Levonia Riggins, 22, by a SWAT team looking for “illegal narcotics.” Riggins, who had previously been arrested for cannabis possession with intent to sell, was subject to a month-long “drug investigation” before being gunned down in his home.
According to Tampa Bay Times:
“When investigators arrived at the house at 1432 Longwood Loop with a search warrant about 8 a.m., everyone inside came out except for Riggins, the major said. Others who left the house told deputies Riggins was inside, most likely in the rear, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in a news release.
That's when Deputy Caleb Johnson, 32, a seven-year veteran of the agency, entered the house with fellow SWAT members.
"After making numerous commands for Riggins to exit the residence, Deputy Johnson visually located Riggins in a bedroom, at which time Johnson perceived Riggins as an immediate threat and fired one shot, striking Riggins," Carter reported.
Riggins was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died.”
Authorities thought they needed to use the military-clad, violence-prone SWAT team on Riggins due to his previous arrests and “reports that he had guns.” The most dangerous thing about having cannabis is the possibility that cops could kill you, as Riggins’ case unfortunately proved.
Neighbors described him with admiration.
"He was always a good person," said family friend Carol Jane Scott. "Yeah, he smokes his weed and stuff, but he was never into anything serious. He was very kind, always wanting to talk to people, always there for you."
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But Tampa cops believed Riggins was a menace to society and must be locked in a cage for possessing a plant. One deputy was so afraid of this unarmed pot smoker that he could do nothing but resort immediately to deadly force.
“Five hours passed before the Sheriff's Office released Carter's statement confirming Riggins' death and acknowledging, "While the investigation is ongoing it does appear at this time that Riggins was unarmed."
Deputy Johnson is on paid leave while the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office investigates.
A young man, with his entire life ahead of him, was gunned down by agents of the state -- 'protecting' society from the dangers of two grams of a plant.
While it is unlikely Johnson will face any repercussions for his actions, the sad reality is that military-style SWAT raids, brimming with volatility, are commonly used for drug raids.
In fact, most SWAT raids are conducted for drug searches, even though SWAT's original purpose was for responding to “hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.”
But cops need to find excuses to use their military tactics and fancy assault gear, and the drug war is fertile ground. The ACLU report also notes that “…incident reports for search warrant executions, especially in drug investigations, often contained no information about why the SWAT team was being sent in, other than to note that the warrant was “high risk,” or else provided otherwise unsubstantiated information such as “suspect is believed to be armed.”
The Free Thought Project has documented numerous examples of killings, mayhem, and terror wrought upon innocent people by SWAT teams. Just over two years ago, another man was killed in his own home during a SWAT raid over $2 worth of pot.
SWAT teams are set up to create violence and confrontation, and Riggins was the latest victim.