Wichita, KS — After the death of George Floyd in May of 2020, the nation engaged in fierce debates about how to curb the problem of excessive force in the land of the free. After massive proposals from then-Congressman Justin Amash and Senator Rand Paul who wanted to end qualified immunity and no-knock warrants respectively, were largely ignored, other municipalities stepped in and offered local solutions. Multiple municipalities claimed that they were going to heavily restrict the use of no-knock warrants.
Under new guidelines, no-knock warrants were deemed only acceptable in high-risk circumstances such as a hostage situation, when "giving an announcement would create an imminent threat of physical harm to victims, officers or the public." Instead of following these guidelines, however, no-knock raid continued to be used to go after low-level drug offenders and innocent people.
When police actually need to use a no-knock raid, like in the following example, they abstain.
A no-knock raid could've prevented the death of multiple innocent people last month when officers with the Baxter Springs police department responded to a 911 call from a woman requesting help, noting that her husband was attacking her and threatening harm.
In case after case, we've seen gamers and podcasters "swatted" by police in instances like this one. We've also seen harmless pot dealers have their windows smashed in, doors blown off the hinges, with flashbang grenades and tear gas pouring into their homes. In this incident, however, none of that happened — instead, police knocked.
Eli Crawford, 37, was a threat to his wife and child and was armed. Instead of busting in and neutralizing him, cops simply knocked on the door — like they should do in 99 percent of other no-knock raids — not like this one.
After officers knocked, Crawford originally opened the door but then retreated back inside after realizing it was the police. Their moment to save lives was over. Moments later, the couple's 2-year-old daughter Clesslynn J. Crawford, opened the door. That's when her mother, Taylor D. Shutte, 27, ran outside.
Had police chosen to properly carry out a no-knock raid in this extreme situation that actually called for it, the lives of Shutte and her daughter may have been spared. Unfortunately, however, that didn't happen.
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As Shutte ran out of the door, Crawford opened fire on her, killing her. “He also began shooting at the four responding officers,” officials said in a March 28 news release.
Baxter Springs police officers “retreated to a safe distance without returning fire,” the KBI said, as Crawford continued shooting at them. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Joplin Police Department’s S.W.A.T. Team, the KBI and the Kansas Highway Patrol responded to provide backup. Crawford is “believed to have used several guns to fire over 90 rounds” at authorities, the KBI said in the original statement.
Because they didn't conduct the no-knock warrant in this hostage situation, at about 9:25 p.m., one officer fired a single into the residence from outside. That round did not his the gunman. Instead, it took the life of 2-year-old Clesslynn.
Though police originally claimed Crawford was killed by officers, and that he killed the 2-year-old, that statement was later updated to reflect the facts found in the autopsy.
Crawford died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head and the single bullet fired by police into the trailer, killed Clesslynn.
"This is a horrific outcome to what had already started as a very tragic incident," police Joplin Police Chief Sloan Rowland said in a statement Monday night. "Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families involved and the surrounding community. We ask that you pray for the victims and everyone involved."
This is indeed a horrific tragedy and the officer who fired the round will likely suffer immensely for the rest of his life as he never intended to do this. However, this incident highlights a serious problem in policing.
We are constantly told that police need heavily militarized gear, shields, MRAPs, battering rams, tear gas, flashbang grenades, and the ability to enter a building without knocking — for instances exactly like this one. All too often, however, police use these resources against innocent people, drug dealers, and bail jumpers.
When they finally had the chance to use these tools in the appropriate situation, it didn't happen and a tragedy ensued.