Bartlesville, OK — Michael Anthony Livingston, 50, was suspected of selling a plant that is legal in some form in well over half the country. Because the other half of the country still violently and callously kidnaps, cages, and kills people for this plant, however, Livingston is in jail and his mother is now dead. The entire incident was captured on video and paints a disturbing picture of America’s war on drugs.
Geraldine Townsend, 72, was shot and killed earlier this month as a Bartlesville SWAT team executed a search warrant to bust Livingston for the alleged sale of marijuana. Body camera footage of the raid was released today.
When the heavily armed and militarized men kicked in the door to their home, Townsend, likely not knowing who her home invaders were, picked up a pellet gun and fired off two pellets. A Bartlesville officer then shot and killed her.
As the video shows, police did announce themselves. However, Townsend, who was asleep when the raid began, may not have believed they were the police or may not have heard them and chose to defend herself against her home invaders—with a BB gun.
“While taking Livingston into custody officers heard shots, and two officers were struck with some type of projectile,” Bartlesville Police Capt. Jay Hastings said.
Despite knowing it was a BB gun—because they were hit with the BBs—police opened fire on the elderly woman.
In the disturbing video, we can hear Livingston, who was complying with officers and on the floor at the time, tell police that it is indeed a BB gun. However, police opened fire anyway.
“You killed my mother,” Livingston. “It’s a BB gun.”
“Officer down,” says one of the officers referring to his fellow cop who was struck with a BB.
The officers then go outside to check on their injuries and the cop who took a BB to the face said he was fine.
“Looks like she stopped and shot Steven (sic), and then I come back around to cover him and she point it at me again and blam,” the officer states in the video. “And then I fucking shot.”
When police enter the home again, Livingston is on the floor with an AR-15 to his head pleading with them to help his dying mother.
“She didn’t know,” Livingston said, suggesting that she had no idea it was police in her home. “She was asleep.”
“You killed my mother man!” Livingston yells several times at the police, to which the officer responds, “She shot me, shut up!”
Townsend was struck in the chest and later died at the hospital.
Livingston, the subject of the search warrant, was arrested as he watched his mother get shot in the chest and bleed out on the floor of their home.
As Tulsa World reported at the time,
Four officers had entered the house in the 1600 block of South Maple Avenue in Bartlesville to serve a drug-related search warrant when the shots were fired about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Livingston and the address were allegedly tied to the sale of drugs.
One officer returned fire, striking Townsend in the upper body. Bartlesville police did not identify the officer who discharged a service weapon. Townsend allegedly shot one officer in the leg and another in the face with the pellet gun.
Emergency responders transported Townsend and one officer she shot to a local hospital. Police initially said her condition “appears to be critical.” Townsend died there from her injuries, Hastings said.
The investigation of the shooting has now been turned over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
As TFTP reported at the time, after the raid, the only drug recovered by police was marijuana. According to court records, Livingston was booked into the Washington County Jail on complaints of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of paraphernalia, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony and possession of eavesdropping equipment.
Because police killed his mother, an upset and distraught Livingston allegedly threatened to kill the officer who did it, so police tacked on another charge of threatening to perform an act of violence.
While many people will justify the death of the 72-year-old woman by claiming that her son was breaking the law and she also broke the law when she fired at the officers in her house, it is important to examine the scenario objectively by looking at the morality of the situation versus the legality of it. Legality does not equal morality.
If we look at the original charges brought against Livingston—not a single one of them involves a victim. Had this man actually harmed someone, rest assured it would have been listed. However, all of these charges stem from the sale of a plant.
Had Livingston lived in Colorado, he could have had the potential to be considered a model citizen who is aiding the local economy by selling a plant that is revolutionalizing the state. Instead, because he was in Oklahoma—where marijuana is viciously attacked by drug warriors—he is sitting in a cage with a $500,000 bail and his mom is dead.
This is what the drug war does. It turns entrepreneurs into criminals, puts cops in harm’s way while turning them into home invaders, and kills otherwise entirely innocent grandmas who try to defend their home from would-be burglars. Every minute that this failed and immoral war continues is a travesty of justice and an insult to humanity. The time to end it is now.