Since Breach of Trust, The Raid was written, a somewhat better picture of what happened has emerged, both from statements by Ryan Frederick and from testimony given by Det. Kylie Roberts in Frederick’s preliminary hearing. Not surprisingly, the versions differ starkly.
Frederick’s version, which has remained consistent from the beginning, states that his fence and detached garage were broken into three days earlier (supported by receipts for repair materials and locks). On the night of the raid, he had gone to bed early, as he starts work at 4AM, he was awakened by his dogs barking and a loud crash. He heard no words. He failed to find his cell phone, and armed himself with his .380 ACP handgun and went to investigate the noise. Entering his living room, he saw that the bottom two panels of his door were broken out and someone was trying to enter, or reaching for the door knob, through the bottom of the broken door. Believing the burglar from the earlier break-in had returned and would harm him, he fired two shots at the intruder before his pistol jammed. He then retreated to his bedroom to clear the gun and try again to find his cell phone. Hearing the sirens of arriving police cars, he realized the police were there and, leaving his handgun in the house, walked out and surrendered to the police.
In the days after the raid, multiple versions of the police account were given by officers and spokesmen who were not on the scene at the time of the raid. This led to a great deal of confusion. The only account given so far by a policeman who was there was the testimony given by Det. Kylie Roberts at Frederick’s preliminary hearing. I tried to attend that hearing to get first hand knowledge, but the hearing was moved to a different courtroom without notice, so I must rely on the reports of others who arrived later and saw the prosecutor heading for the alternate courtroom.
Roberts testified that there were two teams of officers present, one to search the home and the other the garage, where the marijuana grow operation was alleged to be. He testified that he knocked and announced four times “Chesapeake Police, Search Warrant, Open the Door” over about 14 seconds. He acknowledged that he heard dogs barking inside as he announced. When an unnamed officer saw a light in the back of the house “change” he shouted “Eight Ball” repeatedly, a code word that the “operation had been compromised,” whatever that means. Immediately on hearing the call, the officer at the door used a battering ram to attempt to knock down the door, but missed the lock and sent the ram through the flimsy lower panels of the door. As the officer reached through the door in an attempt to retrieve the ram for another try, two shots were fired one striking Det. Shivers, who was standing in the front yard (which is three steps down from the porch) in the shoulder and passing through the arm hole of his body armor and into his chest. The police withdrew to render aide to Shivers and to wait for reinforcements, during which time, Frederick came out and surrendered.
The two accounts differ in point of view, but do support each other in some ways. The geometry works. If Shivers was standing in the yard, his shoulder would have been at the correct height to be struck by a bullet fired through the broken, lower panels of the door. A shot fired at chest height at the door would have passed over his head. Many with firearms expertise (including myself) have expressed doubt that a .380 ACP fired through an exterior door would retain the energy to inflict Shiver’s wound, but one passing unobstructed through the opening the ram made in the door would be capable of that damage, though it would be impossible to plan such a shot, making Shiver’s fatal wound a freak accident.
However, Det. Robert’s own testimony reveals some serious misconduct. Leaving aside the flimsy support for the warrant, it is clear that a forcible entry was the intent of the police from the beginning. Roberts announced the search warrant (though it is highly unlikely that Frederick heard it) and demanded he open the door. Yet as soon as motion was detected in the house, with no knowledge of whether Frederick was rising to investigate the dogs barking or coming to open the door as demanded, the attempt to breach the door was begun. It is clear he was never to have been given the chance to answer the door and accept the warrant peacefully.
We can only speculate what would have happened had Frederick held his fire until the door was fully breached and the police entered to find him standing there pointing a gun in their direction, but the norm in these cases is a dead citizen. It seems likely that Frederick’s fear that his life was in danger was correct whether it had been the police or criminals at his door.
No-knock and knock-and-announce forcible entries are normally conducted under limited circumstances, and only when there is reasonable belief that evidence would be destroyed, hostages are in peril, or it is determined that armed and dangerous criminals are present and most safely taken by surprise. None of these circumstances apply in this case.
No explanation or justification for this extreme method of serving the warrant has been offered. The police had multiple options that would not have created a mortal confrontation. Frederick’s work schedule was known to the police, so search could have been conducted while Frederick was at work and an arrest, if justified by the search, could have been made on his return. The FBI typically conducts such searches by waiting for the subject to leave his home and confronting him with multiple officers as he approaches his vehicle. Considering that Frederick had no criminal record, and no record of violence, the time honored method of simply knocking on the door and waiting for an answer and serving the warrant peacefully would likely have avoided anyone being placed in peril.
Yet, for reasons not yet explained, the Chesapeake Police chose the one option most likely to result in someone dying.