Hank McGee should be thankful that he didn’t wind up dead or dreadfully disabled in the no-knock raid that took place on his trailer house in Texas early Thursday morning, December 19. Instead, reacting in fear that he was being robbed, he grabbed his pistol and shot and killed a SWAT team member. On Thursday, February 6, a grand jury in Burleson County declined to indict him for murder, the first time in recent memory such a verdict had been handed down, according to McGee’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin.
DeGuerin added that the jury's verdict was just because McGee thought someone was breaking into his home, where he and his girlfriend were living:
We felt that the grand jury acted fairly and reasonably and had all of the information that it needed to make the decision that it did: that this was a justified shooting.
But we need to say that this is a tragedy.
It need not have happened. [The SWAT team] could have walked up to his house in the daylight and he would have let them in, or they could have stopped him as he left his house to go to the store.
The no-knock warrant was issued the day before by a judge who had been persuaded by an informant that McGee was growing marijuana inside his house, and that he had a cache of rifles and pistols there as well. Deputy Adam Sowders, who died at the scene, told the judge that giving McGee advance warning of the raid would be “dangerous, futile, or would inhibit effective investigation.”
This is in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. McConney stating that “exigent circumstances” could override Fourth Amendment guarantees for a probable-cause search warrant “particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized” in the ordinary way. In McConney the court held that exigent or emergency circumstances that allow otherwise unconstitutional warrants are,
those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of a suspect, or some other consequence [that would] improperly frustrate … legitimate law enforcement efforts.
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