Meet Jason Westcott, Your Latest, Needless, Inexcusable Drug War CasualtyBy Radley Balko
Jul. 07, 2014
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Add another body to the drug war pile. From the Tampa Bay Times, here is the story of the death of Jason Westcott.
A man who had partied at Westcott's home was plotting to rob him. An itinerant motorcycle mechanic, Westcott didn't have much -- two televisions and a handgun that once belonged to his brother were perhaps the most valuable possessions in his 600-square-foot house in Seminole Heights -- but he was terrified by his would-be intruder's threats to kill him.So the same police department who warned Westcott that a dangerous man wanted to kill him then sent an armed team of cops into his home in a nighttime raid. We're told over and over again by police departments that cops do extensive investigations of suspects before conducting these raids. How, then, could Tampa police not have known that Westcott had reported the threats against him a few months earlier? I guess I'm assuming they didn't know. If they did know, that's a hell of a lot worse.
And then there's this:
Police initially said that the investigation of Westcott's alleged drug dealing began because of neighbors' complaints. However, when the Times could find no neighbors who had called police and no records of the complaints, the department revised this assertion, saying the case began with a tip from the same informer who later bought the marijuana.Revised is a generous word, here. A mistake would be if someone in the department misattributed a statement from one witness to another. Telling the press that a drug investigation that ended with a fatal SWAT raid began because of neighbor complaints when it really began because of a tip from a police informant (who are often paid, or given consideration in their own criminal cases) isn't a mistake. It's a lie. It makes the police look as if they were merely obliging a community in need of their protection, not initiating a commando raid based on a tip from a shady source and what looks to have been no corroborating investigation at all.
Ultimately, this violent, volatile raid came after the informant claimed to have bought $200 worth of pot. That's why Westcott is dead: $200 worth of pot. Friends and neighbors say Westcott and his boyfriend were recreational pot smokers, but hardly major dealers. They were often broke. Their utilities were often disconnected. They just occasionally sold a joint or two to friends. The police found about $2.00 worth of pot the house. There's no misplaced decimal there. Two dollars.