No Knock Warrants

“No-Knock” are overly dangerous and often un-justifiably in their use.

As a rule I do not favor “No-Knock” warrants, where you kick the door and try to take control of the scene. Calling them dangerous is being generous. Not just for the cops, but the people in the building you’re breaking into.

A point to stress, you have a warrant for a reason, to obtain something. People, drugs, other evidence, etc. If a person is the target, wait him out. He’s likely will leave his house sometime. Or if he’s inside of a building, remove his life support (water, electric, etc.). cut off all hope and motivate him to come out. Time is on your side.

Classic example how NOT to do something, Waco TX 1993. The ATF had legitimate reasons to arrest David Koresh. Multiple weapons charges, and the state had multiple felonies to charge him with (including Aggravated Sexual Assault of minors). Now how to get the subject into custody? Seeing the man went running on the road three times a week, drove into town regularly (shopping, etc.), and traveled out of town regularly with his band, the easiest way would be to wait till he’s away from his compound and scoop him up.

To call the opening of the incident a disaster is being far too generous to the ATF and the people who planned it. Raiding a location where you know there are multiple firearms, oven an open area, in broad daylight, where the target was alerted to your pending assault. If you had anyone with some intelligence planning this they should have screamed it’s a recipe for a disaster. Don’t know if any one did that, or if they were ignored. But the raid ended up with 80 people dead, including 25 children.

Remember PPPPPP (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance).

Fast forward to 2019 in Houston TX. A now former Houston cop lied on an affidavit for a search warrant, leading to a raid for black tar heroin (none there). The couple inside the house were shot, as well as four of the five officers who executed the warrant. This disaster led to the state legislature severely restricting “No Knock” warrants.

Texas House Overwhelmingly Approves Restrictions on No-Knock Warrants

The Texas House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly approved a bill that would sharply restrict the use of no-knock search warrants, which the state Senate is now considering. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans, and the bipartisan support for the bill suggests that many conservatives recognize the potentially lethal hazards of routinely allowing police to enter people’s homes without warning. That practice pits law enforcement priorities against the right to armed self-defense in the home, which the Supreme Court has recognized as the “core” of the Second Amendment.

H.B. 504, which state Rep. Gene Wu (D–Houston) introduced last November, passed the House by a vote of 104–33. It would require that all applications for no-knock warrants be approved by the police chief or a supervisor he designates. Municipal court judges who are not state-licensed attorneys generally would not be allowed to approve no-knock warrants. The officers serving the warrant would have to be in uniform or “otherwise clearly identifiable” as police. If the bill passes the state Senate and is signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas will join Florida, Virginia, and Oregon in restricting this type of warrant.

“No-knock warrants are really dangerous,” Wu told Houston Public Media. “They’re just a bad policy. There’s no reason that you can’t announce that it’s the police coming into your door in the middle of the night.” He said Texas conservatives “understand that you don’t really have a right to defend your home if you don’t know who is coming in.”

That point was vividly illustrated by the 2019 raid that killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, a middle-aged Houston couple falsely implicated in heroin dealing. The warrant to search their house on Harding Street was based on a fraudulent affidavit, which led to state and federal charges against Gerald Goines, the veteran narcotics officer who submitted it. But beyond the problems with the warrant, the cops who served it did so in a reckless manner that invited confusion and violence.

Members of the Houston Police Department’s Narcotics Division broke into the house without warning in the early evening, when Tuttle and Nicholas reportedly were napping, and immediately used a shotgun to kill the couple’s dog. Tuttle responded by grabbing a revolver and firing at the intruders, which prompted a hail of bullets that killed him and his wife. “Once the homeowners thought that their doors were being kicked down by home invaders, they started firing, and the police responded in kind,” Wu noted. “We simply can’t have that.”

That deadly raid prompted Art Acevedo, then Houston’s police chief, to start requiring approval for no-knock warrant applications from a high-level supervisor, which is similar to the main element of Wu’s bill. But lax supervision was just one of the problems revealed by this appalling incident….

…According to Goines’ affidavit, there was probable cause to believe that “knocking and announcing would be dangerous, futile, or would inhibit the effective investigation of the offense” in light of two facts. First, “heroin was purchased from the location and additional substance was observed at the above residence in question by the confidential informant.” Second, the informant had seen “a semi-auto hand gun of a 9mm caliber” at the home.

All of those assertions were lies. There was no confidential informant, no heroin, and no 9mm handgun. And it turned out that Goines had a long history of fabricating evidence against drug suspects, including fictional transactions and firearms that supposedly were observed but were not recovered during searches. Again, Marcum did not know that Goines was making the whole thing up. But he accepted Goines’ contention that the combination of contraband, which is characteristic of all drug cases, and gun ownership, which is common in Texas, was enough to justify a no-knock warrant…

As much as I strongly disagree with the Democrats in the legislature, Rep Vu is right here. We need to limit these raids to very urgent events, such as a hostage situation when all other options are not available.

It gets back to one thing all cops must know: Remember the mission. What are you trying to do? In the case of Waco, the goal should have been to take Koresh into custody, something that could be achieved easily. The fact the ATF was trying to polish its reputation after the disaster of Ruby Ridge with this raid was a large part of the disaster that followed. Ruby Ridge, again, if they wanted to get Randy Weaver, they could wait him out.

A needed correction to an improper police procedure, and hopefully this passes the legislature. Thank you, Mr. Vu, for your work on this.

Michael A. Thiac is a retired Army intelligence officer, with over 23 years experience, including serving in the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the Middle East. He is also a retired police patrol sergeant, with over 22 years’ service, and over ten year’s experience in field training of newly assigned officers. He has been published at The American Thinker,, and on his personal blog, A Cop’s Watch.

Opinions expressed are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of current or former employers.

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4 thoughts on “No Knock Warrants”

  1. I spent much of my 33 year career executing and educating with respect to search and seizure issues, including “no knock” warrants. It can be quite complex while it is also at times simple. I believe that they should be available but restricted and supervised, but responsive to the criminal circumstances.

  2. The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department had a no-knock warrant on the apartment of Breonna Taylor, and for good reason: it was suspected that Miss Taylor was a drug holder for a previous drug-dealer boyfriend, and they were worried that if they knocked, she’d be able to flush them down the toilet. Turning off water to the building does not prevent the toilet from being flushed at least once.

    Unfortunately, Miss Taylor’s current boyfriend thought bad guys were breaking in, was armed, and shot at the cops. The police returned fire, and Miss Taylor was dispatched to her eternal reward.

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