Mimesis Law
26 February 2020

Viral Video Shows Durham Police Bringing The Heat Over Some Weed

Apr. 22, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — A recent video shot by a homeowner in Durham, North Carolina, has gone viral. The video shows the aftermath of police entering a home in the never-ending campaign against marijuana. Medical miracle in Colorado and California, but scourge of society in places like North Carolina.

Durham, home to chalk-challenged Duke University, is an interesting place. According to the famous university, it is “part cosmopolitan, part small town.” Cosmopolitan or not, there is little tolerance in Durham for drugs. Marijuana may be legal out West in the land of the hippies, but in North Carolina, it can still get you an ass whipping.

The Durham Police Department’s High Enforcement Abatement Team was at the center of the events that led to the viral video. You may remember the Durham Police Department from such shining law enforcement moments as the Duke Lacrosse case, where the Police Department, along with the district attorney, utterly embarrassed an entire nation.

But the High Enforcement Abatement Teams take it to the next level. As the Durham website describes, these roving bands of elite cops are all over the serious stuff.

HEAT 3 is one of four district problem-solving squads called High Enforcement Abatement Teams (HEAT) that target problem areas, persons and crime trends. District commanders use their HEAT officers to handle crime “hot spots” as well as quality of life issues such as street-level drug sales, prostitution and loitering.

That description gives you a lot of information. It lets you know that whoring, hanging out, and selling piddling amounts of drugs will bring the boys down on you. But more importantly, it explains the nonsensical name of this police team. Looking at the definition of the words doesn’t make any sense. Until you see the first letters put together. H-E-A-T. Boom. Badass.

Everybody knows the way to win the war on drugs is to have a really kickass acronym. When the Police Unit Concentrating on Crimes That Seem Pretty Minor comes knocking, it will be met with laughs. The letters don’t even spell anything cool. But these guys? Bring the HEAT. The HEAT is coming. If it’s too hot from the HEAT…well, you get the idea.

In keeping with its mission of busting nickel bag dealers, the HEAT was after a guy who had recently been arrested for selling marijuana. The guy they were after was one of Durham’s notorious gram-level marijuana dealers and the HEAT was looking to get him again.

[Interim police Chief Larry] Smith notes that the department had received numerous calls about Khadir Cherry selling drugs in an apartment complex across the street from 3417 Misty Pine. On Monday, April 4—four days before the incident last Friday night—Cherry was arrested and charged with felony possession with intent to manufacture and sell, after being found with five individually packaged grams of marijuana on his person. Cherry also had a prior felony drug arrest.

 Some of you may be thinking this is not a lot to go on. Which is why you are not part of HEAT. You probably didn’t know how much evidence this really was.

“The numerous hand-to-hand transactions that were observed by apartment employees over the past three to four weeks, and the prior felony drug arrest, and the [Monday, April 4] arrest [of Cherry] is what led HEAT 2 to conduct a follow up investigation at 3417 Misty Pine Ave,” Smith states. “It is reasonable to suspect that based upon all these factors more drugs and the items often associated with them, such as weapons and money, may be located at Misty Pine.”

Yes, indeed. It is certainly reasonable that some petty weed deals might lead to cash and guns. At least to the police. So why not go knock on the door of this house and find the stash? HEAT Team 2 mobilizes. Officer J.M. Foster encountered a man outside the house and asked to speak to the owner of the home. When the man walked inside, Foster smelled weed through the open door. Those of you scoffing with doubt at that don’t understand something important about police training. Let Foster clue you in:

“Through my training and experience I know that the only thing that smells like marijuana is marijuana,” he said in the warrant.

Wiser words were never spoken. The more cynical readers would point out that police often seem to smell weed and then find things like crack, but whatever. Mistakes happen.

Now things at Vera McGriff’s house were about to get interesting. See, the reason police always make up the weed smell thing smell weed is because that lets them search things. Some of you may have thought all that evidence of drug sales and prior arrests and prior convictions was enough, but you would be wrong. It’s the smell of weed that gets the warrant.

Some people may worry that the delay in getting a warrant could let these dope dealers escape or get rid of the dope. But the good thing about high level policing is that warrants are really just pieces of paper. There was no need to wait for the actual paper to be signed.

Armstrong said he “seized the house” and officers conducted a “safety sweep for suspects.” Cherry was found at the home and marijuana cigarettes, a water pipe and cigar wrappers were in plain view, along with tobacco that had been taken out of the cigars to be replaced with marijuana, Foster stated.

The safety sweep is apparently what led to the confrontation in the video, which in three minutes goes from bad to worse. The level of violence and anger, from both sides, is frightening. Its pure luck no one was shot in this incident. Though beating with a baton and tasering is serious enough.

Calling out the heat (or the HEAT) for marijuana is a waste. Sales. Smoking. Whatever. It’s marijuana. It’s not worth it. Interim Chief Smith said his officers were not using marijuana enforcement to intimidate the community.

“No enforcement of any laws is used to intimidate anyone,” he said. “Misdemeanor marijuana enforcement is already a low priority. However, investigations into the sale and distribution of any controlled substance and more importantly the violence often associated with that is a priority.”

The video of events in Durham definitely reveals the violence associated with low-level marijuana sales. But that violence isn’t coming from the weed dealers, it’s coming from Durham’s officers.

12 Comments on this post.

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  • M
    22 April 2016 at 8:06 am - Reply

    I disagree with this post. Marijuana is a big deal. The offenders who use and sell Marijuana also commit other crimes in order to support their habit or because of their habit. This means they commit theft, they vandalize property, and commit acts of physical violence. The more drug offenders we get off the street, the fewer crimes will be committed because of this need for drugs.

    • shg
      22 April 2016 at 8:23 am - Reply

      This is so true.


    • Bryan Gates
      22 April 2016 at 11:31 am - Reply

      In 20 years of practicing law plenty of clients have admitted stealing to support their crack, cocaine, heroin, or pill addiction. No one has ever told me they stole anything to get money to buy weed.

    • Vin
      22 April 2016 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      This comment reminds me of two young Mormons who once told me that if I had one beer it was only a matter of time before I was unable to drink less than three cases of beer in one sitting, and in some cases, turned myself into a alcoholic killing machine.

    • Jim
      23 April 2016 at 10:42 am - Reply

      Poe’s Law.

  • nkceezy
    22 April 2016 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Or maybe it is the black market created by prohibition that creates the violence. When is the last time you heard of violence centered on a bottle of bourbon or a case of beer? This was common place during prohibition. Enforcement of prohibition on non-violent ‘vices’ creates violence.

    • M
      22 April 2016 at 10:43 am - Reply

      I’m sure there are many families that can tell you a spouse came home drunk and beat the heck out of his wife and kids….

      • shg
        22 April 2016 at 11:07 am - Reply

        It’s unfortunate that so many of those violent spouses are cops. It unfairly taints all police officers that most beat their wives when they’re drunk or high on pot.

        • M
          22 April 2016 at 11:22 am - Reply

          Yep. It is unfortunate. Its an unfortunate situation for all.

  • Burgers Allday
    22 April 2016 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    I am probably alone in this, but I think the most important thing this video shows is how police don’t announce before they clear a room. Play the video without looking at the screen and imagine that you are (or were) sound asleep in one of the upstairs bedrooms.

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