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.