Texas legislators push for reform on no-knock warrants

by | Apr 23, 2021 | Uncategorized

A year after the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, Texas lawmakers are working to pass two new bills regulating law enforcement’s use and operation of no-knock warrants. 

If passed, HB 1272, authored by Texas Rep. Jasmine Crockett and SB 1544, authored by Sen. Royce West, would require officers to have body cameras on during a search, require officers to wear clothing easily identifying themselves as law enforcement, and require the officers to present clear and convincing evidence for the necessity of a warrant. 

HB 1272 also states that no-knock warrants can’t be issued by justices of the peace or municipal judges. 

This bill is named in honor of Breonna Taylor, a young EMT who was shot in the middle of the night while sleeping in her bed, during a no-knock raid. But this bill could just as easily be named after James Reed, Officer Chuck Dinwiddie, Marvin Guy, Officer Hornsby, and a list of names so long that I would be here all night,” Crockett told the Signal. 

Crockett said she is proud the bill has bi-partitan support specifically by the ACLU and the Gun Owners of America. 

In a press conference on April 19, Crockett held a press conference honoring bi-partisan support on both bills. 

However, some law enforcement officers said that Crockett’s HB 1272 was too restrictive while SB 1544 by Rep.West is more reasonable. 

Houston Police Officers Association Executive Director Ray West said one issue with the bill is that it requires a district court judge to sign off on the warrant which can be hard for smaller districts and counties around the state. 

“You might not have a district judge for once every three or four days that comes,” he said. “If you have a situation that’s an urgent situation, especially a hostage situation you can’t wait for a judge to get there.” 

West said another issue is that the warrants could only be administered between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

“Most people who have jobs are at home between 10 at night and six in the morning,” he said. “A no-knock is an element of surprise and that’s what you get when someone is not prepared for you to come in.” 

West said that since the Houston Police Department’s Harding street “fiasco” HPD hasn’t run a no-knock warrant and plan to only use them in extreme situations. 

In addition to West, The Sheriffs Association of Texas issued this statement to the Signal. 

The Sheriffs Association of Texas has met with Representative Crocket and is happy to assist her in crafting a bill that creates a safer environment for law enforcement and those we are sworn to protect. 

In a press conference on April 19, Crockett laid out the importance of HB 1272 and has gained support from Gun Owners of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP. 

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old Emergency Medical Technician shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police Department after they entered her apartment with a no-knock warrant March of 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Taylor was sleeping in bed with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker III when they heard a loud banging on their front door just after midnight. Walker said after he and Taylor asked who it was numerous times with no answer, he grabbed his gun in self defense because he thought the police officers were intruders. 

Officers then entered Taylors apartment with a battering ram and still failed to identify themselves as officers. 

In an interview with CBS reporter Gayle King,Walker said he fired one warning shot with his licensed gun and was met with rounds of shots into the apartment. He also said after he realized Taylor was shot he immediately called 911.

Taylor was shot multiple times and died on the scene, and Walker was unharmed. 

In a report by Louisville Police, the three plainclothes officers Sgt. John Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove, Brett Hankinson, involved in the shooting wrote there were “no injuries” in the incident even though Taylor died on the scene. The report also read there was no forced entry even though a battering ram was used to enter the residence. 

Taylor’s apartment was a part of the Louisville Metro Police department narcotics investigation. The person of interest in the investigation, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover,  was already in police custody at the time of the search and has said continuously Taylor was not involved. No drugs were found in Taylor’s home. 

The three officers involved in the shooting have not been charged in relation to Taylor’s death. 

Another victim of a no-knock warrant entry gone wrong was 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in Oct. of 2019. Jefferson was a pharmaceutical saleswoman shot and killed in her home by former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean. 

Officers arrived at Jefferson’s home after her neighbors called officers for a “welfare check.”

According to family members, at the time of the call, Jefferson was in her home playing video games with her nephew. 

When officers arrived on the scene they traveled to the back of the house and met with Jefferson at her back window. 

Jefferson pulled out her gun after hearing a noise in her backyard because she thought it was an intruder.

 Just like in Taylor’s case, the officers never identified themselves as police. 

Dean shot and killed Jefferson through a window and has since been indicted for her death. 

Jefferson and Taylor were both young black women who had dreams of working in the medical field.

kennedy@texassignal.com | + posts

Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.

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