Gang violence update: another SWAT raid fatality
“There’s a whole lot of things that goes (sic) into the judgment about what is the way to conduct arrests safely and securely.” — Christopher Wray
On the morning of August 9th, at approximately 6 am, a SWAT team conducted a raid on the home of 75-year-old Craig Robertson. Robertson, a 300-pound Air Force veteran, had difficulty walking and used a cane. This fact alone would make an assassination attempt extremely difficult. However, he claimed to own a sniper rifle and his threats should not have been disregarded. Agents were attempting to serve him with an arrest warrant. Robertson was charged with making internet threats on the life of the president and other government officials. Reportedly the FBI attempted to enter the home with a battering ram. When this failed, they used a vehicle-mounted ram to enter via the front window. One law enforcement source claimed the suspect appeared to point a gun in the general direction of agents. There is no mention of who fired the first six shots. They were followed by FBI agents shouting: “Shots fired, shots fired. He’s got a gun!” This was followed by a hail of bullets.
After Robertson was shot FBI agents dragged him outside where they attempted to render first-aid. When seconds could be a matter of life or death it would seem advisable to render first-aid where he first landed. However, this would not have had the theatrical benefit of showing the FBI compassion for their victim. He later died on the sidewalk and his body was left under a white, blood-soaked sheet for approximately two hours.
Usually, these SWAT raids go according to plan. Consider this story, about 66-year-old Thomas Caldwell and his wife Sharon who were awakened at 5:30 a.m. on January 19 by the FBI, after attending the Trump rally on January 6th. Caldwell, wearing only in his underwear, went to see what the commotion was; in his words:
There was a full SWAT team, armored vehicles with a battering ram, and people screaming at me. People who looked like stormtroopers were pointing M4 weapons at me, covering me with red [laser] dots.
Caldwell’s wife was also covered with red dots from the weapons aimed at her. She, dressed in her nightgown, begged to put on her socks before they forced her outside in the cold.
William Chrestman’s home was also raided in the early morning hours. He woke up to flash bangs going off outside his bedroom window. An FBI agent with a bullhorn was yelling at Chrestman while he was talking to the FBI on the phone. When he answered the door, he was told not to bother getting dressed.
Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe was also a subject to a pre-dawn raid. He reported, “I went to my door to answer the door and there were ten FBI agents with a battering ram.” He was also partially clothed in front of his neighbors. Christopher Kuehne opened his door with his 4-year-old son in his arms; they were both covered by red lasers pointed at them. Kuehne’s wife suffered a miscarriage the following day.
Christoper Wray claims that the decision to use SWAT teams is made locally. He testified, “Those decisions are made—as they should be—by the commanders on the ground, in the field office.” Attorney General Merrick Garland said essentially the same thing: “The determinations of how to make arrests under arrest warrants are made based by the tactical operators in the district.”
Yet the similarities of these raids would mean that the “commanders on the ground” were using the same playbook. That’s the playbook written by the Soviet KGB. This playbook recommends pre-dawn raids in which the arrested person is dazed and half-asleep. An enormous show of force is advised to terrify neighbors. Military equipment, helicopters and tanks emphasize the seriousness of the arrest. The raid on Joshua James’s residence used an armored vehicle with a turret, two vans, six FBI vehicles, and three local police cars. These raids are an enormous expense. Top leaders cannot be unaware of this. Judge Andrew Napolitano estimated the raid on Roger Stone cost approximately half a million dollars.
It is not unusual for SWAT raids to go terribly wrong. Innocent people, including children, have been maimed and killed in their homes. The New York Times examined SWAT team raids in 2017 and found that at least 81 civilians and 13 officers had died from 2010 through 2016 in such searches. The government paid Randy Weaver $3.1 Million for the murder of his wife and son at Ruby Ridge. Weaver’s wife was shot by a sniper while she was holding her baby. Wray has expressed confidence in the “career agents on the ground” who make these decisions (about conducting SWAT raids) “appropriately.” Does this include making an arrestee’s spouse walk barefoot in the snow, or training weapon lasers on 4-year-olds?
Whistleblower and former FBI SWAT team member Steve Friend testified, “after raising concerns about using a SWAT team to arrest a subject of the Jan. 6 investigations,” he was ordered off the job for a day. Friend believed that the subject was willing to surrender voluntarily. His supervisors were not interested in the subject’s voluntary surrender. Perhaps the best illustration of the Justice Department’s motivation is provided by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin. Sherman announced:
I wanted to ensure, and our office wanted to ensure, that there was shock and awe. That we could charge as many people as possible before [January] 20th. And it worked because we saw through media posts that people were afraid to come back to D.C., because they were like, ‘If we go there, we’re going to get charged.’
The joy these bureaucrats gain from seeing people suffer is truly pathological.
John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (Algora Publishing). He has a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations from St. Mary’s University. He is retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. He is featured on the BBC’s program: “Things We Forgot to Remember: Morgenthau Plan and Post-War Germany.”
Image: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.