Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Woman "Accidentally" Shot In Head by Ross County Sheriff's Department

Dear Readers,

There are all sorts of sad tales of things that could have be averted if only ...

This is one of those stories that I fought with myself about writing. The reasons are many, but it boils down to the fact that I truly believe that the vast majority of law enforcement officers in America are good people doing a very tough job.

And that in itself, the idea that it is a tough job, is a part of the reason that I'm writing about this.
In Chillicothe, Ohio, a woman was shot to death. How it happened is a strange and sad tale indeed.

At about 10:30 p.m., on December 11th, a drug task force with the Ross County Sheriff’s Department calling themselves the U.S. 23 Task Force swarmed a residence and prepared to break in and "serve a warrant" to make arrest for possessing drugs.

One of the officers, Sgt. Brett McKnight, an 11-year-veteran of the Ross County Sheriff’s Office, negligently handled his weapon and fired a round through the exterior wall of the mobile home.

The scene of the botched drug raid. (Source: Chillicothe Gazette)
467 U.S. 23 South
The bullet traveled through the exterior wall and into the residence. It struck Krystal Marie Barrows in the head. She was sitting on a couch.

Krystal Marie Barrows, 35, of Chillicothe, was “in critical condition” and flown by helicopter to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, where she died the following day.

Krystal Marie Barrows 

The Ross County Sheriff's Department is now saying the shot that killed an unarmed Ohio woman during a botched drug raid was purely "accidental" – and supposedly the veteran officer who fired the shot is "surprised" and "didn’t even know" that his gun had gone off.

Imagine that while you read on.

One report said that the Ross County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant by tossing in a flash grenade into the trailer which they had expected to find a large cache of weapons and drugs.

Yes, that seems to be the new way to serve a warrant - toss a flash grenade.

After detonating the flash grenade and entering the trailer, they found a 35-year-old woman, Krystal Barrows, dying of a gunshot wound to the head.

She was taken from the scene by a medical helicopter.

After the raid and the senseless killing, it seems as though Damage Control started with Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt pointing out that the round was not intentionally fired, and it’s unclear whether the gunfire was the result of a weapon malfunction or user error.

Schmidt stressed that he was not at the scene and is not a spokesman for the Ross County Sheriff’s Office, but he does serve as its legal counsel.

Schmidt said it didn’t appear any shots were fired at law enforcement officers from inside the home.

Lt. Mike Preston of the Ross County Sheriff's Department, after describing the arrests and seizure of drugs found, declined comment on the killing of Ms Barrows beyond what was mentioned in the news release.

The release said the raid was the culmination of a “lengthy and ongoing investigation by the sheriff’s office and the task force.”

To me, that all becomes Blah Blah Blah!

You see, lately, like many of you who write me asking me about it, I too see a lot of use of weapons by police departments in a time when crime is actually down - that is if we believe the FBI Crime Statistics.

To me, the end doesn't justify the means in many of the cases that I've seen. I'm sorry, but I don't care if U.S. 23 Task Force found weapons and drugs of different sorts - or whether six suspects were arrested.

Those jerkweed druggies will most likely be out on bail in no time, and the picture of the guns that were seized at the scene does not exactly look like the assault weapons that people may think those idiots had in their possession.

The problem, as I see it, has to do with law enforcement who do wrong, or with any agency of government that has a situation go bad. It appeared that these agencies immediately try to minimize the real tragedy of the situation, in this case the needless death of an innocent woman, by pointing at the arrests or the seizure as being a positive of some sort or what have you.

In the case of ObamaCare, the media and the Obama administration want us to focus on the problems with the ObamaCare website and how it is being fixed - instead of focusing on the real tragedy of MILLIONS of Americans losing their Medical Coverage as a result of the requirements and regulations set fourth in the ObamaCare law.

As plausible as one can try to make it, the raid went bad and the death of this woman should not have happened.

How big was this raid? Looking at the weapons seized, not very big at all.

Take a look for yourself. And yes, ask yourself if the woman's life was worth getting this ragged excuse of weapons off the mean streets of Ross County?



Look at this assortment of hunting rifles, single shot and pump shotguns, two semi-auto SKS type weapons, and four pistols. This so-called big haul cost a woman her life.

Notice something else, unless they are stolen, they all appear to be legal firearms.

Pursuant to policy, Ross County Sheriff George Lavender called the Ohio State Bureau of Criminal Investigation to investigate the raid and what prompted the gunfire, Schmidt said.

"We’re relying heavily on BCI," Schmidt said.

Then he went on to say something that I find real interesting, according to reports Schmidt said, "Multiple task force members were armed at the time of the raid, and all of their weapons have been seized so they can be analyzed to help determine who fired the shot".

December 14th, 2013,  Sgt. Brett McKnight, an 11-year-veteran with the sheriff’s office who was recently promoted, has been placed on leave while the Bureau of Criminal Investigation continues its investigation, Sheriff George Lavender told media Friday.

Sheriff Lavender also has asked the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association to do an internal investigation, specifically to take a look at training and policies and procedures.

Lavender referred to Sgt. McKnight as a “highly respected officer” and good employee who is “very straight-forward in what his beliefs are, his appearance, the way he conducts himself, the job he does.”

At first, they thought the flash bang might have caused pieces of a kerosene heater to strike Barrows, but then found a shell casing outside.

Once that was determined not to be the case, Lavender said, that the guns used by the officers in the service of the warrant were secured and BCI officials were contacted.
Sgt. Brett McKnight

A police investigation determined that the fatal shot had come from the weapon of Sgt. Brett McKnight. 

According to a police press release, the news came as "a surprise" to McKnight, who was allegedly unaware that he had even fired.

Supposedly, the department suspects that McKnight fired his weapon by "accident," at the exact moment that the flash grenade was detonated.

Flash grenades are used to create confusion for suspects as police initiate a raid, although in this case, the police were just as confused as the inhabitants of the trailer.

Remember, after the shooting, after a spent cartridge was found outside the home, since all of the task force members were armed at the time of the raid, all of their weapons had been seized so they can be analyzed to help determine who fired the shot.

This is one of the things that puzzle me about this story, Sheriff Lavender reported that Sgt. McKnight has had additional training, like other members of the special response team.

That includes tactical training with the North American Tactical Association Training, firearms simulator training with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and extra hours at the firing range each month.

During the BCI investigation, Lavender said, it was discovered a bullet had accidentally been discharged from outside the door of the trailer, struck the door frame and went through the house toward the couch.

So with all of this training, why didn't McKnight know his weapon fired? Or did he and simply hoped no one would question it?

Lavender, who was at the scene, said he never heard an independent gunshot and believes McKnight’s gun fired as a second flash bang detonated just inside the front door.

“I absolutely believe this was an accidental shot. I really believe that the deputy that accidentally discharged his weapon was not aware of it at the time. You know, these are very emotional, high-stress situations. They’re going into a situation where they feel they could be shot and adrenaline is very high, emotions are very high,” Sheriff Lavender said.

Sheriff Lavender said, "Anytime someone is possibly loaded inside waiting for officers, it’s just like the military. Those people in the military fear for their lives, I’m sure my people do, too. I’ve been on the front line. It is dangerous, and you do have a sense of you have to protect yourself, but you’ve got to do what’s right.”

While I agree to a certain extent with Sheriff Lavender, because I've been there I have to say that if an officer is in fear of his life to such an extent that he might get someone killed with him being there - then he shouldn't have been there!

And while I have to admit that the unexpected happens in a stressful situation, this doesn't answer why a veteran deputy did not know his pistol just went off in his own hand - and had to turn it in to find out that it did?

While Sheriff Lavender first tried to explain that it had something to do with the stress of the situation, he then said that it was caused as flash bangs detonate, a strong reverberation is felt, and he thinks McKnight did not realize his weapon discharged.

But frankly, that is really hard to believe. These officers do not carry small caliber weapons.

They do carry weapons that are sure to let the shooter know that he just squeezed the trigger, and squeezed off a round. Accidental Discharge (AD) or not, you know darn well when it goes off in your hand.

The discharge of any weapon that a sheriff's department uses would certainly be powerful enough to let the shooter know that the weapon had been fired.

For me, to say that he "didn't even know" it went off just seems like a lame excuse for what took place.

And frankly, it is unthinkable that any police department would come up with the lame excuse that an officer of theirs "didn’t even know that his gun had gone off."

Friends, with the power to take lives comes great responsibility.

It also requires skill, proficiency, control, and safe handling of the weapons you're using. Yes, this is the difference between amatures and professionals.

It sounds like Sgt McKnight may have had a boat load of training, but little to no real skill and proficiency with firearms.

His neglect to notify his superiors that it was his weapon that was the one that discharged "accidentally" or not is suspicious.

This is why I'm writing this, I'd like to know why he didn't come forward? Why didn't he? Why didn't he simply say it was an AD, an accidental discharge?

Regrettably, it happens in that line of work to the best officers - especially in an intense situation.  

As for him not knowing, I simply cannot believe that someone cannot feel the discharge of your weapon even in a tense moment.
That, and his negligently handling of his weapon which fired a round that killed an innocent woman demonstrates his lack of ability to do his job in a safe manner.

And with all of his training, it doesn't look like more training will fix his problems.  

During the news conference, while with one hand Sheriff Lavender expressed condolences to Ms Barrows’ family - he noted she is one of the many drug-related deaths seen daily.

“I can’t begin to think of how they are saddened, and we are saddened, too, because we did something and that has happened,” he said.

“But," he said, "we also have people dying of drug overdose every day, and if we fail to continue to do the enforcement effort, I think we’re failing this community in what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Why he said this is beyond me. I hope I'm wrong, but it almost sounds like he was trying to justify her death because she was associated with people involved with drugs.

We must keep in mind that Miss Barrows is the victim here. She had no criminal record, except a misdemeanor conviction for a non-violent offense.

She leaves behind three children, ages 9, 14 and 19, according to local news reports. It was also reported that her Facebook page has her listing four children – three sons and a daughter.

Sgt McKnight has been placed on paid leave for the time being.

It would be interesting to see if the Ross County Sheriff's Department learns from this and make some serious changes.

If the department does see the killing and subsequently the life of a person associated with people who do drugs as a big deal - than maybe they should think about this, McKnight's unsafe handling of his weapon could have got a fellow officer killed.

That would also be a tragedy!

Editor's Note:

My first real training in the proper use and safe handling of multiple weapons started when I was in the Marine Corps over 40 years ago.

The training I received had everything to do with War Fighting and the "use of deadly force" in situations involving security of different sorts.


As an 0311, a Marine Rifleman, War Fighting and the use of weapons and Rifle Platoon Tactics were parts of my primary occupation.

Along with that intensive training, a great deal of my training had to do with Corrections and prisoner escort, security of special weapons and sensitive material, ship's security, facility security, security of individuals, and so on.

Later as an Instructor, I related to others one of the most important things that I was taught, "with the power to take lives comes great responsibilities."

One great responsibility is the safe handling of our weapons.

Thank you.
Tom



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