Meet Howard Bowe and Detective Charles Dinwiddie, your latest casualties in the war on drugs

“The way these people were treated has to be judged in the context of a war.”

— Former Hallandale Beach, Florida, attorney Richard Kane, after police officers raided the home of Edwin and Catherine Bernhardt. Police broke into the couple’s home and immediately threw Catherine Bernhardt to the floor at gunpoint. Edwin Bernhardt, who had come down from his bedroom in the nude, was also thrown to the floor and cuffed at gunpoint. Police forced him to wear a pair of his wife’s underwear then took him to the police station, where he spent several hours in jail. Police later discovered they had raided the wrong address.

Mr. Kane gave that quote to to the Miami Herald in a 1999 article about the Bernhardt lawsuit. A year after that raid, police in Hallandale Beach again made headlines, this time after raiding the home of Tracy Bell and her three young children. Bell also happened to be pregnant. They found no drugs, but this time the police continued to insist they had hit the correct house, citing a tip from a confidential informant who claimed to have made a buy at Bell’s address. Bell had actually complained to police about drug activity in the neighborhood. The police had likely confused her home with the one next door. Bell had no criminal record but her neighbor did. Her neighbor also admitted to having friends in the drug trade.

Fifteen years later, the war drags on. This happened last week:

A man was shot before dawn Thursday by a member of the Hallandale Beach Police Department’s SWAT unit while a search warrant was being served, an official said.

The incident happened about 6 a.m. at a duplex in the 700 block of NW Fourth Street. The wounded man was identified by police as Howard Bowe, 34.

According to Major Thomas Honan, a warrant was being served for suspected distribution of drugs from the property.

“It appears the officers from the SWAT team felt threatened,” Honan said. “A SWAT officer discharged his weapon and struck him.”

Bowe was taken to a hospital, where he remained in surgery late Thursday morning.

Honan said the investigation into the shooting was still unfolding and that “we don’t know what caused the SWAT officer to discharge his weapon.” . . .

Corneesa Bowe, who lives in the other half of the duplex, said the wounded man is her brother.

“He’s in critical condition and we’re praying for him,” Corneesa Bowe said. “He’s in ICU right now.”

She said her brother has a car wash business and lawn mowing service, and has never been violent.

Bowe said she woke up when the family’s 13-year-old dog was killed.

“They came in the back door,” she said. “Why shoot an unarmed person? Now he’s fighting for his life.”

She said she also was upset that police took her 16-year-old nephew into custody for part of the morning.

Neighbor Fred Webb lives across the street from the duplex, where he said scores of patrol cars and unmarked cars arrived after the gunfire.

Webb said Howard Bowe “is an honest man who worked every day” at his business, a traveling car wash. A trailer for the car wash was parked next to the house.

“I can’t understand it,” Webb said. “I hope he’s all right.”

Details are still sketchy, but from what I can tell, there has yet to be any mention of the police finding drugs or of Bowe possessing a weapon. That may come in the next few days, but it’s usually information the police release immediately.

Hallandale Beach (population: 38,000) is in Broward County, which is home to a variety of drug war excesses. There’s the town of Sunrise, where police were recently shown to have been luring drug offenders to town with “reverse stings” designed to nab cash-heavy suspects in order to pad the asset forfeiture account. Broward County has also been home to several drug raid deaths over the last decade or so, including Anthony DiotaiutoVincent Hodgkiss and Brenda Van Zwieten.

Defendants of the door-kicking drug raid say these tactics protect the lives of police officers. Here’s a contrary data point, also from last week:

A Killeen police officer has died after being shot in the line of duty Friday. 

Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie succumbed to his injuries at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, just after 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Dinwiddie, along with three other officers were injured in Friday’s shooting.

Authorities went to a four-plex apartment on the 1100 block of Circle M Dr. to serve a search warrant. When Dinwiddie and another officer tried to enter the apartment, 50-year-old Marvin Louis Guy and a 49-year-old woman opened fire on authorities, hitting Dinwiddie in the face and Officer Odis Denton in the leg.

Guy is now in the Bell County Jail and faces three attempted capital murder charges. . . .

One of the suspects who shot several Killeen police officers has been charged with three counts of attempted capital murder. Marvin Louis Guy is being held in the Killeen City Jail on a $3 million bond, $1 million for each count against him.

Two of the officers wounded this morning are still in the hospital, the other two were treated and released.

The shooting happened around 5:30 a.m. Friday, in the 1100 block of Circle M Drive in Killeen. A Killeen tactical response unit and a central Texas Organized crime unit came to serve a search warrant. When two officers tried to enter the apartment, a man and a woman opened fire.

Last December, about 90 miles from Killeen, Henry Magee shot and killed Burleson County, Tex., Deputy Adam Sowders during a night raid on Magee’s home. Magee was raided because he was growing some pot plants. In February, a grand jury declined to indict Magee, finding that a reasonable person in his position could have thought he was being attacked and thus fired back in self-defense.

Even if you believe the goal of eradicating drugs is worth some collateral damage — that you’re okay with the occasional dead cop, dead bartender or critically wounded car wash owner if it means fewer people are getting high — 15 years have lapsed between the time the Hallandale Beach police terrorized the Bernhardts and then made Edward Bernhardt sit in a jail cell wearing only his wife’s underwear and the shooting of Howard Bowe. Does anyone think it’s any more difficult to get high in Hallandale Beach now than it was then? How about in Killeen or Burleson County?

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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