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Death penalty dropped for man charged in botched no-knock raid

A Post investigation examined the case of Marvin Guy, who has been awaiting trial for eight years for allegedly killing a police officer

Law enforcement in Amory, Miss., perform no-knock warrant and non-no-knock warrant demonstrations on Aug. 12, 2021. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Prosecutors in Texas are no longer seeking the death penalty for a Black man accused of killing a White police detective and shooting three other officers during a botched no-knock raid in 2014.

The move came four months after The Washington Post’s “Broken Doors” podcast investigated the case against Marvin Guy, who has been awaiting trial in jail for more than eight years after Killeen police raided his apartment without warning.

In 2014, police suspected Guy was selling drugs and obtained a no-knock warrant for his apartment. Around 5:45 a.m. on May 9, a SWAT team shattered Guy’s bedroom window and shoved a battering ram into his front door. Thinking someone was trying to break in to rob or kill him, Guy said he grabbed his gun and fired through the window. Police fired back.

Police say that Guy shot four police officers, including Charles Dinwiddie, a leader of Killeen’s SWAT team who later died from his injuries. The raid turned up no drugs in Guy’s apartment.

Prosecutors charged Guy with capital murder and planned to seek the death penalty.

“After 8 years of delayed trial settings, this case needs resolution, and we seek to proceed in a manner that this case can finally be tried,” Fred Burns, an assistant district attorney for the Bell County district attorney’s office, wrote in a waiver of the death penalty filed with the court this month. “It is long past time to have this case tried to a jury.”

'Broken Doors': Understanding one of the most intrusive and dangerous policing tactics

Guy has maintained his innocence, saying that police accidentally shot the detective during the chaotic raid. He credited The Post’s podcast, along with pressure from local politicians and others, with prompting the state to take the death penalty off the table.

“I’m happy that God worked to take that evilness out of their hearts and soften their hearts,” he said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

In a statement, Dinwiddie’s family members said they hope the case will be brought to trial quickly. “We have waited eight long years and there is still no confirmed trial date,” they wrote. “We ask that Detective Charles David Dinwiddie’s life be honored with decisive action to see this process through to its just conclusion. His legacy of service deserves no less.”

Henry L. Garza, the Bell County district attorney, declined to comment on the decision to waive the death penalty because of a gag order on the case issued by the presiding judge.

Police have generally defended no-knock raids as a necessary tactic to protect officers and prevent evidence — usually narcotics — from being destroyed. But The Post’s investigation found that fatal no-knock searches often failed to turn up large amounts of drugs, and that judges rarely questioned police seeking these warrants, which can lead to dangerous consequences for those on both sides of the door.

The reversal in Guy’s criminal case comes as the federal government and communities across the country curtail the use of no-knock warrants amid a growing awareness of the dangerous policing tactic.

President Biden signed an executive order in May that included a ban on no-knock raids by federal law enforcement agencies in all but extreme cases.

In June, the mayor of St. Louis banned the local police department from using no-knocks, two months after The Post investigated the police killing of a 63-year-old Black grandfather who was shot in his own home during one such raid.

Don Clark’s house was one of three raided simultaneously by police in February 2017. The Post found that the officer who requested the no-knock warrant for Clark’s home often sought approval for multiple-home raids — but routinely failed to find drugs during these searches.

When Mayor Tishaura O. Jones signed the executive order, Clark’s son — Don Clark Jr. — was in the room watching.

“It was a real relief,” said Clark, who said he believed The Post’s investigation helped push the mayor to take action. “We know we have a lot more to do in coming together and bringing safety to the communities and to the citizens of the city of St. Louis and around the world.”

No-knock raids have led to fatal encounters and small drug seizures

Through a spokesman, Jones declined to be interviewed, citing a pending federal lawsuit from Clark’s family. In a statement, she called the ban “an important step for our city and in line with action taken by municipalities across the country.”

In Kentucky, the state legislature approved limitations on no-knock warrants after police in 2020 killed 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her own apartment. Taylor’s case drew widespread attention to such warrants, and her name became a rallying cry during protests against racism and police brutality.

The Justice Department has charged four former Louisville officers involved in the raid. Kelly Goodlett, a former detective, pleaded guilty last month to a federal conspiracy charge, admitting that she helped falsify information to obtain the no-knock warrant that led police to Taylor’s home. The remaining three officers have pleaded not guilty.

As Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, awaits the trials, she said she is still hoping for a nationwide ban on no-knock warrants.

“I don’t like that it’s this thing we’re fighting from state to state,” Palmer said. “We need to be safe all across the board.”

More on policing in America

The Washington Post’s investigation into policing in America has been ongoing since 2015, when The Post began logging every fatal shooting by an on-duty police officer in the United States.

The hidden cost of police misconduct: The Post collected data on nearly 40,000 payments at 25 of the nation’s largest police and sheriff’s departments within the past decade to uncover thousands of police officers whose alleged repeated misconduct cost taxpayers $1.5 billion.

Video: No-knock raids, considered one of the most dangerous and intrusive policing tactics, have been at the center of a debate in recent years over police use of force. At least 22 people have been killed by police nationwide carrying out no-knock warrants since 2015, according to a Post investigation.

Podcast: Hosted by Jenn Abelson and Nicole Dungca, “Broken Doors” is a six-part investigative podcast about how no-knock warrants are deployed in the American justice system — and what happens when accountability is flawed at every level.

Curbing crime: A crime-reduction strategy abandoned by Louisville police after the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor has since spread to other major U.S. cities, gaining favor with police chiefs for its potential to reduce violent crime despite its ties to the case that sparked widespread calls for police reform.

Community oversight: Police nationwide have frequently defied efforts to impose civilian oversight and, in turn, undermined the ability of communities to hold law enforcement accountable, according to a Post investigation