Meet Derek Cruice, your latest collateral damage in the drug war:
A deputy shot and killed an unarmed man while attempting to serve a narcotics search warrant in Deltona, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators said deputies were entering the home on Maybrook Drive when Derek Cruice, 26, allegedly advanced on a member of the SWAT team around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“Volusia County Sheriff’s Office narcotics investigators and the Street Crimes Unit were attempting to serve a search warrant at a residence. They were met with resistance and a shooting occurred,” Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said.
A deputy shot Cruice in the face right in the doorway, investigators said.
Cruice was taken to Florida Hospital Fish Memorial Hospital in Orange City as a trauma alert, but later died.
There were five other people inside the home at the time of the shooting, but no one else was injured.
If he was shot in the doorway, it seems unlikely he had much time to process what was going on around him. In fact, not only was Cruice unarmed, according to his roommates, he was wearing only basketball shorts. The roommates also dispute the police account that Cruice “advanced” on them.
Two of Cruice’s friends, who told WESH 2’s Claire Metz that they were inside the house when he was shot, insist that he did not threaten or resist the deputy.
“That is completely a lie. I was there; I watched the whole thing. There was no advancement. There was no reaching for anything. The guy was wearing basketball shorts like I am. It’s kind of hard to conceal anything or hide anything when this is all you have on,” said Cruice’s friend, who asked not to be identified.
Another friend called the incident “murder.” There were no weapons in the house.
It seems likely that Cruice was dealing pot. The police say they found a ledger book, a scale, about a half-pound of marijuana and some cash. It also seems likely that if the police had simply knocked on the door and waited, or apprehended Cruice as he was coming or going, Cruice would be still be alive. This insistence on serving drug warrants by barreling into homes creates needless violence, confusion and confrontation. They’re designed to do this. I doubt that Cruice knowingly decided to take on a raiding police team armed only with his basketball shorts. It seems far more likely that he thought they were criminal intruders and was either trying to confront them, or was trying to escape. But there is no room for errors in judgment for the people on the receiving end of these raids — even though sowing confusion and disorientation are the stated aim. But it is only the suspects, the targets of the raids, who are expected to do everything right. When the police screw up and kill someone, they’re generally forgiven, owing again to the volatility of the situation.
So judging from the many, many prior incidents similar to this one, it’s probably safe to say that this officer will be cleared of any wrongdoing. It’s also probably safe to say that any investigation will determine that there’s nothing wrong with the police department’s warrant service policies. At least that’s how these investigations usually go. And if it is determined that the cops in these cases are following policy, and that there’s nothing wrong with the policies themselves, then the only conclusion we can draw is that the police agencies believe unarmed men getting shot in the face is an acceptable consequence of the effort to stop people from getting high on marijuana.
Of course, even that is an illusion. If there’s one thing we can say with near-absolute certainty, it’s that it is no more difficult to buy pot in Volusia County, Fla., today than it was before Derek Cruice was gunned down in his own home. And so we add another body to the pile.