Three Little Rock residents charged with crimes following police raids have had their charges dropped, attorneys said Tuesday, amid an ongoing legal battle challenging whether police can enter residences without first identifying themselves.
Attorneys Mike Laux and Benjamin Crump said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference that the three joined about a dozen other people they’ve worked with in past months in getting their criminal charges dropped following so-called “no-knock” warrant raids.
The attorneys spoke at a Little Rock community center flanked by people wearing black and white signs reading “I was framed.”
The residents detailed their experiences of being in police raids, including a Little Rock woman who said she feared officers would shoot her in 2012.
Samone Whitaker of Little Rock said she heard her dogs barking followed by shattering glass. She said she grabbed a pistol, thinking burglars were breaking into her home.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said. “Then I hear ‘police, search warrant,’ and then I thought .. they’re going to kill me because I had my gun in my hand.”
Reginald Harris of Little Rock said authorities raided his home alleging someone had been selling drugs there.
Harris said police didn’t find drugs, but they arrested him last March when officers found a rifle at the home. Earlier this month, prosecutors dropped those charges, according to court records.
John Johnson, chief deputy with the Pulaski County Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors dismissed the charges because they didn’t have evidence to tie Harris to the gun.
The attorney’s office confirmed a number of dismissals provided to the Democrat-Gazette, but some were due to the office not wanting to reveal the names of confidential police informants. Another was caused by a state Crime Lab backlog.
Neither Laux nor Crump were listed as attorneys in those cases.
Many of the people the lawyers have worked with faced charges that weren’t relevant to the warrants, Laux said. He and Crump have sought to draw attention to the practice and have called for police departments to stop using the warrants.
“Is it going to take someone getting killed like in Houston in this town to bring an end to these unconstitutional raids?” Crump said, referencing the recent Texas raid that became a flashpoint when two people were killed and multiple officers were injured.
Houston’s police chief has said the police department will no longer use the practice.
Laux sued the city of Little Rock in federal court, alleging that police falsified information in order to search Roderick Talley’s home last fall.
Video of officers kicking in Talley's door heaped attention to the practice and the Little Rock Police Department when the footage spread online.
Judges sign off on no-knock warrants when police point to evidence that suspects might become violent or destroy evidence if alerted. Officers do not have to give prior notice when they enter private properties in those cases.
But critics of the raids warn of potential dangers for officers and people inside. They’ve also been criticized in Little Rock after attorneys found the vast majority of cases involved black residents.
The case against the city is still pending in federal court.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said earlier this month that the city plans to review policies related to no-knock warrants, though no time table has been publicly set.
Laux said he’s encouraged by the response, especially amid a search for the city’s next police chief.
The city has whittled down its candidate pool to four finalists. Scott has previously said he wants to hear finalists' thoughts on the warrants and about their potential abuses.
At a Monday night forum, finalist and former Los Angeles police commander Todd Chamberlain said he doesn’t favor them outside of a few specific circumstances, such as hostage situations.
Other candidates haven’t spoken publicly about the warrants.