Texas man defends family, gets surprise decision from grand jury
Gun owners and self-defense advocates are lauding a rare victory in which a Texas grand jury has refused to indict a homeowner for shooting and killing a police officer who entered his home unannounced in the middle of the night.
The homeowner, Henry Magee, 28, said he thought the officers who broke through his door were robbers and he acted in self-defense to protect his pregnant girlfriend and two children.
Police were acting on a tip from a criminal informant that led them to believe Magee had more than a dozen marijuana plants, all at least six feet tall, in his rural home in Burleson County. Officers included a line on the warrant that Magee also had “possible illegal guns” stolen from the local sheriff’s office. The local magistrate signed off on the warrant, with deadly consequences.
Before the sun came up on Dec. 19, nine deputies broke down the door to Magee’s mobile home and set off a flash-bang grenade. Magee confronted them, firing away as they barged through the door. One of the deputies, Adam Sowders, fell dead.
When the dust settled, they found two small marijuana plants less than six inches tall and four guns, all legally owned by Magee, three of which were locked in a safe.
What happened at the grand jury was nothing short of stunning.
“I don’t know of any other case where someone shot and killed a police officer in the course of a drug raid has been no-billed by a grand jury,” Dick DeGuerrin, the attorney representing Magee, told the Washington Post. “At least not in Texas.”
Forbes magazine reported: “That sort of outcome is rare not just in Texas but throughout the country, since people who shoot cops invading their homes usually do not get the same benefit of the doubt as cops do when the roles are reversed. (Just ask Corey Maye.) This double standard is reflected in the reaction from the local district attorney:
“Julie Renken, the district attorney for Burleson County, said in a statement Thursday she thought the sheriff’s office acted correctly during events that ‘occurred in a matter of seconds amongst chaos.’
“‘I believe the evidence also shows that an announcement was made,’ Renken said. ‘However, there is not enough evidence that Mr. Magee knew that day that Peace Officers were entering his home.’”
When presenting a search warrant to a judge in a drug case, police will often include the possibility of guns to get the judge to sign off on waiving the “knock and announce” requirement, defense lawyers say. It is also fairly common for police to ask for no-knock warrants in drug cases where the suspect could destroy evidence, although in this case Magee’s attorney told the Post it would have been impossible to flush six-foot marijuana plants down the toilet.
What is less common is that the homeowner who draws a gun and acts to defend his family is not shot to death on the spot. Even more uncommon is that he should live and not be charged with first-degree murder, said John Whitehead, a constitutional attorney with the Rutherford Institute.
“Yes, this is unusual. We had another case in Texas that the Supreme Court refused to hear, where the father was in his bed and the police entered the home because his son had a little pot and shot him because he went for his gun thinking it was a criminal intruder,” Whitehead told WND. “Americans have a right to defend themselves against intruders and especially intruders who smash through their doors unannounced with guns drawn in the middle of the night.”
The District Attorney’s office released the following statement:
“The Burleson County Sheriff’s Office would not have been there that day if Mr. Magee had not decided to live a lifestyle of doing and producing illegal drugs in his home. Therefore, we will fully prosecute the drug charges against him.”
Whitehead said police are increasingly using no-knock raids to deliver arrest warrants for nonviolent crimes such as drug possession simply because the homeowner is a licensed gun owner.
In asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of Quinn v. State of Texas, Whitehead’s legal team argued that making lawful gun ownership the sole grounds for a no-knock warrant improperly penalizes and limits the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The court refused last year to hear the case.
Written by LEO HOHMANN
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