Friday, February 09, 2007

Atlanta Police Officers To Face Charges

Atlanta cops said to face murder charges

Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA — Prosecutors intend to seek murder charges against three Atlanta police officers involved in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman in her home, according to a letter sent to an attorney for one of the officers.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard sent a letter that said he will ask a grand jury on Feb. 26 to deliver a murder indictment against officers Gregg Junnier, J.R. Smith and Arthur Tesler, said Rand Csehy, Junnier's attorney.

Kathryn Johnston died and three officers were wounded in the Nov. 21 shootout when police used a no-knock warrant to search for drugs in Johnston's northwest Atlanta home.

When officers entered her home without first announcing their presence, police say Johnston fired a handgun and officers returned fire, killing her. An autopsy concluded she was shot five or six times.

Narcotics officers said an informant had claimed there was cocaine in the home, but none was found.

A copy of the letter obtained by The Associated Press said that prosecutors would ask the grand jury to indict Junnier on charges of felony murder, as well as counts of violation of oath, burglary, criminal solicitation, aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

"I expect an acquittal across the board," Csehy said. "I don't think there's any evidence supporting any of these charges."

A spokeswoman for Howard declined to comment on the letter.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Patrick Crosby, said his office and the FBI have not been contacted by Howard's office "regarding the issuance of such notices."

John Garland, an attorney for Smith, declined to comment on the letter, while William McKenney, an attorney for Tesler, did not immediately return several calls to his office seeking comment.

Junnier, 40, was hit in the leg, the face and his bulletproof vest in the shootout. Two other officers also suffered bullet wounds, one in the leg and one in the arm.

The shooting has brought renewed scrutiny to the police use of no-knock warrants, with which officers are allowed to raid homes where criminal activity is suspected without first announcing their presence.

Civil rights leaders, including the NAACP, have called on politicians and judges to restrict how often and how easily the warrants are issued, and for cities like Atlanta to create citizen review boards to oversee police actions.



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