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Atlanta police faulted for fatal raid

Feds told officers cut corners to obtain warrant that led to elderly woman's death

An Atlanta police officer involved in the Nov. 21 slaying of an elderly woman has told federal investigators that short cuts were taken in obtaining the no-knock search warrant used in the raid on the woman's home, according to law enforcement and legal sources involved in the case.

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Narcotics officer Gregg Junnier's statement has become the linchpin in an FBI investigation of the incident, the sources said.

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Officers involved in the raid had maintained they obtained a warrant based on information from a confidential informant. But Junnier told the FBI the information actually came from an arrested drug dealer, according to sources close to the investigation. Such evidence wouldn't have been sufficient to obtain the warrant under guidelines protecting citizens from unreasonable searches.

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Bill McKenney, a lawyer for one of the officers, said he was unaware that any of the officers had provided statements to the FBI. McKenney represents Arthur B. Tesler, one of the officers who obtained the search warrant.

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Following the westside killing of Kathryn Johnston, federal authorities were asked by the city to investigate the case. The FBI's break came after Junnier's disclosure.

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Junnier's lawyer, Rand Csehy, confirmed that the officer has cooperated with federal authorities. Csehy said Junnier also has told the Atlanta Police Department he intends to resign due, in part, to injuries sustained in the raid on Johnston's home.

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Csehy said he and his client won't comment further until the FBI concludes its probe. However, when a reporter provided detailed information on Junnier's testimony, Csehy said, “I don't dispute that.”

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[]Beyond Csehy and McKenney's brief comments, none of CL's sources would talk on the record.

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Two of the sources are federal law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case. One of those sources said findings of the federal investigation would be released soon, perhaps this week.

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Junnier, according to law enforcement sources, told federal investigators that Tesler and Jason R. Smith misrepresented evidence they used to obtain a no-knock search warrant for the home of Johnston, whose age has been listed as either 88 or 92 on various records. The officers told a judge that an informant had purchased cocaine from a man named “Sam” at Johnston's West End home, according to press accounts.

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McKenney, Tesler's attorney, said he had “no knowledge” of Junnier's accusation. Smith's attorney, Ed Garland, was in trial and couldn't be reached.

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When the officers served the warrant, Johnston heard them breaking into her home. She fired shots from a rusty revolver that wounded three detectives. The officers returned fire, killing Johnston, according to police accounts.

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After the shooting, a police informant, Alexis White, told police he had been pressured by officers to corroborate their stories about drugs being purchased in the home. The police found no cocaine and no one named “Sam.”

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Junnier's statement was called “explosive” by one law enforcement source, who added, “He (Junnier) saw where this was going, and decided to talk.”

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Detective Marcia Dell, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said she is “heartbroken” by the accounts of the incident that she's heard.

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The buzz in police ranks is that the drug units were under pressure to serve a large number of warrants – in order to make top officials look good. Police officials deny that, and one source who has access to records said there is no quota for warrants. However, one ranking police officer said the number of drug enforcement officers on the street is less than half of what it was five years ago. Instead of four squads of about 10 officers each, there are now two squads. All of the members of one of those squads – the unit involved in Johnston's shooting – are on administrative leave.



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