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May 5, 2007 - The Chattanoogan (TN)

Opinion: Kathryn Johnston: A Tragedy Destined To Happen

By Brenda Manghane~Washington

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Kathryn Johnston, the 92-year-old woman gunned down in her home in a drug raid gone bad, was a predictable tragedy destined to happen. My beliefs are, anything that is predictable is preventable or at least controllable.

However, in this tragic case as in so many, quotas and numbers became more important than someone taking the time to pencil in the human factor.

Many of us have come close to or known someone who has come too close for comfort in similar cases, though not to the extent of the Johnston tragedy. In fact, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, two months and one day prior to the date of Ms. Johnston's tragic end, another elderly woman, an 80-year-old, had her home raided by an Atlanta narc unit.

The only difference was it didn't end in a life being taken, but came pretty close.

In fact, it is coming to light that this narc unit was busting into the homes of many innocent people where there were no drugs found.

In the case of the 80-year-old Ms. Thompson, it all started with the suspicion of someone, anonymous of course, reporting seeing too many individuals entering and exiting her home. It turned out that her son had died and relatives and friends were coming by to pay their respect and offer condolences.

Just think, all it takes in some instances is a suspicious neighbor, jealous neighbor, biased neighbor, vengeful person making an anonymous phone call, or some small time pusher trying to avoid arrest and lives can be forever changed.

In this case, many lives on all sides have been ruined. The victim and her family. The officers involved and their families. And an entire police department under scrutiny and paying the price.

The "War" on drugs has been a failed disastrous mission from the very beginning. Everyone got so caught up in numbers and meeting quotas that they failed to pencil in the human factor. A factor that exists on all sides. They didn't properly calculate the collateral damage.

I see there's another numbers game being played here in Chattanooga, I wonder where will it lead us? I figure that if you're going to declare war on anything, first you must choose your battles wisely. And since all wars must have warriors, you must monitor your warriors closely.

Otherwise, there will be future 92-year-olds being gunned down in the privacy of their own homes, innocents' homes being raided, and families on all sides will be forever destroyed (Yes, I feel a measure of empathy for the cops involved and their families as well, if only because this was an avoidable tragedy. There were warning signs all along throughout the years).

This is the very thing many of us saw 10, 15, even 20 years go when the battle cry War On Drugs was first declared. We tried to sound the alarm bells, but we were brushed aside. We didn't matter. But those of us who sit close to the bottom of the well are the first to note the well is cracking and becoming polluted.

In the Kathryn Johnston saga, it's appearing more and more that as long as the number of arrests were up and quotas were being met there was no accountability and people got to make up their own rules along the way.

Contact Brenda Manghane~Washington at

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