Friday, January 4

Drug raid leaves wanted Texas man dead - LAST UPDATED 1/8

If all is to be believed, Stephen Scott Thornton was a 45-year-old white male, a Texan, and a survivor of thyroid cancer. How he ended up in Wake County, N.C., I don't know. But news reports today say Stephen Thornton, who also goes by the alias Scott Monaco, was killed during a drug raid at a home in North Raleigh.

I haven't found much about Stephen, though the News and Observer wrote that as of yet he has not been identified as a suspect in the two-month long investigation of illegal growing of marijuana. He was identified by fingerprints.

While the police were conducting their raid, one officer, Sgt. Ronnie Byrd, was shot in the leg. He has been released from WakeMed. It is still not clear who shot whom, though a neighbor said he heard four or five gunshots and screaming.

The house where the raid was conducted is 5401 Alpine Drive, and has been a rental home for several years. According to Wake County Real Estate Data, the owner of the home resides in Florida, and the deed was transferred to her name in 2002.

So who exactly is Stephen Scott Thornton?

Well, googling his name provides a post on the Texans for Medical Marijuana website, where the man I'm assuming is the Stephen Scott Thornton in question admitted to growing his own medical marijuana since having his thyroid gland removed 10 years ago. He wrote that smoking and growing marijuana has helped him "go from a 145-pound weakling to a 180-pound healthy man," and he has helped other cancer patients by giving them marijuana, as well.

The post, last updated on September 28, 2006, also describes how he recently got busted, first by Collin County Police and then by the ATF. He wrote that he expected a two-three year federal sentence, in part because he owned a .9mm handgun.

"If I do not plead guilty I could easily get ten years or more prison sentence since I also owned a 9-mm pistol. By pleading guilty I expect a 2-3 year federal sentence. The feds wanted me to narc on the cancer patients I provide with marijuana but I would only narc on myself."

His account of the incident, however, differs from a press release about the case from the Wylie Public Information Office. The release says:

"On May 19 at approximately 9:06 pm, Wylie Police Officers responded to a neighbor disturbance involving weapons in the 1200 block of Silene Court in northwest Wylie. Officers subsequently arrested Stephen Scott Thornton, 43-year-old white male, for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Thornton was transported to the Collin County Jail and a search warrant was obtained for his residence to search for the weapon that was used in the offense. As Wylie Officers executed the warrant, they observed in plain view, a large quantity of marijuana in the residence."

So Stephen's story on the pro-medical marijuana website sounds a bit different from what police said happened. Though really, it may be impossible to know the truth.

A bit of digging found me at Collin County's Case History service, where I found case 366-81652-05 (search by name), Stephen's still-open case of assault with a deadly weapon, complete with blatant notification of his outstanding warrant. It details the various events of the case from August 2005 through July 2007, in which the motion for counsel withdrawal was approved.

Stephen is also still on the exhaustive list of active warrants, found here (search "Thornton").

While Wake County police did not say if medical marijuana was found in the search warrant execution, one officer has said he saw marijuana plants inside of the house. The shooting is currently being investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation.

More as it becomes available.

Update: 1/5, 4:00 p.m.

A neighbor of Stephen's, 71-year-old Richard Walden, said he was outside when the raid was occurring. He told the News and Observer, "Then I heard someone screaming, 'Get away from me! Get off my property!' The next thing I heard was a banging sound, like an aluminum ladder leaned up against a home." It's safe to assume the banging sounds were gunshots.

I have two big concerns at the moment.

One: Did Stephen know these were cops? Ever since the Peyton Strickland case, my big concerns have been whether law enforcement officials make it known that they are in fact law enforcement officials. From my standpoint, I see a group of armed guys coming towards me, I don't just stand there and take it. And it's easy for law enforcement officials to assume the worst.

Two: This was a "special response team" deployed for a search warrant - why was that necessary? I don't know much about drug raids or the standard precautions, but a search warrant doesn't mean guilt. So, assuming this is unusual, which it may very well not be, why were several armed men executing a search warrant in this way?

Many, many questions in this case.

Authorities today were seen carrying marijuana plants out of the home, and said they've found drug paraphernalia. I'm interested to see if it was all marijuana related, especially considering Stephen's claim in his post that it was medicinal.

At this point I'm assuming Stephen was the only one in the house, as nothing has indicated otherwise. Sheriff Donnie Harrison has said the officials made a forced entry into the house. Who shot first, while maybe perceived as trivial, is an important fact to uncover, at least to me. In North Carolina, someone is permitted to use force (ie, a handgun) against someone is breaking into a home (though a few law enforcement friends of mine have always said to make sure that the intruder falls into the house). Keeping that in mind, if the law enforcement failed to identify themselves as such, Stephen's response was justified.

Though I don't know what went down, and probably won't for a while. It's not fair at this point to say who did what, so I guess it's the just-wait-and-see game for a bit.

Update: 1/8

Reports are now saying authorities confiscated 43 pot plants ("green vegetable material") as well as chemical lights, from Thornton's home. In all, 45 items were taken.

Apparently, Wake County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board officers received a tip that he was making and selling marijuana, and they did surveillance on the house for two months before the raid. Authorities checked the trash on January 3 and found marijuana stems and plant material, which tested positive for marijuana.

Another report was more descriptive about the search warrant: "Among the items seized were 43 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, four plastic bags of what appeared to be marijuana, soil additives, grow lights, plant-growing chemicals, a VHS tape entitled 'Frontline: War on Marijuana' and another entitled 'Pot of Gold.' Officers also seized books and magazines on growing marijuana and books described as anti-government, according to the warrant."

It's interesting to see how "anti-government" books were a factor in this.

Also, the US Marshal's Service had a full extradition order to return him to Dallas when he was arrested. This makes me wonder why they needed to fingerprint him to identify him.

One interesting note in the above-linked story is that Sheriff Donnie Harrison didn't say who shot first or whether Thornton was shot by a deputy. The choice of words is interesting - he "declined" to say. Does this mean he knows? Hopefully this won't be kept hush-hush for too much longer.

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Anonymous Brian said...

This is ridiculous. They killed an innocent man who was doing nothing but treating himself for MPS. Law without logic or sense is a sign of fascism. The government does what the government wants without recourse to it's citizen.

Here's the N&O link, btw, it was broken from your blog:

January 5, 2008 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Catus said...

A citizen shot dead by the State... and why was he killed?

Was he murdered? Did he not kowtow fast enough? What?

Detail, please. If I shoot someone, I go to jail. Will anyone go to jail for shooting this guy?

January 5, 2008 at 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is another case of a paramilitary raid gone wrong.

See these websites:

The last one is an Op-Ed in response to a horrific murder of a young woman in Lima Ohio during a SWAT team drug warrant. These guys have no business delivering drug warrants and we've demonized drug users unlike any one else.

Murderers, rapists and child molesters can all get financial aid for school after a conviction and the police are not allowed to take their possessions and keep them for themselves.

Not drug users.

January 20, 2008 at 7:26 PM  

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