SENTINEL, OK — Police performed a no-knock raid on an innocent man’s home because of a hoax phone call, leading to the town’s police chief being shot.
The apparent “swatting” was initiated with a bomb threat placed to 9-1-1 on the morning of Thursday, January 15th, 2015. Police wasted no time investigating before assembling a team to perform a no-knock raid on the home of the man suspected of placing the 4:00 a.m. call: 29-year-old Dallas Horton, a man who enjoys firearms and decorates his home with signage about zombies.
Sentinel Police Chief Louis Ross led the raid himself, accompanied by deputies from the Washita County Sheriff’s Office.
As many as five police officers kicked down the door to Mr. Horton’s ranch home and began entering the bedrooms. The unsuspecting Mr. Horton awoke, picked up a gun and opened fire, evidently thinking he was being attacked by criminal home invaders.
“They made entry, cleared the first bedroom, started to clear the second bedroom, he opened fire on police and shot our chief three times in the chest and once in the arm,” Sentinel Mayor Sam Dlugonski told KFOR.
Chief Louis survived, with injuries, thanks to his bullet-proof vest. Mr. Horton, too, survived and was taken into custody.
Mr. Horton was subjected to a lengthy interrogation about his beliefs and political opinions expressed on Facebook. His home was searched exhaustively but produced no evidence of explosives.
In fact, there was no evidence that Mr. Horton had anything to do with the 9-1-1 phone call at all. The call turned out to be a hoax that framed Mr. Horton as a potential bomber.
“The man who shot and wounded the Sentinel police chief will not be arrested at this time,” the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) said in a release. “The man was taken into investigative detention this morning after the shooting. For the past several hours, OSBI investigators have extensively interviewed the man. Facts surrounding the case lead agents to believe the man was unaware it was officers who made entry.”
Mayor Dlugonski vouched for Mr. Horton, saying he was a “survivalist” not a terrorist.
“I’ve known that kid all of his life. I don’t think he was tied to the Islamic State in any way,” the mayortold the Oklahoman.
OSBI confirmed that the 9-1-1 call “was not made from phones in the possession of those who live inside the home nor any other phones inside the residence.”
Oklahoma Highway Patrol took two other people into custody for questioning, KFOR reported.
Horton’s neighbors and family members were sympathetic to his responding to trespassers with gunfire. One family member told NEWS 9 that Dallas “thought he was protecting his home and his wife. He didn’t know what was going on until the door was busted down. And you have a right to protect your family and that’s what he was doing.”
This incident exposes how recklessly dangerous that no-knock raids can be. Raids like this one — which occur tens of thousands of times per year in the United States — set up homeowners with a hopeless dilemma that must be rationalized in a split-second: either submit to the unidentified intruders, or resist against potential police officers. There have been numerous botched raids that resulted in the needless death or injury of police officers and/or homeowners.
It is remarkable, frankly, that everyone survived the raid and that Mr. Horton was not slammed with criminal charges for his resistance. Activists need to press hard against the use of no-knock raids, demanding that the bar be raised significantly before the tactic becomes an employable option.