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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Informant contradicts Tampa police account of SWAT killing

The Tampa Bay Times reports that a criminal informant has come forward to dispute the police's account of a SWAT team killing.  In Confidential informer blows whistle in fatal Tampa SWAT raid, the Times describes the informant Ronnie Coogle as a 50-year-old addict and long-time offender who often worked as a police informant.  Coogle says that police misrepresented the information he gave them, as that as a result police unnecessarily killed "Jason Westcott, a young man with no criminal convictions whom a SWAT team killed during a drug raid that found just $2 worth of marijuana."  As the Times describes it, it's impossible to know what the truth really is, both because of Coogle's own admitted record of lying to police, and the police's failure to monitor or keep records about Coogle and the case:

"Coogle is nobody's idea of a righteous whistle-blower. The only constant in his story is his own dishonesty; even when he confesses to lying you don't know if he's telling the truth.  Much of what he says can be neither proved nor disproved, in large part because of the Police Department's minimal supervision of his work. But Coogle's allegations against the cops who paid him, and even his own admissions of double-dealing, aren't necessarily what's most disturbing about his account.  Most unsettling of all might be what nobody disputes — that police officers were willing to trust somebody like him in the first place."

Another informant who turned on his handlers in this way was Alex White, the Atlanta informant who blew the lid off the police killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston and triggered a federal investigation into Atlanta police practices.  See the New York Times Magazine feature here.