Raid Of The Day: Jose Colon

One night in April 2002, police in Bellport, New York were preparing for a heavily-armed raid that included a helicopter.

As four SWAT cops rushed across the front lawn toward the targeted house, 19-year-old Jose Colon emerged from the front door. According to the police account of the raid, as the officer rushed the door, one officer tripped over a tree root and fell forward into the lead officer, causing the lead officer's gun to accidentally discharge three times. One of the three bullets hits Colon in the side of the head, killing him.

The police said they screamed at Colon to "get down" as they approached, though two witnesses told a local newscast that, (a) their screams were inaudible over the sound of the helicopter, and (b) the officers appeared to be frozen before the shooting. That is, the witnesses didn't see any of the officers trip. One witness later recanted his story after speaking with police.

Colon, who didn't live at the house, was never suspected of buying or selling any illicit drugs. The police proceeded with a search of the house, and seized eight ounces of marijuana. A subsequent internal investigation found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of police.

Colon had no criminal record. He was two months away from becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college.

(The "Raid of the Day" features accounts of police raids I've found, researched, and reported while writing my forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. It's due out in July, but you can pre-order it here.)

Sources: Samuel Bruchey, "Victim's girlfriend says shooting wasn't an accident," Newsday, April 26, 2002; Samuel Bruchey, "Cops' account disputed again," Newsday, April 27, 2002; Bruce Lambert, "No indictment in shooting of young man in Suffolk raid," New York Times, August 9, 2002.