I’ve been meaning to write about no-knock warrants for a while now, but as a non-attorney blogger without firsthand knowledge of them, I’ve got a bit of research (read: Knocking on the attorneys’ office doors to ask them for stories and outrage) to do before I feel qualified. I mean, even in the instances where someone (or their dog) has been injured by small town cops in stormtrooper gear, there are questions that I’d like to be sure I have a well-reasoned answer for before I write, so I’m not just acting off of my biases.
That was my plan, anyway, until I read about the koi bandit of Zilker Gardens. See, koi fish, if they’re extravagantly patterned and gigantic, can be very valuable little creatures, worth several hundred dollars apiece. Someone realized that Zilker Botanical Garden had dozens of the “little, shimmering dollar signs, just swimming around unprotected“, and had the commitment to go on a fish theft that likely took many nights and very many gallons of water to pull off.
Now, I don’t mean to trivialize the heist, because I think that public places like Zilker – which is a lovely place to relax, of course – ought to be able to keep nice things, and not just have a bunch of state fair goldfish swimming for our amusement. I am firmly against whoever stole the fish. We’re all victims of the crime, if we like to live in a city that keeps interesting and beautiful places open to the public, and that is a reason why so many people live in Austin to begin with.
But none of that is relevant to the point, which is no-knock warrants. And yes, in the well-publicized cases, where they think they’ve got a major drug kingpin or a hitman or something, and they shoot the dog or maybe a little girl, I can at least entertain the argument that if they waited to serve the warrant under civilized circumstances, they’d be imperiling the officers’ lives. I think, generally, it’s an easily debunked argument, but there’s a logic to it that makes it worth arguing, instead of dismissing it outright.
In the case of the fish bandit, though? Not so much.
Now, to be clear, there’s no indication that this was a true no-knock warrant. Likely it was a regular warrant that, when the suspect failed to open the door, was enforced via knocking the door down and pointing guns at the people inside, teenagers though they may have been, and not even the suspect in question. Why did the police feel the need to send 10-12 armed officers through the guy’s door to try to recover the fish? It’s not clear in the article, especially because the article indicates that the biggest reason they suspected the guy was that he raised koi fish of his own, and another fish pond owner tipped them off. It’s not someone saw him driving away in a tanker full of the little guys or anything. He had fish, and some other guy who had fish told the cops that it was him.
Of course they didn’t find the stolen fish. Those were big’uns, and this guy didn’t have any that were longer than a foot. But even if they had – what justification was there for breaking down the guy’s door? Were they afraid he’d eat the fish before they got to him?
APD, of course, has no comment on the case. Ten bucks says that they acted in a manner consistent with their training and experience, though.