Alex White, a drug dealer in Atlanta with a side business as an informant, had a crisis of conscience. What do you do when the cops you work for are dirtier than you are?
The back story:
Kathryn Johnston was doing pretty well until the night the police showed up. Ever since her sister died, Johnston, 92, had lived alone in a rough part of Atlanta called the Bluff. A niece checked in often. One of the gifts she left was a pistol, so that her aunt might protect herself.
The modest house had burglar bars on the windows and doors; there had been break-ins nearby.
Eight officers approached the house, and they didn’t knock. The warrant police obtained, on the basis of a false affidavit, declared they didn’t have to — the house where their informant had bought crack that day, the affidavit said, had surveillance cameras, and those inside could be armed. Because they couldn’t kick down the security gate, two officers set upon it with a pry bar and a battering ram in the dark around 7 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2006.
Burglars, Johnston probably thought, or worse — an elderly neighbor had recently been raped. No doubt she was terrified. That is why, as the cops got closer and closer, she found her gun. And why, as the door was opening, she fired one shot. It didn’t hit anyone. But it provoked a hail of return fire — 39 shots, 5 or 6 of which hit her (and some of which struck other policemen). By the time the officers burst inside, Kathryn Johnston lay in a pool of blood….[outside] How did the dealer feel as he watched the home invasion, heard the fusillade of shots? And, inside the house, how long did it take for the police to realize their grave error and for some of them to decide to handcuff a fatally wounded woman and plant drugs in order to cover it up?
The police then tell White to rattle off a false story:
Now in the living room, the TV reporter was saying how a 92-year-old woman had died in the incident, and people were suggesting that the police had shot her. Two and two came together in White’s mind. They did it, he suddenly knew. They messed up. They killed that old lady. Now his heart pounded as the implications became clear. And they want me to cover for them.
Source: The New York Times