Issac Bailey

Would drug raid have been conducted in Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach?

A shooting scene is being investigated off Withers Swash Drive in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Officers with the 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit were serving a narcotics warrant at 602 Withers Swash Drive. As the officers were serving the warrant, gunfire was exchanged. File photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan jblackmon@thesunnews.com
A shooting scene is being investigated off Withers Swash Drive in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Officers with the 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit were serving a narcotics warrant at 602 Withers Swash Drive. As the officers were serving the warrant, gunfire was exchanged. File photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan jblackmon@thesunnews.com

It is likely that upscale communities such as Grande Dunes and DeBordieu include people who have smoked (or smoke), or even sold (or sell), small quantities of marijuana.

Let’s not pretend that some of the most well-off in the Myrtle Beach area - and their kids - have never touched the stuff.

And it is likely many guns would be found in many of those upscale homes, some legal, others not. This is South Carolina, after all.

It is highly unlikely, though, that any of those communities would be subject to the kind of raid that ended with 30-year-old Julian Betton paralyzed after being shot at least 9 times.

That’s been lost in the debate about the seemingly ever-changing story about the raid. Officers initially said they knocked and identified themselves and fired on Betton because fired first, maybe even multiple times.

After an investigation proved Betton hadn’t fired at all, officials said Betton had pointed a gun at them. If he did, police responded to a legitimate threat. A handgun and an assault rifle was found in his apartment.

But on that new claim, all we have is the word of the people who falsely told us for months that Betton shot at them.

That’s not the central issue, though. Betton’s alleged crimes will be adjudicated. He’s already paid dearly, given that he can no longer walk. The officers, on the other hand, won’t face charges despite their months of false claims.

The raid was necessary, we are supposed to believe, because Betton allegedly sold a total of 15 grams of weed to an undercover informant during two $100 exchanges.

Why would that lead to such an overwhelming show of force? Because Betton owned guns? There was no better way, better than what Betton said was a no-knock entrance into his apartment by a dozen officers, some of whom shot dozens of bullets in a residential area?

Kingpins generally don’t get their hands dirty hustling small amounts of pot on the street. If he’s not a kingpin, why did this arrest warrant such overwhelming force? Or is he a key cog in a dangerous Mexican drug cartel that has sunk its teeth into the Myrtle Beach market? If so, why hasn’t the public been informed?

Such questions matter.

It matters if the raid went precisely as the officers were trained to conduct it, or if an officer was spooked. There are numerous documented cases of officers reacting to what looks like a gun when it was only a wallet or a cell phone.

The act of holding a gun in your hand makes it more likely you’ll perceive the other person has one — even when they don’t, according to a study by professors from Notre Dame and Purdue universities.

And it matters that we question if the idea for the raid itself was wise. Or did it unnecessarily put the community — and police officers — in harm’s way? Is there no better way to deal with illegal drugs?

I don’t want an illegal drug dealer - small-time or not - in my neighborhood. But neither do I want police officers emptying their weapons in the community where my kids and others play.

“The clear majority of Americans of all races have violated drug laws. But due to resource constraints (and the politics of the drug war), only a small fraction are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated,” Michelle Alexander wrote in “The New Jim Crow.”

“In 2002, for example, there were 19.5 million illicit drug users, compared to 1.5 million drug arrests and 175,000 people admitted to prison for a drug offense,” she wrote.

Had this happened in Grande Dunes, I’m sure more of us would be asking questions.

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