Drug raid may cost Memphis taxpayers
By Chris Conley
February 4, 2005
A botched drug raid by Memphis police that killed a gravedigger in 2002 has spawned a probe into whether evidence was planted, and it could cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
The federal civil case against three narcotics officers, which went to trial in October and ended with a nearly $3 million award for Jeffery Robinson's family, raises questions about department policy on drug raids.
A second case against the City of Memphis is separate.
Testimony in the October case convinced jurors that officers not only wrongly killed Robinson, 41, a gravedigger and caretaker at Baron Hirsch Cemetery, but tried to cover it up.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said the agency has been investigating since late last year whether evidence in the case was manufactured or hidden.
After an informant told them someone named "Carl" or "Snag" was selling marijuana or cocaine from the cemetery building, on July 30, 2002, the officers went to Robinson's home on the cemetery grounds at 1523 Rozelle in South Memphis.
One hour later, officers kicked in the door to the small outbuilding and shot Robinson in his bedroom, trial evidence showed.
There were conflicting stories about what happened next, but officers contended Robinson came at Officer Mark Lucas with a box cutter and that Lucas fired in self-defense.
Officers described a chaotic scene with lots of shouting and contradictory commands, one officer telling Robinson to put his hands up, another to put them down.
Paramedics said they saw no box cutter near the body.
Former Shelby County Medical Examiner O.C. Smith testified the shooting couldn't have happened the way the police said.
The family's attorneys say the box cutter was taken from a closed or locked toolbox and planted next to Robinson after he was shot.
The box cutter was never fingerprinted.
The officers found a small amount of marijuana in a camper in Robinson's backyard and charged him with drug possession. He was also charged with aggravated assault, but prosecutors never took the case to a grand jury. By then Robinson was dead.