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April 26, 2007
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3 Atlanta officers indicted in elderly woman's death during raid

By HARRY R. WEBER, Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA — A grand jury indicted three current and former police officers in the shooting death of an elderly Atlanta woman during a drug raid, a judge said Thursday.

Officers with a no-knock warrant had raided the woman's home without warning on Nov. 21 after an informant said he had bought drugs from a dealer there. Kathryn Johnston, 92, died in an exchange of gunfire after the plainclothes officers burst in.

Gregg Junnier and J.R. Smith were charged in the indictment with felony murder, violation of oath by a public officer, criminal solicitation, burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and making false statements.

Arthur Tesler is charged with violation of oath by a public officer, making false statements, false imprisonment under color of legal process.

Fulton County prosecutors said earlier this year that they intended to seek murder charges against three officers. The three also are expected to face federal charges.

When officers raided Johnston's home without announcing their presence, police say she fired a handgun and officers returned fire. An autopsy report revealed Johnston was shot five or six times in the chest, arms, legs and feet.

Narcotics officers said an informant had claimed there was cocaine in the home, but none was found.

The case raised serious questions about no-knock warrants and whether officers followed the proper procedures.

Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington asked the FBI to lead a multi-agency probe into the shootout. He also announced policy changes to require the department to drug-test its nearly 1,800 officers and mandate that top supervisors sign off on narcotics operations and no-knock warrants.

To get the warrant, officers told a magistrate judge that an undercover informant had told them Johnston's home had surveillance cameras monitored carefully by a drug dealer named "Sam."

After the shooting, a man claiming to be the informant told a television station that he never purchased drugs there, prompting Pennington to admit he was uncertain whether the suspected drug dealer actually existed.

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