GREENLAND, NH — A no-knock raid conducted over suspected possession of pills took a turn for the tragic when the homeowner fought back against officers as they battered down his door. Three dead and four injured bodies later — including the chief of police — leaves us wondering whether all the blood spilled in the name of enforcing prohibition laws is worth the cost.
Cullen Mutrie, age 29, was not exactly a model citizen, but he was also not victimizing anyone through his dealings with prescription pills. But pills would be the catalyst for a raid that would ultimately result in great cost to the community.
Greenland police had been watching Mutrie since anabolic steroids were found in his home in 2010, during a search for firearms and ammunition in accordance to bail conditions for a domestic assault charge. Neighbors called in suspicious phone conversations in 2011 that involved Mutrie asking, “How much an ounce?” The investigation intensified in January 2012 when an informant told police that he was able to purchase 10 Oxycodone pills from Tibbetts, and claimed that the couple were selling upward of 500 pills every few days. Police then spent months watching Mutrie’s home, noting at least two people who visited that had previous drug convictions.
Evidence was mounting that Mutrie was selling painkillers. In America, only the FDA may decide who can profit off of meeting the public’s insatiable desire for prescription pills. Not just anybody can voluntarily sell something like pills to willing customers; one must be licensed to be a drug dealer. Natural pain relievers like marijuana are also prohibited by the state, promoting a thriving and lucrative black market. Drug Warriors take prohibition very seriously; employing violence — even laying down their lives — to stop people from getting high without state permission.
On the night of April 12, 2012, Mutrie’s home was surrounded by the Greenland Police Department with the intent of capturing both Mutrie and his girlfriend, Brittany Tibbetts. Officers of the small seven-man department took a battering ram to the front door, which took time due to numerous locks. By the time they got through the door, Mutrie was ready and waiting. Intent on not going to prison, he shot and wounded four officers before fatally shooting Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney from a basement window. This led to an eight hour standoff, including helicopters and federal agents.
As the tragic events of the night unfolded, more and more agents arrived, to no avail. The battle was already over. By the time officers were ready to storm the house, Mutrie and Tibbetts were already dead in the basement in what was ruled to be a murder-suicide; as was the police chief, just days away from retirement at age 48.
Authorities scrambled to provide explanations for the tactical failures, claiming that “mistakes were made” in the execution of the mission. CBS Boston reported that mission leaders were unavailable at critical briefing times. Also blamed was the fact that officers were not aware if Mutrie was present, nor were they aware of the layout of the home. They also made a call for being outfitted with better raid equipment, such as ballistic helmets and shields. If only they had been allowed to catalog every inch of Mutrie’s home and protect themselves with more military hardware, Maloney may still be alive. Never did officials question whether the raid itself was unnecessary and unproductive under the best circumstances.
News of the chief’s death hit the small town, as well as nearby law enforcement officers, very hard. “We’re not just out here writing tickets and upsetting people. We do the job to save lives. That’s the kind of person Michael was,” nearby Deerfield Police Chief Michael Greeley told CBS Boston. But whose lives, exactly, were they saving? Cullen Mutrie’s? Brittany Tibbett’s? Chief Maloney’s?
An objective look at the Drug War would conclude that it costs — not saves — lives. Lots of lives. No one had to die that day. Mutrie didn’t go into the situation as a murderer. But when cornered by police intending to lock him away for untold years because of his petty pill business, Mutrie chose to go down fighting rather than surrender. This is why imposing prison sentences as a punishment for victimless crimes is a deadly idea. People don’t take losing their freedom lightly.
The final victim of the debacle is Cullen’s mother Beverly Mutrie, who is now being sued by the four officers who were wounded in the botched raid. According to Seacoast Online, the lawsuit claims that, as owner of the property, Beverly Mutrie “wantonly and recklessly” allowed criminal activity to occur. The officers are alleging that Mutrie knew about her son’s criminal activity, paid his legal expenses, and provided him firearms prior to the shootout. Mutrie maintains that she is innocent and was not aware of her son’s activities. Yet over a year and a half later, she is still fighting legal battles as the scapegoat for her son’s actions.
Three people are now dead, in what must be a Pyrrhic Victory for Drug Warriors. Clearing the streets of contraband is the objective of bloody and oppressive prohibition laws, even if it means shedding some blood. And more casualties are sure to follow, as prohibitionists stubbornly trudge forward against drugs. Violence is the natural outcome when the government threatens to lock people in cages for extended periods because they engaged in voluntary transactions with other people. Prohibition comes with great costs; and the rewards are sparse, if at all existent. Someone else will pick up selling pills, right where Cullen Mutrie left off. People are going to continue to get high. The question is, how many lives must be wasted, and tax-dollars spent, in the vain attempt to save people from their own desires? At what point can we call a ceasefire in the Drug War?