Officer Convicted in Botched Atlanta Drug Raid

HarpBlaster.com wire reports

ATLANTA, May 20, 2008 — An Atlanta police officer was convicted today of lying to authorities in the wake of a botched drug investigation that left a 92-year-old woman dead.

Arthur Tesler, of Acworth, Ga., was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury in April on charges of violation of oath of office by a public officer, false statements and false imprisonment under color of legal process. The jury handed down its verdict after three days of deliberations.

In April, two other officers — Gregg Junnier, of Woodstock, Ga., and Jason R. Smith, of Oxford, Ga. — pleaded guilty in state court to voluntary manslaughter, violation of oath by a public officer, criminal solicitation and making false statements in the shooting death of Kathryn Johnson. The pair also pleaded guilty in federal court to civil rights conspiracy resulting in death.

On Nov. 21, 2006, Smith, Junnier and Tesler arrested an individual for drug possession. That individual told the officers that he had purchased crack cocaine from a man named “Sam” at a house that he later identified as 933 Neal Street and claimed that he had seen a kilogram of cocaine in that house earlier that day.

Junnier contacted a Confidential Reliable Informants, or CRI, to have the CRI attempt to make a purchase from 933 Neal Street, but the CRI did not have transportation. The officers did nothing else to corroborate or verify the information the person they had arrested provided.

Smith, Junnier and Tesler then obtained a search warrant for 933 Neal Street after Smith submitted a sworn affidavit to a magistrate judge falsely stating that Smith and Tesler had directed a CRI make a purchase of cocaine from 933 Neal Street, that the CRI was searched before the purchase, that the CRI purchased $50 of crack from a man named “Sam” and that a no knock warrant should be issued because the CRI stated that “Sam” had electronic surveillance equipment in the house, which “Sam” carefully monitored.

At about 6:40 p.m., Junnier, Smith, Tesler, and other narcotics officers attempted to execute the search warrant. Tesler was assigned to guard the back door.

As officers rammed open the front door of 933 Neal Street, Johnson, who was the owner and only resident of the house, fired a single shot from a .38 caliber revolver through the door. Johnson’s shot did not hit anyone.

Junnier, Smith and four other officers returned fire, hitting Johnston with five or six shots, one of which was fatal. Ballistics and other forensic analysis are unable to establish which of the officers fired the fatal shot or the other shots.

Three officers, including Junnier, were injured by shots fired by other officers, or resulting shrapnel or debris, but all were released from the hospital by the following morning.

No other occupants or drugs were found at 933 Neal Street.

After the shooting, Smith planted three bags of marijuana, which the officers had seized somewhere else earlier that day, in the basement of the house, authorities said. Tesler filed a false police report stating that a purchase of crack had been made at 933 Neal Street earlier that day, and Smith submitted two bags containing crack that falsely indicated the drugs were bought by an informant at 933 Neal Street, authorities said.

The next day, Smith and another officer disposed of the remainder of the marijuana from which Smith had taken the planted marijuana, by throwing it down a sewer drain. Smith, Junnier and Tesler also met to fabricate a story that would explain the events leading to the shooting of Kathryn Johnston. Smith, Junnier and Tesler then recounted the fabricated story to Atlanta police homicide investigators, authorities said.

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