The Day I Served A Warrant!
At the end of my second year of law school, I did an internship at the Meigs County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. I learned a great deal about criminal law, police procedure and had my first real taste of what it would be like to be an attorney.
Near the end of my internship I was told that a wanted felon was spotted near a house. I was also made aware that there were guns suspected to be in the house. Meigs County Sheriff James Soulsby formed a massive team of deputies to go to the house and arrest the suspect. I was given the rare opportunity to “attend” the serving of the warrant. I was provided a jacket (too small) with the word “SHERIFF” emblazoned on the back and clear instructions not to interfere with anyone or anything.
The sheriff told everyone that they were to be safe and make sure no one (which included the suspect) got hurt. It was a solemn, serious speech, not the rallying type of address I was expecting. We arrived at the house and the two deputies I rode with said that I could get out of the car, but I was not to go anywhere near the house. I was told that there was a gun in the car inside the glove box. I was jokingly warned that if, and only if, every other person on scene (about 2 dozen LEOs) were killed, then and only then could I start looking for the gun. One officer said that it would do me more good to throw it at the suspect rather than try to shoot him as I was far more likely to hurt myself rather than him. If they were scared in any way they did not show it. I, however, was terrified. Mind you I was over 500 yards away, behind at least 20 people and 5 police vehicles!
As I recall the scene almost twenty years later, I remember the Sheriff calling out on a megaphone that he wanted the suspect to come out. “Come on out _____________! We got a warrant for you.”(This memory is sketchy.) I remember that the team had to enter the residence. It seemed like it took forever, but they found him hiding (I forget where) and brought him out. I remember him repeatedly apologizing for hiding as he was put in one of the cars and transported to jail. These men (I do not remember any women on scene) were amazingly brave. They were willing to take a risk to uphold the system of justice I believe in and to protect people who would never know of their bravery.
I recall this story now, because I learned of the passing of Sheriff Soulsby in December of 2014. I wanted to express my thanks to him for allowing me this experience. I often rail against no-knock warrants and I criticize the over-militarization of our local police agencies. I stand by those opinions as examples of bad policy. However, it is important to also say that I once participated (in a very minor way) in the service of a warrant. I was scared. I express my admiration for the people who are brave enough to do that type of work. Thank you Sheriff.