In November of 2018, Lucil Basco of Bexar County, Texas, awoke to a thunderous boom, followed by a parade of eight cops barging through her front door. She was handcuffed, and, with her screaming child, removed from the premises. The officers soon realized they made a mistake: They had the wrong house, based on incorrect information from a confidential informant. Yet they continued the operation anyway.
Three of those Bexar County sheriff’s deputies—James Hancock, Jacob Rodriguez, and Bryan Smith—are not entitled to qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that allows state actors to violate your rights if the precise scenario in question has not yet been ruled unconstitutional in a prior court precedent. They can thus be sued for it, a federal court said this week.
But the case is a crash course in the levers available to the monopoly on state power—from the drug war, to surveillance, to no-knock entries, to botched warrants—and the importance of government accountability in such circumstances.