Who's Next?

Annette Green didn't have to die. Her death was a tragedy waiting to happen in St. Louis County's reckless war against two-bit drug dealers and addicts.

Kraska says the average cop agrees with him. "This is a real guess, but I suspect about half the law-enforcement community doesn't care for all this gung-ho paramilitary approach to policing," he says. "I teach a course every semester with about 60-65 people in law enforcement, all in management. I'd say 40-45 of them agree with everything I'm saying. I'd say about 20 of them really object to it." A few departments have backed off after tragedies, near-disasters or lawsuits. A captain in one large department in the Southwest told Kraska's researchers that his department was doing 500 raids a year in the early 1990s, until the danger became too obvious. "We did a crack raid and got in a massive shootout in an apartment building," the captain told researchers, who promised him anonymity. "Shots were fired and we riddled a wall with bullets. An MP-5 round will go through walls. When we went into the next apartment where the bullets were penetrating, we found a baby crib full of holes. Thank God those people weren't home."

But departments that scale back tactical operations for minor drug cases are the exception. "As long as the drug war is being fought with as much intensity as it is -- and I suspect with our new president, that intensity might even increase -- I can't foresee this kind of thing tapering off," Kraska says.

Certainly not in St. Louis County.

Bertha Williams says she is still shocked by her daughter's death: "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."
Bertha Williams says she is still shocked by her daughter's death: "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."
Bertha Williams says she is still shocked by her daughter's death: "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."
Jennifer Silverberg
Bertha Williams says she is still shocked by her daughter's death: "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."

"Until the community says that street dealing is OK and gang drive-by shootings are OK, it's going to be our job to get out there and try to stop it," says Jackson, who objects to the use of the term "paramilitary" to describe the tactical unit. "Calling it 'paramilitary' really does a disservice to what they are, which is police officers doing a very difficult job which they're required to do. When we're going to serve a search warrant, there's no completely safe way to do that. It's a dangerous thing. Low-level drug dealers kill more people in the United States than anything else. I think there are more people killed over crack cocaine than for any other reason. Murder used to be a crime of passion. Over the past decade or two, it became a crime of drugs. Most of the people doing the killing are low-level drug dealers."

Her friends and family called her Nette. Just who she was depends on whom you talk to.

Wellston Police Chief Linda Whitfield, a lifelong city resident who knew Annette Green, won't say much about her. "She's just a resident of Wellston," the chief says. "I knew her through relatives, you know, over, like, 30 years." Whitfield also says she didn't know that Green had a drug problem. "Not until recently," she says. "Not until all the stuff happened, not until recently." In two years, Wellston police didn't obtain a single drug-search warrant, according to county court records. Whitfield won't say why. "I really can't answer that," she says. "We haven't since I've been chief. We do it, but my detectives handle that." She also won't say what she thinks about the raid on Green's house. "I have no comment," she says. "I'm just neutral."

Green's mother, Bertha Williams, says Chief Whitfield knew about her daughter's problems with crack and gave her hope that she would overcome drugs. "I know she said she talked to her," Bertha Williams says. "Linda said she was really straightening herself up." And how did Whitfield come to know Green? "Well, she was the police," she answers simply. "This is a big family. And Wellston is a small place."

Green's relatives insist she was harmless to everybody but herself. "Check the police reports," says her sister Betty. "There's nowhere where she broke in or stole nothing or robbery -- you know how people on drugs do. She wasn't that type of person. I'm not going to say she was no saint, because she wasn't. But she was brought up in church. The only bad habit that she had was the drugs. She didn't get around, she didn't steal, she didn't do anything to anybody."

Brown, the plumber who took crack for payment, told the police that the most he ever saw Green sell was a $50 rock. In an affidavit used to obtain the fruitless warrant served a year before the fatal raid, police say an informant bought $50 worth of crack from her. Williams says her sister was at the bottom of the St. Louis drug marketplace, allowing her home to be used as a smoke house because she couldn't afford drugs herself. "Where the company would come in at her place, she would let people that was going to purchase drugs come there and smoke at her house," Williams says. "That's how she got her little piece."

The constant stream of visitors drew the attention of neighbors after Green moved in during the summer of 1999. But one of the closest neighbors, a woman whose front window affords a full view of Green's home, says the house was no trouble.

"I didn't know her well at all," says the neighbor, who's lived on the block for more than 25 years. "When I seen her on the street, she would say hi and like that, you know. Otherwise, no, we didn't know anything, except there was some gossip going around and that there were a lot of cars coming and going and coming and going and going, back and forth. It looked kind of funny. I didn't worry too much about it, because I never seen anybody act like they was messed up or anything like that. You know how those things are. As far as her boys and stuff, I don't even know them at all. There was never no wild parties or nothing like that. It was quiet all the time over there, except for the coming and going. There wasn't no wildness going on at all."

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