Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington chose the eve of the worst scandal faced by his department since he took command to announce on Nov. 20 that the newly revamped anti-drug section is “the best-trained narcotics unit in the Southeast.”
Mayor Shirley Franklin stood at his side as the police chief recalled that the Nov. 21, 2006 police killing of Kathryn Johnston, 92, in her home on the northwest side of Atlanta was a tragedy that “tore at the heart of the community.” It also caused an overhaul of police training and procedures to ensure another such incident would not happen.
Police had raided the house with sketchy information provided by an informant and using a “no-knock” warrant. That warrant meant they could enter the house without warning.
Apparently thinking the police were criminals, Johnston brought out an old gun to stop the intruders. She fired one shot and missed. The police fired many times, killing her and wounding other officers.
The incident caused national headlines and led to a federal investigation of Atlanta police and an almost year-long hiatus on police efforts to shut down drug houses in Atlanta.
The new unit, which has been doubled in size from 15 to 30 members, has been active since October.
But, even as Pennington spoke at a press conference, lawyers for Johnston’s family were readying a lawsuit against the chief, the mayor, the city and police officers directly involved in the shooting, which was filed Nov. 21.